Supreme Court accepts Centre’s offer to appoint nodal officer to collect details of Sarojini Nagar Jhuggi residents

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A Supreme Court bench of Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy today accepted Centre’s offer to appoint a nodal officer to survey the residents of Jhuggis at Sarojini Nagar and collect relevant details from them. The Supreme Court was hearing a plea challenging the demolition of Jhuggis at Sarojini Nagar.

The plea challenges the Delhi High Court order, refusing to grant rehabilitation to the jhuggi dwellers of the Sarojini Nagar area. The petitioners had filed a plea seeking quashing of the demolition notice stating that the cluster which forms the subject matter of the present petition, houses more than 200 families who have been staying there for decades.

On the last date of hearing, the Additional Solicitor General of India KM Natraj today informed the Supreme Court that no coercive steps will be taken with respect to the demolition of Jhuggis in Delhi's Sarojini Nagar till the next date of hearing of the matter.

When the matter came up for hearing today, the bench opined that there has to be a fine balancing of rights in such matters. The bench further said that “Land in Delhi is very valuable from the perspective of building needs for the government. There should be a balancing with very vigilant officers. In case encroachments come up new, officers responsible must be penalised.”

Speaking of the costs incurred by the government for acquiring land, the bench opined that the government is incurring a lot of expenditure for this purpose while on the other hand valued government lands are being encroached upon.

At this point during the hearing, the ASG submitted that the government intends to appoint a nodal officer and that the petitioners before the court may give relevant details to them. Vikas Singh, Sr. Adv, appearing for the petitioners, submitted that such an exercise should be done by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB). Singh argued that DUSIB being a neutral body can consider the representations of the government and the dwellers and file a report accordingly.

The court on hearing the submissions of the parties noted that ASG Natraj on instructions submitted that Nodal officer will be appointed to conduct a survey and that

it will be open to the petitioners to submit details regarding

1) Location of Jhuggi;

2) Duration of their stay in that location;

3) Any document supporting such details;

4) Details of family members;

5) Details of the avocation being carried out by them and income;

The court in its order recorded that the details have to be made available to the Nodal officer within a period of 10 days. The court further recorded that the undertaking given by the ASG on not taking any coercive action will continue till the next date of hearing. The matter has now been adjourned to third week of July, 2022 for further consideration. The court further clarified that on the last occasion, it had not passed an interim order but had merely recorded the undertaking given by the ASG. The court also clarified that this exercise will be done without prejudice to the rights and contentions of both the parties.

On passing the above order, a counsel mentioned that he has filed an application for impleadment on behalf of other residents. The court while refusing to entertain the petition clarified that the survey exercise will be carried out in relation to the 172 families who are before the court.

When the matter was mentioned before the Supreme Court on April 22, 2022 it had refused to allow the status quo in the plea against the demolition of Jhuggi's in the Sarojini Nagar area. The bench had agreed to list the case on April 25, 2022. 

Case title: Vaishali & Ors vs Union of India & Ors