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SC seeks explanation from Railways on conflicting stands taken on rehabilitation policy – ET Government :

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The Supreme Court Monday directed the Ministry of Railways to explain the “conflicting position” taken by it before different forums, including the apex court, regarding rehabilitation policy for slum dwellers who are on land owned by the Railways. The top court, which was hearing two separate pleas including the one which relates to the demolition of around 5,000 ‘jhuggis’ in Gujarat for a railway line project, asked the secretary of the Ministry of Railways to explain this in an affidavit within a week.

In the matter about Gujarat, the top court is hearing a petition which has said that an “irreparable injury” would be caused to the slum dwellers residing on the Railways land there if they are not provided with alternative arrangements and rehabilitation.

The petitioner had said that the Gujarat High Court had vacated its July 23, 2014, interim order of status quo and permitted the Western Railways to go ahead with the Surat-Udhna up to Jalgaon third railway line project.

The top court had earlier granted status quo on the demolition of these ‘jhuggis’ in Gujarat.

A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar on Monday noted that it has been brought to its notice that in separate proceedings before the Delhi High Court earlier, the Railways had given assurance that rehabilitation policy propounded by the Delhi government would be adopted by them.

The bench said the Railways had given assurance before the apex court, which was hearing another matter in September last year, that necessary plans would be framed concerning rehabilitation.

The top court said the Railways, however, took a “completely contrary” stand before the high courts of Gujarat and Punjab, and Haryana and said they do not have any policy of rehabilitation.

“We call upon the secretary, Ministry of Railways, to explain this conflicting position taken on behalf of the Ministry of Railways before different forums including the Supreme Court of India,” the bench said in its order.

During the hearing, the bench asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) KM Nataraj, who was representing the Railways, as to why they have been taking “such different stand” before different courts.

It said the affidavit be filed within a week and posted the matter for further hearing on November 29.

“In addition, the affidavit must disclose the timeline within which the rehabilitation programme will be taken forward especially in respect of the section which needs to be urgently connected with the remaining project already completed being 2.65 km only, which may affect seven ‘Bastis’ (Jhuggi clusters) as informed by the counsel for the petitioners,” the bench said.

The ASG told the bench that the Railways will work on the rehabilitation policy as asked by the top court.

Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioners in both the petitions, said that the Railways, state of Gujarat, and Surat Municipal Corporation have filed their respective affidavits in the matter.

He told the bench about the stand taken earlier by the Railways before the apex court and the Delhi High Court on rehabilitation policy.

The bench told the ASG that Railways cannot take different stands before different courts on the issue.

The apex court had earlier observed that a public project is getting delayed due to this as the railway line project was sanctioned in 2018 and three years have gone by but nothing has happened because of the encroachment.

The other plea, which was listed for hearing along with this matter, relates to the demolition of ‘jhuggis’ near the railway tracks at Faridabad in Haryana.

In the Faridabad matter, the apex court had earlier granted status quo on the demolition of structures of those, who have approached the court seeking stay of the eviction.

The plea, filed by 18 petitioners, including those who are residing in the area in Faridabad, has challenged the September 28 interim order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had refused to grant a stay on demolition.

In the Gujarat matter, the petitioner had earlier told the apex court that in compliance with the Gujarat High Court’s August 19 order, the authorities were going to start the demolition work.

The petition in the Gujarat matter, filed through advocate Satya Mitra, has sought a stay on the demolition of these ‘jhuggis’ claiming that no breathing time has been given to the slum dwellers and authorities have been forcing them to vacate within 24 hours.

It has also sought direction to the authorities, including the Centre and Gujarat government, to rehabilitate the concerned slum dwellers.

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