‘Extremely Worrying That India’s Highest Court Is Now Leading Evictions’ : United Nations Experts On Khori Gaon Demolitions

By Radhika Roy

This article was published on LiveLaw.in website. Read it here.

“No one should be forcibly evicted without adequate and timely compensation”,

– the experts said

United Nations Human Rights experts have appealed to the Indian Government to halt the mass eviction that is taking place in Khori Gaon in Faridabad, Haryana that will render 100,000 people, including 20,000 children, homeless in the midst of the monsoon season. “We call on India to urgently review its plans for razing Khori Gaon and to consider regularizing the settlement so as not to leave anyone homeless…No one should be forcibly evicted without adequate and timely compensation”, the experts said.

On 7 June 2021, the Supreme Court had directed for the removal of all encroachments on forest land within 6 weeks in a plea seeking a stay on the demolition of 10,000 houses that had been planned by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad.(Sarina Sarkar and Others v. State of Haryana and Others).

Pursuant to the orders, demolition began on 14 July. The experts have said, “We appeal to the Indian Government to respect its own laws and its own goals of eliminating homelessness by 2022 and to spare homes of 100,000 people who mostly come from minority and marginalized communities…It is important that residents be kept safe during the pandemic”.
These experts include Balakrishnan Rajagopal , Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination, Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and Koumbou Boly Barry, Special Rapporteur on the right to education.

They have underlined how the residents have already been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that the eviction order puts them at a greater risk as the number includes 20,000 children and 5,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women.

Referring to the Supreme Court order which stated that no compromise could be made on forest lands, the experts remarked, “We find it extremely worrying that India’s highest court, which has in the past led the protection of housing rights, is now leading evictions placing people at risk of internal displacement and homelessness, as is the case in Khori Gaon…The role of the Supreme Court is to uphold the laws and to interpret them in light of internationally-recognised human rights standards, not to undermine them. In this case, the spirit and purpose of the Land Acquisition Act 2013 and other domestic legal requirements have not been met”.

In light of India being a member of the Human Rights Council, the experts have urged India to ensure that its policies are fully compliant with the international human rights standards governing relocations, evictions, internal displacement, especially on the government’s own land.

The UN experts’ statement said that though the settlements were in protected forest lands, the forest was actually destroyed decades ago by heavy mining.