The Hon’ble Delhi High Court, on 2 March 2023, passed a significant order in two housing rights matters, which will be instrumental in rehabilitation of thousands of slum residents in Delhi. It will provide relief to over 45,000 people who, despite favourable court orders and having paid money for rehabilitation, have been waiting to be shifted into new accommodations.

“We have been suffering for so many years and this court order is a major relief for all of us. Thank you to the iProbono team and all the panel lawyers involved for representing us through all these years! We are hoping we get out of here and move into our new flats before the next monsoon season.

Mathura Prasad, Petitioner and resident, East Kidwai Nagar, South Delhi

The Cases

In the first case, the residents of East Kidwai Nagar basti, who were facing threat of eviction in 2017, moved the Delhi High Court in the case of Mathura Prasad &  Ors. v SDMC & Ors. The HC pronounced a favourable judgment in 2019, directing the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to rehabilitate the eligible people. 

However, despite having an order in their favour and paying the prescribed amount for rehabilitation of Rs 1,42,000 per person, the residents of this basti continue to live in squalid and unhygienic conditions with drain water filling their houses during monsoon, safety and sanitation being compromised due to the perpetual stench, and toxic fumes being released from the drain. 

Most of these residents are daily wage earners who struggle to manage two square meals a day and it is extremely difficult for them to survive with a huge sum of money being tied up for years. Some of these residents had to resort to taking loans and are now paying interest, while some spent their lifelong savings, and some sold all their valuables to be able to deposit this money and are now left in the lurch.

The second case is of a young widow who is suffering from chronic illness and is a single mother of five young children. In 2017, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court had passed a judgment in Udal & Ors. v. DUSIB & Ors. directing the DUSIB to rehabilitate the residents of Rajiv Camp. The petitioners in this case were all identified as eligible for resettlement and have been rehabilitated; all except this woman who has been running from pillar to post to get secured housing for her family. She finally decided to move the court in a contempt case in 2019. 

“After her home was demolished in 2017, Meera Devi, a single mother with five children was denied any rehabilitation or alternative housing. With the timely and effective support of iProbono, HLRN was able to assist Meera Devi in seeking her legal right to remedy. During the last five years, she has suffered many hardships and tribulations while awaiting her human right to adequate housing. The iProbono team ensured that every legal remedy and strategy is tirelessly explored to ensure justice for Meera Devi, leading to positive orders from the High Court of Delhi.”

Aishwarya Ayushmaan, Programme Lead, Housing and Land Rights Network

How the Affordable Rental Housing Scheme Delayed Rehabilitation 

The DUSIB, through a letter to the petitioners, had earmarked some flats in a resettlement colony, taken money from them, and issued allotment letters to the petitioners but refused to give them possession as the resettlement colony was being used as a quarantine centre during the pandemic. Thereafter, in 2020, the Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs (MoHUA) introduced the Affordable Rental Housing Complex Scheme (ARHC Scheme). As per this scheme, the vacant flats in the resettlement colonies of Delhi were to be handed over to the central government.

The DUSIB authorities for the past several years have been refraining to rehabilitate the jhuggi dwellers despite allotment letters being issued to them on the ground that the central government has taken control of all the vacant flats under the ARHC Scheme.

Centre’s ARHC Scheme Only Applies to Vacant Flats: Delhi HC Directs DUSIB to Take Immediate Action

On the last date of hearing, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court directed DUSIB to hand over the vacant flats to the residents who have been found eligible for rehabilitation. The court observed that the ARHC scheme of the MoHUA applies only to vacant flats and the flats earmarked for the jhuggi dwellers pursuant to court orders cannot be considered vacant flats. The order explains that the jhuggi dwellers have already made the payment and they have received allotment letters therefore they have a vested right of housing over these flats. 

The high court directed DUSIB to hand over the flats to the jhuggi dwellers who have allotment letters in their favour. DUSIB has been directed to start with the draw of lots process and rehabilitate these residents without any further delay. The court opined that:

“In view of the submission of Respondent counsel that UOI is seeking execution of an MoA with respect to all the existing 34,000 flats without first complying with the orders of the Court, it is imperative to preserve the flats. In view of the findings of this Court that the allottees herein have a vested right in the allotment of the said flats, DUSIB and GNCTD are restrained from executing an MoA or any other document transferring the said inventory, until the orders of the Court are complied with. Further, in view of the fact that there are orders of the Courts and Eligibility Determination Committee pertaining to allottees for 9,104 flats, DUSIB is restrained from entering into any agreement which in any manner impairs the 9,104 allotments, already agreed to be made by the DUSIB. DUSIB and GNCTD may after complying with its obligation for allotment and handing over of possession of the 9,104 flats, may proceed with execution of MoA, in accordance with law.”

The court has now directed DUSIB to take immediate steps for complying with the order of immediate rehabilitation of the residents and stated that in case of any further delay, it will be construed that the disobedience by DUSIB is wilful. The learned standing counsel for DUSIB has assured that in view of the order passed the draw of lots for the flats will be carried out within a period of four to six weeks from the date of the passing of this order.

This order, although passed in two of the housing cases mentioned above, would also aid and assist similar cases where the court has passed favourable orders of rehabilitation and people are awaiting allotment of flats. As per DUSIB’s submission, there are 9,104 flats which have been earmarked pursuant to court orders in different cases and the Delhi High Court has directed DUSIB to hand over these flats to the 9,104 allottees.

iProbono’s Role in Ensuring Justice

iProbono, a social justice organisation, has been representing the residents of these two cases in the Delhi High Court since 2017. Our panel advocates – Diya Kapur, Zehra Khan, and Gauri Puri – have played an instrumental role in ensuring that the petitioners get justice by fighting for their rights in the contempt petitions. The on-ground coordination with the communities for information and other logistical support was provided by Housing Land Rights Network and Basti Suraksha Manch. 

This order from the Delhi High Court provides much needed relief to the residents at a crucial time when Delhi is grappling with relentless demolitions of the bastis and in particular, to those slum dwellers who despite favourable orders from the high court directing rehabilitation, are yet to be allotted an alternate residence to reside in a hygienic and humane manner. 

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