By Srishti Ojha
This article was published on Livelaw.in website. Read it here
The Supreme Court on Monday asked the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to consider whether Aadhar card could be included in the eligibility criteria for identification of persons eligible to apply for rehabilitation in relation to the demolition of 10,000 houses that have been planned by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad at Khori Gaon in Faridabad, Haryana.
A Bench comprising Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Dinesh Maheshwari was hearing a batch of pleas filed challenging the rehabilitation policy including the eligibility criteria framed by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad with respect to the demolitions.
The Bench recorded “These petitions have been listed to consider the challenge to eligibility criteria specified in rehabilitation policy of the scheme. In the context of issues raised by Mr Sanjay Parikh and suggestions made in course of hearing, Mr Arun Bhardwaj(Addl Advocate General of Haryana) seeks more time to take instructions and revert back. He submits if possible corporation will file appropriate affidavit disclosing reasons if suggestions regarding inclusion of further documents to establish the eligibility and entitlement of applicant is not acceptable to the corporation. That issue will be considered on 4th October.”
Other than Aadhaar card, the Bench has asked the Corporation to also respond to inclusion of other documents including Passport, bank statement, post office account, driving license, etc and if they can be taken into account to establish the fact that the applicant was occupying some premises in that area.
The Bench suggested the Corporation to consider and tell the Court what can be added to the eligibility criteria.
The observation has been made by the Court after considering the suggestions made by the petitioners regarding inclusion of various documents including Aadhar card etc for determining eligibility of those who can apply for these accommodations, and the Corporation’s response to the same.
After the Bench was informed by the Commissioner that before demolition, the structures in the area were numbered, the Bench observed that if Aadhar cards are allowed to be submitted for identification since the Aadhar card will reflect those structures.
The Bench has asked the Corporation to examine the aspect of technical glitches on its e portal and take appropriate steps. The direction was given considering the submissions made by Advocate Srishti Agnihotri who pointed out that e-portal is available only in English version as of now.
The Bench has also asked Corporation to comply with its previous direction of submitting a chart disclosing the unauthorised structures standing on Khori Gaon forest land which have not been demolished by next date of hearing on October 4th. On last occasion, the Court had directed the Commissioner to submit an area wise chart with justification of non-demolition of such unauthorised structure.
During the hearing today, Senior Advocate Arun Bhardwaj appearing for Municipal Corporation of Faridabad addressed the query raised by the Bench on last occasion, as to whether the applicants will be permitted to establish their identities as residents of the demolished premises according to the eligibility criteria in the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and not keep the eligibility criteria limited to one under the rehabilitation scheme.
Regarding inclusion of various documents including Aadhar card etc for determining eligibility of those who can apply for these accommodation, Mr Bhardwaj submitted that 3 documents have been added to the criteria including the voters list, electricity connection and parivar pehchan patra.
The Bench added that the Aadhar card may not be a conclusive proof, and like other documents will be subject to further verification. Also, if Aadhar card is used to establish a person was resident of that area, there should be further material to establish that he was occupying a structure which was demolished.
With regards the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana and the current rehabilitation scheme, Mr.Bhardwaj submitted that both schemes are different in their context.
The Bench however stated that so far as the eligibility is concerned the schemes will be different obviously but for identification purpose, documents can be used to determine if they were occupy that premises or not, as that is a matter of eligibility.
Mr Bhardwaj responded saying that even in the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana , Aadhaar doesn’t determine eligibility and is only one of the documents that they require to mention in their application forms, the only eligibility is that the person should not have any other plot anywhere in india and the income should be a certain amount.
Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh appearing for the petitioner submitted that according to the scheme’s eligibility criteria, merely residing there is not enough and the applicant should have the documents mentioned, therefore this is for purpose of identifying if the man was actually living there.
He submitted that the reasonable nexus is that, if they are living there, the aadhar will show their address.
Disagreeing with Mr Parikh, the Bench stated that the scheme requires the applicant to have only one of the mentioned documents and not all three. Further, only when these documents are produced will they establish that the applicant had possession and was there for time enough to ensure his eligibility.
Mr Parikh argued that the criteria is ‘restrictive in nature’ since the applicant’s living there is not enough, and he is required to produce one of these three documents.
“No this is not restrictive this is perfectly correct because how do you establish you are eligible? You were eligible if you are staying there and that is shown through these documents.” the Bench said.
Mr Parikh said that just like the PM Yojana if for purpose of identification the Aadhar card is there, it shows that the person is resident of that particular area. He added that these houses have been built by Centre and given to State Governments so ultimately these houses have been built under PM Awas Yojana for economically weaker sections.
“We are now testing rehabilitation scheme, those who are affected will be rehabilitation under this scheme, that should be in context of your eligibility for getting rehabilitation.” the Bench said.
Mr Parikh however argued that Aadhar is considered to be one document for getting all government benefits, so if they demand more documents, it becomes arbitrary in that sense.
The Bench stated that PM Awas Yojana is a scheme where even if you are not in possession of any house you can apply if you are eligible under scheme, and it is not meant for the purpose of rehabilitation.
“We are dealing with rehabilitation scheme, and that will be in respect of persons who are affected by actions of Corporation and will therefore be rehabilitated, and for that purpose possession of some premises at relevant time when they were affected becomes essential. For that mere affidavit is not enough, you need to support your entitlement with some formal document.” the Bench orally observed.
In response to Mr Parikh’s submission that many of these people don’t possess these documents have some other mode of identification, the Bench stated that “Somebody is sharing accommodation will have a driving license…they will come claim accommodation and the other person will also come with electricity bill and come claim rehabilitation”
The Bench then asked Mr Bhardwaj appearing for the Corporation, whether identification of occupants of concerned premises was done before the demolition.
Mr Bhardwaj informed the Court that so far as preparation of detailed chart, name or their contacts is concerned, to that detail the Corporation may not have proceeded but there is sufficient data with them to reflect if they were residents or not. Further, in the scheme it has been reflected that those people who have these documents till January 2021 and were residents of khori gaon will be entitled for rehabilitation.
The Bench further asked if the corporation was assessing the structures, and if any taxes levied on this structure, so far as occupants in this area are concerned.
At this juncture, Mr Parikh stated that the Court had passed orders for identification of people before demolition to ensure that a third person does not come and claim rehabilitation, however the same was not followed by the Corporation.
The Bench expressed its concern saying that “It shouldn’t happen that for the same premise, four different persons are claiming rehabilitation. Mr Parikh You know how these things are manipulated later on and your cause of justice is defeated by that. We may do it with good intention, but on ground level how do you do it!
“If one house is taken on rent, in same house, people stay together and share house, everyone will come and start claiming. That has to be prevented” the Bench said.
The Commissioner of Municipal Corporation then appeared before the Court and informed that the Corporation had gotten a drone survey done, but they don’t have individual data about ownership and who was in possession. However, structure numbers were given.
The Bench then observed that if structure numbers were given, then Aadhar cards may be allowed to be submitted for identification since the aadhar card will reflect those structures.
“The Structure numbers were identified, and Aadhar card will reflect that structure number. It has to reflect otherwise it’s an incomplete aadhar card. That verification can be done, if Aadhar card is taken into account Mr Bhardwaj, that contains that information, you can consider it a valid document”, The Bench told AAG Bhardwaj.
The Bench added that in case of Aadhar card, if some inquiry is required, the same may be done by the Corporation while examining the proposal.
“Aadhar is not an eligibility under PM Yojana” Mr Bhardwaj said.
The Bench stated that “It is not eligibility, it is identification of the person, and where he was staying is mentioned in the Aadhar cards. He (the Commissioner) says drone survey has been done, structure numbers are allotted to each structure, and that number will be reflected in Aadhar card, if it’s not reflected he has to establish this fact that he was occupying this structure number. If structure has been given some number, then person has to establish he was occupying that structure, aAadhar would be one of that, subject to verification.”
In response to AAG Bhardwaj’s argument that Aadhar may not be a conclusive proof of the applicant’s possession, the Bench said “Who said conclusive proof? It is prima facie document to be taken into account subject to verification of correctness of that. Why can’t aadhar be taken into account for purpose of identity of person and place where he was staying.”
The Bench then asked the Corporation to respond if the list of documents submitted by the petitioner including Passport, bank statement, post office account, driving license, etc can be taken into account to establish the fact that the applicant was occupying some premises in that area.
However, if it is not specific premises information it is not enough, meaning that if a document saying resident of khori village will not be enough, and the applicant will have to link it to some structure which was demolished.
The Bench further suggested that “You may revise definition of eligibility criteria and provide documents accordingly and you can say so long as he is able to establish that he was staying in Khori village in a particular house which has been demolished and he alone is claiming rehabilitation from the occupants of that house and that affidavit is filed he becomes eligible for rehabilitation.”
According to the Bench, the eligibility criteria can provide that if aadhar card is used to establish a person was resident of that area, there should he further material to establish that the person was occupying a structure which was demolished.
The Bench also asked the Corporation to consider preparing a draft that could be signed by each applicant to ensure no other occupant in that premises belonging to him or related to him, or was allowed occupy that premises by him is claiming rehabilitation
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.
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.
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 of 10,000 houses that has been planned by the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad at Khori Gaon in Faridabad, Haryana.
Case Title: Municipal Corporation Faridabad v. Khori Gaon Residents Welfare Association (Regd.) Through Its President & Ors | SLP(c) No.7220-7221/2017