'People living on footpaths human beings too, can't just order their removal': Bombay HC

'People living on footpaths human beings too, can't just order their removal': Bombay HC

“Are you telling us the city must get rid of its poor? The problem of the homeless is global," says HC

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Friday, March 03, 2023, 06:33 PM IST
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Mumbai: Observing that homelessness is a global issue, the Bombay High Court on Friday refused to pass any order directing removal of such persons in South Mumbai. 

A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale also refused to club the issue with that of illegal encroachments in a suo motu PIL. The court had taken suo motu cognisance of the hawker menace in the city while hearing a petition by mobile shop owners in Borivali who claimed access to their shop was blocked by illegal hawkers in Nov 2022.

Homeless people live and sleep on the footpaths and sidewalks in South Mumbai

The Bombay Bar Association (BBA) filed an application seeking to intervene in the suo motu PIL stating that several persons live and sleep on the footpaths and sidewalks near the Fountain area in South Mumbai. The application said letters were also written to the city police and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) seeking action. 

“Are you saying the city must get rid of the poor?”

The judges, however, questioned what judicial order could be passed in such cases. “Are you saying the city must get rid of the poor? These are the persons who come from other cities looking for opportunities here,” said Justice Patel. He further said that the issue is a global issue. “Are you telling us the city must get rid of its poor? The problem of the homeless is global. They are there in New York..in Paris.  We must have a solution” added Justice Patel. 

“Homeless people may be unfortunate, but they are humans too,” says court

The bench further remarked that those people may be unfortunate, but they are humans too. “They (homeless persons) are also human beings. They may be poor or less fortunate but they are still human beings and that makes them to be on the same footing as everybody else before us in court,” added Justice Patel. 

Night shelters

BBA’s counsel Milind Sathe suggested that night shelters could be made available for the homeless person occupying pavements and sidewalks. 

The judges remarked that the authorities could consider this solution. 

Justice Patel, in a satirical remark, said that the BMC's simplest solution to such challenges would be to start construction at the spot or build a Metro station. “Start digging and everyone will go away. No one gets to use the footpath then. No pedestrian can walk on it...no car can drive there...no one can live on it. Problem solved. The construction then goes on for years. It is an ideal solution,” he said. 

However, the court then said it wouldn’t be appropriate to club the suo motu PIL along with the problem of homelessness. 

Sathe suggested that they would consider filing a separate petition or public interest litigation on the issue of homeless persons. Then the bench granted them liberty for the same. 

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