Supreme Court pulls up Railways for not protecting its property & acting against encroachers

supreme court, railways, gujarat, encroachers, property

The Supreme Court Monday pulled up the Railways for not acting against encroachers on its land in Gujarat, where a railway line is scheduled to come up, and said they are not protecting their property.

Observing that it is the “statutory obligation” of the Railways to initiate action against the encroachers, the apex court said the “public project” has to go on and the authority should have taken action on this.

“The project has to go on. It is a public project. You are making mockery of your plans and budgeting arrangements. Remove those who are encroachers. There is law for removal. You are not invoking that law,” a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar said.

“It is your property and you are not protecting your property. And it is a statutory obligation on you to initiate action against encroachers,” the bench told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K M Nataraj, representing the Railways.

The top court was hearing two separate petitions which have raised issues related to the removal of encroachment from Railways land in Gujarat and Haryana.

In the Gujarat matter, the petitioners had earlier told the apex court that the state high court had vacated its July 23, 2014 interim order of status quo and permitted the Western Railways to go ahead with the Surat-Udhna up to Jalgaon third railway line project.

After the high court order, the petitioners moved the top court which granted status quo on the demolition of these ‘jhuggis’ in Gujarat.

The other plea relates to the demolition of ‘jhuggis’ near the railway tracks at Faridabad in Haryana.

In the Faridabad matter, the apex court had earlier granted status quo on the demolition of structures of those, who have approached the court seeking stay of the eviction.

During the hearing on Monday, the ASG told the bench that Railways have no scheme for rehabilitation of those who are encroaching upon its land.

He referred to the ‘PM Awas Yojana’ which is subject to eligibility.

The ASG said the state will have to consider the aspect of rehabilitation.

The bench observed that the corporation, the state and the Railways should sit together and chalk out a plan and then inform the court about it.

“From the Railways point of view, all these people are unauthorised occupants and it is an offence,” the ASG said.

The bench observed, “Did you act upon it? Did you discharge your statutory obligation to remove them? Did you invoke the Public Premises Act? Did you invoke criminal action?”

Nataraj said there was some “lapse” on the part of the Railways that they had not taken action on this earlier and the issue now is of rehabilitation.

“You just cannot sit quite and say that is not my problem. It is your property and you have to protect your property as a private person is expected to protect his property,” the bench observed.

“You are waiting for each other. The corporation is waiting for the state, the state is waiting for you and you are waiting for the state,” it said, adding, “You have to remove the encroachment. That is a project which has to be immediately implemented.”

The bench asked whether the Railways have identified those persons who may be entitled or eligible under the PM Awas Yojana.

Nataraj said the state government has to identify them and give land.

The bench, which posted the matter for hearing on Tuesday, said the authorities will have to find some solution of this issue.

The Gujarat matter relates to the demolition of around 5,000 ‘jhuggis’ for a railway line project.

The top court is hearing a petition which has said that an “irreparable injury” would be caused to the slum dwellers residing on the Railways land there if they are not provided with alternate arrangements and rehabilitation.

In the Faridabad matter, the apex court had earlier granted status quo on the demolition of structures of those, who have approached the court seeking stay of the eviction.

The plea, filed by 18 petitioners, including those who are residing in the area in Faridabad, has challenged the September 28 interim order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which had refused to grant a stay on demolition.

In the Gujarat matter, the petitioner had earlier told the apex court that in compliance with the Gujarat High Court’s August 19 order, the authorities were going to start the demolition work.

The petition in the Gujarat matter, filed through advocate Satya Mitra, has sought a stay on the demolition of these ‘jhuggis’ claiming that no breathing time has been given to the slum dwellers and authorities have been forcing them to vacate within 24 hours.

It has also sought direction to the authorities, including the Centre and Gujarat government, to rehabilitate the concerned slum dwellers.

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