MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni on Monday refused to pass orders for the MMRDA to give over 19,000 of its vacant tenements for those living on footpaths across the city. The bench said it won't provide shelter to able-bodied persons, who choose not to work.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by Beghar Shehari Foundation through advocate Ashok Saraogi, seeking permanent homes for people living on city's footpaths.
Saraogi claimed that just like the SRA scheme is to rehabilitate slum dwellers, on the same lines, the state authorities can provide houses to such people too. He pointed out that over 19,000 of the tenements constructed by the MMRDA are presently lying vacant and that the same can be given for those living on footpaths.
The state government through its counsel, however, opposed the plea saying that the tenements are only for Project Affected Persons (PAPs).
At this, Justice Kulkarni said, "From ages Bombay footpaths have been occupied.... This isn't a simple issue.... You cannot say that the moment you see someone on the footpaths, give them a free of cost permanent house."
Chief Justice Datta while sharing his personal experience said, "My experience is that slum dwellers have been given free of cost homes they aren't using and they sell it after some two-three years and again create another slum."
"There have been instances where one family fabricates the papers to get more homes... They have been misusing the policy," CJ Datta added.
The chief justice clearly asked Saraogi if he would guarantee that these people won't leave the new homes, if any is given to them.
"Can you (Saraogi) take full responsibility that these footpath dwellers wouldn't leave the house, if given to them?" CJ questioned.
"No" Saraogi responded.
Justice Kulkarni then said that Saraogi, who represented the NGO Beghar Shehari Foundation, should submit on record a data of such people and as to why they continue to live on footpaths.
"It isn't a simple issue as it seems Mr Saraogi," Justice Kulkarni said, adding, "There are numerous factors to this issue. People migrate from other cities, villages, etc here in search of jobs and with no home they live on footpath. Creation of more jobs in other cities is also a solution from many others."
During the hearing, the bench noted that the prayers made in the petition were quite vague.
"Definitely we won't pass orders for transferring or using MMRDA property for these people. We want to know first how can an NGO ask for construction of more tenements for such people," CJ Datta said.
The chief justice further referred to another order passed in a PIL which sought several facilities for the homeless people in the state and said, "We have clarified in that matter and we say it again, we won't give shelter to able-bodied person, who choose not to work. Protection can be given to someone, whose article 21 right is genuinely violated."
The bench, accordingly, ordered Saraogi to withdraw his PIL and file another plea, with proper data and reliefs to be prayed for.
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