Justice Katju on Haldwani Eviction

Kevalam shaastram aashritya na kartavyo vinirnayah

Yuktiheene vichaare tu dharma haani prajaayate

The Supreme Court acted rightly in staying the order of the Uttarakhand High Court for eviction of 50,000 people, including women, old people and children, from their homes in Banbhoolpura area in Haldwani in Uttarakhand, many of whom are said to have been living there for decades.

The Chief Minister said that it was railway land which these people were illegally occupying. I am not going into this question, but may mention a case pertaining to Mumbai jhuggi jhopdi ( slum ) dwellers which came before a 2 judge bench of the Supreme Court of which I was the junior judge.

These jhuggi jhopdi dwellers were poor people who had no title or lease on the land where they were living. So my senior colleague on the bench said that they are illegal occupants, and should be thrown out.

I said “ But where should they go, brother ?

He replied “ Wherever they came from “.

I said “ Brother, they are poor people who came as labourers from Bihar or somewhere to eke out their existence with their families in these places. They have no jobs in Bihar. Should they be dumped into the sea ? After all, they are human beings. It is not just a legal problem, it is also a humanitarian problem “.

On my insistence we stayed their eviction, and directed the Govt to prepare an alternative rehabilitation scheme.

It may be true that the concerned Haldwani people, like the Mumbai slum dwellers, may not be legally occupying the land on which they are living. But there is a Sanskrit shloka :

” Kevalam shaastram aashritya na kartavyo vinirnayah

Yuktiheene vichaare tu, dharma haani prajaayate ”

i.e.

” A decision should not be given by merely following the letter of the law

For if the decision is wholly unreasonable, injustice will follow. ”

In other words, equitable and humanitarian considerations must also be taken into consideration.

 

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