The Bombay High Court ruled that the right to livelihood under Article 21 includes the right to live in safe buildings and houses.
The court was informed by the Corporation that a vast portion of the scarce land in the city is under slums, which includes all kinds of lands, namely, the State Government lands, land belonging to public bodies as also to a small extent, private lands. The percentage of population in Mumbai and outskirts is also too large. The court wondered, when slums are openly allowed to proliferate on scarce and valuable public land, whether the well established principles under the “rule of law” at all prevails in relation to the rules, to transfer ownership of such lands from the “State” to the private parties. Something which possibly does not happen elsewhere in the country, is what has pained, namely, that sustained encroachment on valuable government land in this city is encouraged to the benefit of encroachers and developers and becomes available for commercial exploitation.
Mr. Chinoy with Mr. Sakhare, appearing for the MCGM, contended that the report overlooks the provisions of Chapter I-B of the Slums Act, as introduced by Amendment Act No. 10 of 2002 which provides for protection to the occupants of unauthorized structures in existence on or prior to January 1, 2000 (now extended up to January 1, 2011), as also the implications as brought about by Chapter I-B.
Kumbhakoni, Advocate General on behalf of State, contended that the slum is a censused slum and if indeed that be so, the relevant documentary evidence in that regard be also incorporated in the affidavit to be filed in terms of the order.
He submitted that there are two aspects involved, firstly, an encroachment on government land and secondly unauthorized construction by the encroachers.
The division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G. S. Kulkarni noted that the annual budget of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai is more than several midsized States of India.
The court stated that it is, therefore, not unreasonable to assume that sufficient financial resources are at its disposal, and one would have expected the Government and the Corporation, whoever was at their helm, to adequately plan development by making appropriate budgetary provisions for affordable housing projects for the not so fortunate working class of people living in slums.
“Quite contrary to the ideals and values embodied in the Constitution which lay down the basic framework of the social and political structure of the country and sets out the objectives and goals to be pursued by the people in a common endeavor to secure happiness and welfare of every member of the society and despite taking oath to uphold the laws, actions of those in power and authority are now invariably driven by political motivations or other oblique considerations. No wonder, the casualty is the compassionate Constitution of ours”, the court said.
The court parted with the hope and trust that the respondents, remaining alive to the duty cast upon them by law, would not precipitate any further cause of action and thereby necessitate the intervention of this Court with more stringent directions.
Case title: High Court on its own motion v/s Bhiwandi Nizampur Municipal Corporation & Ors.
Citation: SUO MOTU PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION NO.1 OF 2020