SC: People Without Shelter Can’t Be Left to Fend for Themselves
Taking the government to task on the issue of urban homeless, the Supreme Court on Friday said that people without shelter cannot be “left to fend for themselves” as there were “grand plans” which were not implemented.
Noting that housing was a basic need for everyone especially in view of the approaching winter, the apex court slammed 12 states and union territories for not notifying the names of civil societies members in their committees to take care of the needs of the urban homeless, while slapping fines on them ranging from Rs 1-5 lakh.
It observed that submissions given on behalf of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs on the issue depicted a “sorry state of affairs” as these states and the UTs had not yet notified the names, despite the court’s order to this effect on March 22.
A bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta slapped a cost of Rs 1 lakh each on nine states and UTs of Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Manipur, Goa, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Odisha and Tripura, while a cost of Rs 5 lakh was imposed on Haryana.
The bench, however, did not impose a cost on Kerala and Uttarakhand considering the “peculiar circumstances” in these two states due to the natural disasters there.
“We make it clear that unless necessary steps are taken by the states/UTs, we have no option but to impose heavy cost particularly since winters are coming and persons without shelter cannot be left to fend for themselves,” the bench said.
“Housing is a basic need for everybody. When there is a policy of the Union of India, it has to be implemented by all,” the apex court said and directed these states and UTs to deposit the cost within three weeks to the Supreme Court Legal Services Authority.
It directed these states and UTs to issue a notification in this regard within two weeks.
When the issue of inaction by several states and UTs on notifying the names of civil society members in the committees, the bench asked Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A N S Nadkarni, “Why are they not doing it?”.
The bench observed that the winter season was approaching and if necessary steps were not taken by the states and UTs, the homeless people would have to suffer a lot.
“These people (officials) do not want to work. What is to be done,” the bench asked and added, “You (Centre) come out with grand plans but nobody implements them”.
It said “we require all the states and UTs to formulate a plan of action, if not already done, on or before October 31, 2018. The plan of action will include identification of homeless persons, providing them with some identification, nature of shelter required etc.”
The bench directed that this information be provided to the Centre by the first week of November.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, told the bench that government officials who were part of the committee were not attending the meetings of the panels in some states and in Rajasthan, the principal secretary had also not attended the meeting.
The bench took strong note of this and directed that the members of the committee would have to attend all the meetings of the committee.
At the outset, the ASG, appearing for the ministry, told the bench that three meetings of the committee have been convened in Delhi, Karnataka and Puducherry while in Bihar and West Bengal, two meetings have been held. In 23 states and UTs, one meeting of the committee has been held.
The ASG said the states and UTs would have to notify it and take appropriate steps to deal with the issue.
Initially, the court slapped a cost of Rs one lakh on Haryana, but later the counsel appearing for the state told the bench that they have complied with the court’s order.
When the court perused the document handed over by the counsel for Haryana, it said that the names of civil society members have not yet been notified. The bench thereafter enhanced the amount of cost imposed on Haryana to Rs five lakh.
The Centre had earlier told the court that several states have not yet constituted the committee to deal with the issues of implementation of the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM).
The apex court had expressed shock that welfare schemes were not being effectively implemented even after spending thousands of crores of rupees on them.
The petitioners had referred to a report of the apex court-appointed committee headed by former Delhi High Court judge Justice Kailash Gambhir and said a number of shelter homes in some of the states were much less than what was required.