New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Uttarakhand High Court direction for eviction of over 4,000 families from the railway land in Haldwani.
A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay S. Oka said, “There is a human angle to it”, and added that there cannot be uprooting of several thousand people in seven days.
The bench emphasized that there can’t be uprooting of people without alternate arrangements. After hearing arguments, the top court stayed the high court’s direction for eviction of families within a week and their houses be demolished.
The top court issued notice to the Uttarakhand government and the railways on a batch of petitions filed against the judgment passed by a division bench of the high court on December 20, 2022.
During the hearing, the top court asked the railways to find a practical solution to the issue and stressed that many of the occupants have been residing there for decades claiming rights on the basis of leases and auction purchases.
The bench said, “There are two aspects of the issue. One, they claim leases. Two, they say people migrated after 1947 and the lands were auctioned”.
Justice Kaul said that there are establishments on the land in question and questioned, “how can you say in seven days clear them off?”
Justice Oka noted that the people have been staying there for 50 years. He further added, “How do you deal with the scenario of people who have purchased the land in auction. You may acquire the land and utilise…”
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhat, representing the Railways, submitted that the land belongs to the Railways and several orders for eviction have been passed under the Public Premises Act.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, representing some of the petitioners, submitted that they were ex-parte orders passed during the Covid period. Bhati contended that the petitioners claim the land as their own and that they have not sought rehabilitation.
The bench pointed out that the high court passed the order without hearing the affected parties. It added, “Find out some solution. It is a human issue…”
Justice Kaul added that the human issue arises from long periods of occupation and maybe all of them cannot be painted with the same brush. “Maybe there are different categories… Somebody will have to verify the documents,” said Justice Kaul.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra submitted that many petitioners had government leases executed in their favour.
After a detailed hearing in the matter, the top court scheduled it for further on February 7, and asked the state government and the Railways to find a “practical solution”.