SC stays HC order for removal of encroachments from Uttarakhand's Railway land in Haldwani

Supreme Court of India | Photo: Mathrubhumi

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed the Uttarakhand High Court order for removal of encroachments from 29 acres of land claimed by the railways in Haldwani, calling it a "human issue" and saying 50,000 people cannot be uprooted overnight.

Amid protests by residents who insist they have title to the land, a bench of Justices S K Kaul and A S Oka said a workable solution needs to be found.

According to the railways, there are 4,365 encroachers on the land.

Nearly 50,000 people, a majority of them Muslims, belonging to over 4,000 families reside on the disputed land.

The apex court issued notices to the railways and the state government seeking their responses to a batch of pleas challenging the high court order for removal of encroachments.

"Notice. In the meantime, there shall be stay of directions passed in the impugned order," said the bench, which posted the matter for further hearing on February 7.

"We do believe that a workable arrangement is necessary to segregate people who may have no rights in the land.... coupled with schemes of rehabilitation which may already exist while recognising the need of the Railways," the bench said.

The top court observed that the authorities have to find a "practical way out".

"There are multiple angles arising from the nature of the land, ownership of the land, the nature of rights conferred....," it said, adding, "We are trying to tell you, find out some solution. This is a human issue."

The bench observed that Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, who appeared for the railways, has emphasised on the needs of the railways.

It said the moot point to be considered would be the stand of the state government also as to whether the complete land is to vest in the railways or the state is claiming a part of it.

The bench said, apart from that, there are issues of occupants claiming rights on the land as lessees or lease hold or auction purchases.

The high court had on December 20 last year ordered demolition of constructions over alleged encroached railway land at Banbhoolpura in Haldwani.

It had directed that a week's notice be given to the encroachers after which the encroachments should be demolished.

The residents have submitted in their plea that the high court has gravely erred in passing the impugned order despite being aware of the fact that proceedings with regard to title of the residents including the petitioners are pending before the district magistrate.

There are religious places, schools, business establishments and residences on an area spread over 29 acres land in Banbhoolpura.

"It is submitted that the High Court has gravely erred in not appreciating that the alleged Demarcation Report dated April 7, 2021 placed before it by the Railway Authorities, was a hollow sham that revealed no demarcation whatsoever,” one of the pleas have said.

"Despite extracting the covering letter of the Demarcation Report in the impugned order, the actual contents of the Report that only contained the names and addresses of all the residents, were not gone into by the High Court," the plea said.

The residents have contended that the "arbitrary and illegal" approach adopted by the railways and state authorities as well as the upholding of the same by the high court has resulted in gross violation of their right to shelter.

The petitioners have claimed they are in possession of valid documents that clearly establish their title and valid occupation.

"It is further submitted that the High Court ought to have given due consideration to all these documents instead of making allegations of vote bank politics against State. Additionally, the names of the local residents have been recorded in the municipal records in the house tax register and they are paying the house tax regularly," they said.

Many of the residents claim the houses of those who left India during the Partition in 1947 were auctioned by the government and bought by them.

On November 9, 2016, the high court had ordered the removal of encroachments from the railway land within 10 weeks, while hearing a PIL filed by Ravi Shankar Joshi.

The court had said that all encroachers should be brought under the Railway Public Premises (eviction of unauthorised occupants) Act 1971.


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