Will Verify If Khori Gaon Demolitions Were Carried Out As Per Directions : Supreme Court

By Srishti Ojha

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

The Supreme Court on Monday orally observed that once the demolition of unauthorised structures that have been planned by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad at Khori Gaon is done, the action taken by the Corporation will be verified by the Court through an independent source.

A Division Bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari observed that if action is not taken in accordance with the Top Court’s order, somebody will have to be held responsible.

“We will have to hold someone responsible for the situation. In the first place, the mushrooming of this area to slums or unauthorised area, and then action not taken despite the court order…. then we will have to hold someone responsible for that.” the Bench orally remarked.

The observations were made in response to submissions made by applicants arguing that their lands do not fall under Forest Areas and the constructions not being unauthorised structures should not be demolished.

On 7th 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 houses at Khori Gaon in Faridabad, Haryana.

The Bench today granted two weeks further time to the State of Haryana and its forest Department to complete the process of notifying which land falls in the forest area and which does not.

While Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for the State and its Forest Department had sought a time of 4 weeks stating that the representations are being considered and the process is ongoing, the Bench only granted time of 2 weeks stating that since the forest area was notified long back, it should not take time to identify such area.

With regard to the contentions of no basic facilities being made available to the displaced residents, the Bench has called upon Municipal Corporation to provide a timeline for their rehabilitation instead of going into the debated question.

The Bench adjourned the hearing till next Monday granting time till then to Municipal Corporation to present comprehensive scheme and examine and respond to certain suggestions made by the Court regarding provisional allotment of accommodation to the residents.

During the hearing, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves appearing for one of the petitioners submitted that a group of social workers and lawyers visited the Khori Gaon area and made an exhaustive report on the situation of rehabilitation. Referring to the report, the following submissions were made:

  • Everything that the State of Haryana has told about rehabilitation is totally false.
  • Residents were promised temporary shelter in Radha Saomi but they refused to go there as it could barely accommodate those people.
  • Residents say they are poor hence they are being put in one place and there is no designated place for each family.
  • Food is made available only one time a day and serves about 60-70 families. Everyone is required to travel all the way to the Ashram to eat food.
  • Only one meal is given and identity card is required. They are rejected and not allowed to stay if they do not have anything to show they are from Khori. If they don’t have an electricity bill they are asked to go away.
  • Toilets are full of stains and not cleaned. Electricity is not connected. Drinking water is not available and toilets are not functional. Please see the pictures
  • Temporary accommodation is only for 150 people in a tent. Half of it is used for vaccination and other Ashram work.
  • People who were interviewed said they were asked to leave immediately after being given the meal. There is no temporary shelter for anybody. There’s no protection from rain and people are falling ill
  • Many residents do not have clothes after demolition and are treated very roughly unless they have an electricity bill.
  • Police are scaring people away.

Mr Gonsalves concluded saying that “What we need is something on our head where we can stay temporarily. We need water and food, not once but three times a day. Electricity is needed. We need toilets as there is a serious situation of hygiene.”

Additional Advocate General Arun Bhardwaj appearing for the Municipal Corporation opposed contentions put forth by Mr Gonsalves and submitted that temporary arrangements have been made in respect of persons affected by the demolition of unauthorised structures on forest land. He apprised the Court that eligible persons are being provided with temporary accommodation, fruit water and basic amenities

Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh appearing for one of the petitioners who is seeking appointment of a Monitoring committee to look into the rehabilitation, submitted that temporary shelter should be given to those displaced till they get permanent accommodation, and should not be asked to leave after 2-3 days.

In the first week of August, the Apex Court had asked the State of Haryana to expedite the consideration of the draft policy of rehabilitation submitted by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad with respect to the demolitions carried out in the Khori Gaon forest land, and take a final decision preferably before August 25th.

The Court had also asked the Commissioner to briefly indicate the outcome of representations regarding rehabilitation that would be made by Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves appearing for one of the petitioners before the Commissioner.

Supreme Court had also asked the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation to consider setting up of an extended office at Radha Saomi complex where the locals have been provided temporary food, shelter and accommodation, to assuage the grievance of the locals and enable them to avail facilities made available in terms of the Court’s order.

Supreme Court had on July 23rd granted four more weeks to the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to complete the removal of unauthorised constructions on forest land in Khori Gaon in Faridabad, Haryana.The Supreme Court had further directed the DCP of Faridabad to provide police protection to the corporation officials.

Case Title: Municipal Corporation Faridabad v. Khori Gaon Residents Welfare Association (Regd.) Through Its President & Ors.