The Supreme Court Monday pulled up the Railways for not acting against encroachers on its land in Gujarat, where a railway line is scheduled to come up, and said they are not protecting their property.
Observing that it is the “statutory obligation” of the Railways to initiate action against the encroachers, the court said the “public project” has to go on and the authority should have taken action on this.
“The project has to go on. It is a public project. You are making mockery of your plans and budgeting arrangements. Remove those who are encroachers. There is law for removal. You are not invoking that law,” a bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar and CT Ravikumar said.
“It is your property and you are not protecting your property. And it is a statutory obligation on you to initiate action against encroachers,” the bench told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) K M Nataraj, representing the Railways.
The top court was hearing two separate petitions which have raised issues related to the removal of encroachment from Railways land in Gujarat and Haryana.
In the Gujarat matter, the petitioners had earlier told the top court that the state high court had vacated its July 23, 2014 interim order of status quo and permitted the Western Railways to go ahead with the Surat-Udhna up to Jalgaon third railway line project.
After the high court order, the petitioners moved the top court which granted status quo on the demolition of these ‘jhuggis’ in Gujarat.
The other plea relates to the demolition of ‘jhuggis’ near the railway tracks at Faridabad in Haryana.
In the Faridabad matter, the top court had earlier granted status quo on the demolition of structures of those, who have approached the court seeking stay of the eviction.
During the hearing on Monday, the ASG told the bench that Railways have no scheme for rehabilitation of those who are encroaching upon its land.
He referred to the ‘PM Awas Yojana’ which is subject to eligibility.
The ASG said the state will have to consider the aspect of rehabilitation.
The bench observed that the corporation, the state and the Railways should sit together and chalk out a plan and then inform the court about it.
“From the Railways point of view, all these people are unauthorised occupants and it is an offence,” the ASG said.
The bench observed, “Did you act upon it? Did you discharge your statutory obligation to remove them? Did you invoke the Public Premises Act? Did you invoke criminal action?”