A division bench of the Bombay High Court (HC) has restrained the Western Railway(WR) from demolishing unauthorised structures on Railway land in Greater Mumbai until Mar 1.
An order was passed by the division bench while hearing a plea by a group of slum dwellers residing on railway land in Bandra East, challenging the demolition notice.
The division bench came down on the railway authorities for issuing demolition notices without taking concrete steps to rehabilitate the displaced persons. The court also said that the authorities needed to ascertain their eligibility for beneficial schemes like the Prime Minister Awas Yojna Scheme (PMAYS).
Advocating a ‘humane’ approach, the HC said that merely terming the persons as ‘encroachers’ and displacing them from their current settlement will not solve the problem.
“Sometimes, the scale of displacement is beyond imagination. It has to be addressed in a more considered fashion than by merely deploying bulldozers on site,” the bench observed.
The bench also cited the observation of the Supreme Court when it stayed the Uttarakhand High Court order to remove encroachments from 29 acres of land. The SC has said that encroachment on railway lands, eviction and demolition needs to be undertaken following ‘due process of law’. The persons have to be either provided accommodation under a rehabilitation scheme or informed about their eligibility for housing under the PMAYS, the court had ruled.
In 2016, the Uttarakhand high court ordered the removal of encroachments from the railway land within 10 weeks. The court said all encroachers should be brought under the Railway Public Premises (eviction of unauthorised occupants) Act 1971.
Interestingly the current demolition drive by WR commenced after the SC directed action against bureaucrats in the central , state governments and urban local bodies for their dereliction of duty that led to the illegal occupation of public land.
Demolition Drive By Western Railway
Early this month, the WR had planned the demolition of around 148 illegal structures that have come up on its land at Garib Nagar in Bandra (East). However, in the absence of police protection and loud protests from local politicians, it did not proceed with the demolition drive.
According to the railways, removing encroachments is necessary for future expansion of projects, smooth running, and keeping railway tracks free of garbage.
Across the extensive Indian Railway network, authorities have begun serving eviction notices to encroachers after the Supreme Court pulled the authorities for not taking action to remove these structures.
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