New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday slammed the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for breaching its earlier order stating it can't carry out a demolition drive at Kathputli colony till November 4 and appointed a three-member committee to ascertain the 'position on the ground'.
The court has appointed Arvind Unni of Indo Global Social Service Society, Himshi Singh of National Alliance for People's Movements and Sunayana Wadhawan, a volunteer with Sanchal Foundation, to assess the "factual position" in the case after residents alleged the DDA proposes to demolish the shanties of even those who are not eligible for relocation.
The committee members will visit the area to assess the ground reality and the entire exercise will be video recorded. Spread over an area of around 14 acres near West Delhi's Shadipur, the colony is home to a large number of puppeteers, magicians, singers and musicians.
The DDA had on October 30 demolished 500 shanties. The court stayed the demolition drive on October 31 for 10 days so that persons being relocated could move out voluntarily, and those declared ineligible for relocation could get time to file appeals against the action.
However, modifying its order, the court had on November 1 allowed the DDA to demolish the slums of those residents who were eligible for relocation and had moved out voluntarily. The court had said this could be done from November 4.
However, on Monday, a bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar noted the grievances of residents as they claimed that DDA had demolished the houses in a very opaque manner and before the deadline.
DDA's standing counsel, advocate Ajay Verma, argued that DDA has "faithfully abided" by all the court orders till date but the court was not satisfied with the claims being made.
The court has fixed the next date for hearing in the case on November 16, 2017.
Speaking to News18, petitioner for the residents, advocate Ali Zia Kabir Choudhary said they are not against demolition but the manner in which it is being carried out.
"It is not that we are against redevelopment, but we are against the haphazard process being followed by the DDA. Residents are not aware even to this day whether they're being relocated or not. Several residents have their names on multiple lists, while others don’t appear in any lists," he said.
He added: "Some were eligible in 2014 but now ineligible. There is total confusion. The very fact that the DDA gave only a five-day notice [to the slum dwellers] and the war-scale demolition speaks volumes about the opaque manner in which they conduct themselves."
Choudhary also said that when the court had ordered that DDA may demolish "locked down houses" from November, it would be only those establishments which have been vacated. "But in this case DDA not only demolished the homes before the deadline but also destroyed homes which had belongings still in them as people had only left for a few hours."