New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has expressed hope that the central government would sympathetically look into the plight of poor Hindu migrants from Pakistan living without electricity supply in a slum in the city.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma asked the Centre to file its response within two weeks to a petition which concerns supply of electricity to nearly 800 such migrants while asking it to state why no NOC was issued to them for the last five to six years to facilitate electricity distribution. The matter would be heard next on October 6.
"The land in question over which the jhuggis (slum) have been established belongs to Government of India/Defence Department/ DMRC, and in absence of a NOC from the land owning agency, the distribution company is not in a position to provide electricity connection," said the bench also comprising Justice Subramonium Prasad in an order passed earlier this month.
"This court hopes and trusts that the Government of India will look into the plight of the migrants sympathetically, and shall file a proper affidavit positively within two weeks," the court stated.
Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited, the electricity distributor, told the court that NOC was required as certain poles would have to be erected for providing proper electricity on the land.
Petitioner Hariom, who claims to be a social worker working for the welfare of minority migrants who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in India, had moved the court last year highlighting that over 200 families of minority migrants from Pakistan, mostly from Sindh, were living in North Delhi's Adarsh Nagar area without electricity for the past few years.
The court, in its order, noted that the migrants, who arrived in the country on a long term visa, were poor people without a permanent place of shelter and possessed Aadhaar cards.
"It has also been stated that there are small children, women in the area, and in absence of electricity it has become very difficult for these families to survive, and they are living in extremely harsh conditions," it further recorded.
"Learned counsel appearing for the Union of India is granted two weeks' time to file an affidavit as to why NOC has not been issued to the migrants from Pakistan who are residing without electricity for the last five to six years," the court ordered.
Lawyer for the petitioner told the court that other similarly placed migrants from Pakistan, who are living in Majnu-Ka-Tila, have been provided prepaid meter/ electricity connection.
He submitted that the migrants in the present case would not claim any right over the land in question on account of the fact that electricity has been provided to them and are even ready to pay for the electricity, and a prepaid meter can be installed in their premises.
"Migrants who have come to India from Pakistan on account of their religious persecution believed that coming to India will give their kids a bright and safe future but their present existence without electricity in the slum has shattered all their dreams of meaningful existence. During the pandemic when all schools have gone online, there is no electricity in the jhuggis (slums) and future of their children is in dark," the public interest litigation, filed through advocates Samiksha Mittal, Akash Vajpai and Ayush Saxena, has said.
The high court had issued notices to the Ministries of Home Affairs and Defence, Delhi government, North Delhi Municipal Corporation, Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission, Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd and District Magistrate of North Delhi on the plea in September last year.
Responding to the plea, an earlier affidavit filed by the Defence Estates Officer, Delhi Circle, Delhi Cantt., Ministry of Defence has stated that "not only is the answering respondent not the competent authority to provide electric connections or provide any assistance of any sort to migrants, but also in view of the illegal encroachment the petition is not only misconceived and frivolous and deserves to be dismissed in-limine."
The plea has sought direction for providing electricity connection to the migrants on the basis of their Aadhar card, long term visa and passport under the Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (Supply Code and Performance Standards) Regulations, 2017 and to also include these documents as identity proof and Aadhar card as proof of occupancy.