The Delhi High Court (HC) has said that “forced” and “unannounced” eviction of slum dwellers without following proper guidelines is contrary to the law. The HC ruled that any land-owning agency in Delhi, including Central government ones such as the Indian Railways, must first conduct a detailed survey. Then only can they draw up a rehabilitation plan—even so, only in consultation with those to be evicted before a demolition drive in accordance with the 2015 Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy (2015 Delhi Slum Rehabilitation Policy). The judgment was passed in relation to pleas seeking relief on the issue of forced eviction of around 5,000 dwellers of the jhuggi jhopri (JJ) basti near the Madipur Metro Station in Delhi in December 2015. The land on which the slum was located belonged to the Railways, and the organisation conceded that no survey was ever conducted of the jhuggi dwellers before the demolition.
While considering the 2015 Delhi Slum Rehabilitation Policy for rehabilitation of slum dwellers, the Court also examined the ‘right to the city’ as explained by scholar Upendra Baxi. The concept views “city as a common good” and the judges mentioned that those living in the JJ clusters continue to contribute to the social and economic life of a city—a manner of justification of the slum dwellers’ rights to the city. This is also guaranteed in part by the fundamental rights that allow a person to move and reside anywhere freely within the nation. There should, however, be adequate caveats to this right keeping in mind the pressure urbanisation of the kind India has seen creates. Given only a few cities have developed as employment centres across skill sets, migration to these starts telling on their resources and can therefore impact the lives of the people of the city as a whole. Also, the government can’t be excused of its duty to ensure equitable and inclusive growth across the entirety of the country (the ‘right to the city’ might lead to the political establishment only focusing on tier-1 cities for development). Recognising the right, nonetheless, is a good move and one that secures the rights to adequate housing and, consequently, the rights to a basic livelihood for slum dwellers.