The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India vide order dated 02.08.2020 directed the Railways, Government of NCT of Delhi, concerned Municipal Corporations as well as the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Trust (DUISB) to remove 48,000 jhuggies (shanties) along 140 kilometres of railway track around Delhi within a period of three months from the order date.

The Railways had submitted by way of affidavit before the Court that there was a predominant presence of jhuggies along the 140 km length of track in the region of NCT of Delhi where the railway tracks take off in different directions and also include a ring connecting the take off of all these routes, out of which about 70 km length of track is affected by large jhuggie-jhopri clusters existing in close vicinity of the tracks arriving at a total of 48000 jhuggies. It was further submitted that these jhuggies along with large amounts of garbage dumped proved to be encroachments on the property of Railways.

The Apex Court noted that the report of the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) as well as the reply filed by the Railways indicates that “nothing has been done so far and waste is being piled up and at the same time, there is human habitation which has come in the same area unauthorisedly, which are required to be taken care of.”

The Court noted that there were certain “political interventions” which had affected the removal of these encroachments earlier. The Bench stated as follows, “Special Task Force for removal of encroachments from the Railway Property has already been constituted by Railway in terms of the directions and order dated 01.10.2018 passed by the NGT PB New Delhi. There seems to be some political intervention against removal of such encroachments which are coming in the way.

The Court further directed that a plan be executed with respect to removal of the plastic bags, garbage etc. within a period of three months from the date of the order. A meeting of all the stakeholders, i.e. Railways, NCT government and concerned municipal corporations as well as the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Trust (DUISB) shall be called next week and work be started for the same.

In a related matter, the Court was told that the smog towers to be set up to curb air pollution in the capital would be constructed within ten months. The Court thus noted as follows, “Any violation on any ground whatsoever shall be treated as contempt of the order passed by this Court as there is already huge unjustified delay in making the compliance of the order.”