New Delhi, 29 July 2021
Summary: On 27 July 2021, Justice Rekha Palli of the Delhi High Court (DHC) ruled in an eviction matter that saves approximately 600 residents of the Kashmere Gate Metro Station Parking basti from becoming homeless. iProbono panel lawyer Nitin Saluja argued the case on behalf of the basti residents, most of whom have had very limited access to livelihood following the devastating effects of the pandemic. The important decision has come at a time when multiple evictions have taken place in Delhi in the past year in areas such as Tughlaqabad Railway Basti and Chilla Khadar.
The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) had issued a notice dated 12 July 2021 to the residents of the basti to vacate their jhuggis within 15 days. iProbono met DMRC officials with a written representation on behalf of the residents after which they gave a verbal assurance not to take any action of eviction. In the order, the Delhi High Court has recorded that DMRC will be withdrawing the eviction notice and that no immediate action will be taken by them. If they establish their claim over the land at a later stage, they will have to follow due processes of rehabilitation of the residents outlined in the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) 2015 policy.
Our grassroots partner Basti Suraksha Manch (BSM) brought iProbono the case when a notice of eviction was issued in the Kashmere Gate Metro Parking basti on 12 July. The residents of this basti are largely migrants from West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh, comprising daily wage labourers, street vendors, vegetable sellers, domestic workers, and other city service personnel.
iProbono and BSM first met DUSIB officials for support on this matter, followed by meetings with DMRC officials with a written representation on behalf of the residents requesting them to withdraw the notice as there is a dispute to the ownership of the land, and stating that the rehabilitation policy under DUSIB 2015 policy should be followed in case they engage in any eviction activity. DMRC conveyed a verbal intimation to the residents that they intend to withdraw the notice, but a written confirmation from them was required. Our panel lawyer Advocate Nitin Saluja and his colleague Priyanka Prasanth drafted and filed a writ petition in the DHC seeking to set aside the notice of eviction.
In the High Court on 27 July, the day the eviction was meant to take place, the lawyer for DMRC mentioned that they would like to withdraw the notice of eviction. Mr. Saluja urged the court to record the withdrawal of the eviction notice. The court delivered a favourable order by recording the withdrawal of the notice which stops DMRC from taking any immediate action of eviction and directs them to follow the due procedure of rehabilitation established under law in case they move forward with eviction in future.
Kanu Varua, a resident from the basti, shared this with us — “We couldn’t have saved the lives and livelihood of the residents of our basti without your timely intervention in this matter.”
Rana Paul from Basti Suraksha Manch said — “We are grateful that the residents of the basti get a peaceful sleep amid the housing crisis in Delhi. A collective effort by our teams on the ground and relevant legal assistance by iProbono and the lawyers involved has anchored our advocacy in this urgent eviction case and resulted in a positive outcome for the residents.”
Mr. Saluja, our panel lawyer, states — “I am glad to have had an opportunity to take on this matter at a time when the residents of the basti needed immediate legal recourse. It is a relief that justice has been done to prevent their eviction when there is such acute vulnerability.”
Karuvaki Mohanty, Senior Program Officer at iProbono explained the process followed in this case — “Residents are usually given a very short notice period for eviction, which often implies too little time to challenge it successfully. In this case, we had multiple meetings with different stakeholders before approaching the court. Eventually, it was a combination of advocacy and litigation efforts conducted in a timely way that enabled us to get this outcome in the nick of time.”
The right to housing is an essential part of the fundamental right to life guaranteed by the Constitution of India. iProbono welcomes the decision in Kanu Varua & Ors. versus Union of India & Ors. and remains committed to its mission of protecting vulnerable workers including for their right to access decent housing.