Supreme Court Stands Firm On Khori Gaon Demolitions; Gives 4 More Weeks Time To Complete Evictions

By Radhika Roy

This article was published in

The Supreme Court on Friday granted four more weeks to the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to complete the removal of unauthorized constructions on forest land in Khori Gaon in Faridabad, Haryana.

A 3-Judge Bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar recorded the submissions of Senior Advocate Arun Bhardwaj, AAG of Haryana, who appeared for the Corporation, that all unauthorized structures had been removed from 74 acres out of the 150 acres which had been slotted for demolition purposes.

Accordingly, noting that an onerous task lay ahead, the Court granted an extension of four weeks to the Corporation.

In today’s hearing, Senior Advocates Colin Gonsalves, KTS Tulsi, Sandeep Parikh and Meenakshi Arora also addressed the Court on behalf of various Petitioners and Applicants on issues pertaining to the rehabilitation of the residents of Khori Gaon. As per certain reports, over 10,000 houses are impacted by the demolition drive.

Gonsalves submitted to the Bench that the situation was tragic and not a single person had been rehabilitated due to the lack of a concrete policy. In response to this, the Court remarked that the policy was only a draft version and directed Gonsalves to submit his suggestions to the Corporation.

“This is a draft policy, this is not final. You may give your suggestions and let them take a decision and have a final one. Then the correctness can be gone into”, said the Court while emphasizing that the Court could not go into the issue without the existence of a policy at hand.

They further took into consideration the submission of Gonsalves that large numbers of commercial establishments and farmhouses had also been constructed on the forest area, and categorically stated that no unauthorized structures would be allowed on forest area.

“You can be assured that no matter what is constructed, nothing will be allowed on forest area. If it is authorized, that structure will have to be challenged. Any structure with due permission from all quarters is different”, stated the Court.

In light of this, the Court granted Gonsalves, Parikh, and Arora the liberty to present their suggestions before the Commissioner of the Corporation by tomorrow, and for the exercise pertaining to modulating the draft policy and issuing a formal policy thereafter by the Corporation to be completed by 31 July.

It was further directed that if the policy was not acceptable to the Petitioners, they would be allowed to challenge the same by way of Application which would have to be served in advance.

Additionally, the Court directed the Corporation to ensure that all unauthorized structures on forest land were to be removed without exception.

Parikh also made his submissions on the issue that facilities were required for those families who had been evicted.

“There should be temporary shelter that must be given to them. Where will they go? They are taking shelter under trees. I have gone and seen on my own. This is a very bad situation”, submitted Parikh.

In this case, the Bench directed that the assurances given by the State on grant of temporary shelters, food and water to the evictees were to be strictly complied with, and in cases of non-compliance or grievances, the same could be brought to the notice of the Commissioner who could consider the grievance and take corrective measures. Further, in case no relief was granted, the reason for the same had to be recorded so that it could be examined by the Court.

Arguments were also made on the aspect that a pandemic was going and the monsoon season was taking by Arora. She submitted that no shelter had been provided to the evicted and that prior notice was required.

The Bench stated that there was need for cooperation with the authorities and that the demolition was taking place in a phased manner.

“The Corporation knows what to do. There has to be interaction between the dwellers and the authorities. There are logistical issues with specific notices. We will only say that make representation and they will be dealt with accordingly”, observed the Bench.

Arora also informed the Bench that a United Nations report from last year had also highlighted how people would be rendered homeless. To this, the Court responded, “The UN should have read our previous judgements and orders then”.

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

They accordingly recorded in their Order that ample notice had been given to the occupants for the proposed action, and the unacceptability of alternative arrangements could not be a reason to delay the demolition. However, the affected persons have been allowed to approach the Commissioner with representations seeking facilities such as temporary shelters, food, water etc.

The matter will now be taken up at 3:30 PM on 3 August.

On 7 June 2021, the Supreme Court had directed 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 has been planned by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad at Khori Gaon in Faridabad, Haryana.

A Bench headed by Justice AM Khanwilkar had heard the plea which has been filed on behalf of 10,000 families living in the Khori Gaon who had challenged the Haryana Shehri Vikas Pradhikaran Rehabilitation Policy to the extent that it limited the cut-off for rehabilitation to 2003, and directed for a report of compliance under the signature of the Chief Secretary and Secretary of Haryana Forest Department to be provided.