Delhi High Court Stands For Human Rights, Gives Slum Residents Their Homes Back

Posted by iProbono in Society
August 24, 2017

The Delhi High Court has recently handed down a judgement that brings relief to former residents of the Rajiv Camp Basti, Mandawali, Delhi, who had been rendered homeless earlier this year due to the demolition of their houses for the expansion of NH-24.

As a result of assessments conducted by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), these families had been declared ‘ineligible for relocation’ as per DUSIB’s rehabilitation and relocation policy. These persons had been declared ineligible because they could not produce certain very specific documents, and the DUSIB failed to consider the fact that these residents had several other documents showing proof of residence at the basti. With nowhere to go, these families had set up temporary shelters made of tarpaulin close to NH-24, making them very vulnerable to road accidents. Some women from the community reported kidnapping attempts made, as a result of lack of shelter and safety.

iProbono’s team members working with the residents to gather information.

Housing and Land Rights Network (HLRN) brought this case to iProbono and iProbono worked with the community to gather all relevant information and filed a petition through its pro bono lawyers, challenging the denial of housing to the newly homeless residents of Rajiv Camp. iProbono engaged Mr Robin David, Partner at Dua Associates for this case. Mr David is part of iProbono’s civil litigation panel.

Finding merit in the case right in the first instance, in July, the Delhi High Court appointed a local commissioner to look through the documents of all available former residents of the Rajiv Camp basti. The appointment of a local commissioner is a very effective means to ensure careful scrutiny of documents, saving the court’s time and ensuring complete justice. The local commissioner submitted a detailed report of findings.

On August 1, 2017, after hearing detailed arguments made by iProbono’s panel lawyer – Mr Robin David of Dua Associates – the court ruled that 14 beneficiaries were eligible for allotment of housing. Most of the people who have been granted housing are domestic and construction workers and the High Court judgement comes as a major reprieve for them.

This is an important order that recognises citizens’ constitutional right to shelter and gives it precedence over availability (or lack thereof) of specific documentation.

In the judgement, the bench of Acting Chief Justice Honourable Ms Gita Mittal and Honourable Mr Justice C. Hari Shankar noted, “It is trite that right to housing is an essential part of Right to Life and a fundamental right issued by the Constitution of India. It has also been held that right to life is not right to merely an animal existence but an entitlement to reasonable accommodation.”

Further, the bench asked the concerned government authorities to take a ‘holistic’ and ‘realistic’ view of the existing policy in this matter. The full order is available here.

iProbono’s goal is to provide legal assistance to vulnerable litigants through its network of committed pro bono lawyers. Indians from vulnerable sections of society have as much right as anyone else to access the legal system and justice. iProbono is proud to be furthering the rule of law by providing the most disadvantaged communities access to justice.

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