ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bombay s Pavement-Dwellers-Continuing Torment.pdf

Bombay's Pavement-Dwellers Continuing Torment Meera Bapat IN July 1985, the Supreme Court delivered a perplexing judgment on the case involving pavement-dwellers. A writ petition (No 46104612 of 1981) had been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the large-scale demolitions by the Bombay Municipal Corporation in 1981 of huts on pavements in central areas of Bombay. The judgment on the writ petition endorses the argument made on behalf of pavement-dwellers that if they are evicted from their dwellings they will be deprived of their livelihood and therefore their right to life will be violated, as the right livelihood is included in the right to life conferred by Article 21. And yet the judgment permits the removal of pavement-dwellings without directing the municipal corporation to provide a viable alternative for the people so that their right to life is upheld. The judgment argues that the Constitution does not put an absolute embargo on the deprivation of life or personal liberty; in the instant case the taw which allows deprivation of the right conferred by Article 21 is the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1988, and relevant sections in it which empower the municipal authorities to clear encroachments on pavements. The judgment goes on to state that those pavement-dwellers who were censured by the state government in 1976 should be given, though not as a condition precedent to their removal, alternative pitches (in a distant suburb of Bombay). The Supreme Court also directs the municipal corporation to withhold demolitions until the end of the monsoon (October 31) to save pavement-dwellers additional suffering that may be caused by being rendered homeless in the rain. It was feared that large-scale demolitions of huts erected on pavements in different parts of Bombay would begin soon after the stipulated date. This did not occur (owing as much to intensive work of mobilising pavement-dwellers done by voluntary organisations as to a play of diverse forces in local politics). What has been happening instead with frequent regularity is the demolition of a few huts at a time along short stretches of roads and streets. These demolitions have rarely been reported in the press.

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