A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, who demitted office yesterday, passed a historic judgement affecting not just NCT Delhi, but also laying a precedent which is likely to be followed across the country in future for the upkeep of railway land across urban areas. The order, directing the Railways and Delhi government to chart out an action plan to begin eviction of rail side slum-dwellers will go a long way in restoring cleanliness around the national capital’s dense rail network. The top court has also asked concerned authorities to get rid of all plastic waste and garbage within three months.
The apex court has, effectively, ordered the eviction of close to 48,000 slum clusters located around the 70-km route length of track in Delhi, and also the remaining 70-km route length which has isolated slum dwellings around it, totalling to a total of 140-kms route length of track (in NCT Delhi) witnessing removal of human habitation from around it.
The Supreme Court order stated, “The encroachments which are there in the safety zones should be removed within a period of three months and no interference, political or otherwise, should be there, and no court shall grant any stay with respect to removal of the encroachments in the area in question. In case any interim order is granted with respect to encroachments which have been made along with railway tracks, that shall not be effective.”
Most importantly, the top court in its judgement has also cleared the way for an unhindered cleaning up of railway lands across Delhi, and has explicitly stated that no political interference in the eviction process will be tolerated. The court declared “no interference, political or otherwise, should be there” against their removal. Further, the Supreme Court also said that any order of interim stay passed by any court against the removal of these encroachments shall be deemed ineffective and void. The cost for the eviction and cleaning up will be borne under a 70:30 formula between the Railways and Delhi government, while the South Delhi Municipal Corporation has been tasked with the job of providing manpower for the same.
Similar action proposed earlier, in line with a similar National Green Tribunal Order could not see the light of day owing to what the Railways, in a written affidavit before the top court has called “political interference.” Now that the Supreme Court has stepped in itself, and ruled out any prospects of political interference, or otherwise, the railway lines around Delhi can be expected to look much cleaner soon. While “human rights” activists and groups have started roughing their feathers against the order already, they have been left toothless by the order itself, which has ruled out outside interference into the project.
The slums and jhoogie-clusters which can be seen around the rail lines in Delhi were a sore to the eye, not to mention a den of uncleanliness. Further, it won’t be an overstatement to say that living in such hazardous proximity to railway tracks is a threat to any life. The inhospitable side-walk like railway lines are not meant for human habitation, and now that the court has stepped in, it is expected that such people will be shifted to safer zones. People living along the railway lines had made the safety zones of railways around Delhi extremely unclean and trashy. Sanitation is close to absent in such dwellings, which is why they are also a den of diseases. While we may be generalizing, the possibility of drugs, illegal alcohol and flesh trade cannot be ruled out too. As such, it was extremely necessary to rid the railway lines of human settlements, and the top court order does just that.