SC refuses to stay Khori village evictions despite UN plea

With the country facing constant threat of heavy rains and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the court order has made many people homeless, having to live in makeshift tents amidst the debris of their homes.

New Delhi: Amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, SC refuses to stay evictions in Khori Gaon.  A fresh round of demolitions began in Khori village on July 14, after the Supreme Court ordered around 10,000 homes to be destroyed for allegedly encroaching on protected forest land.

With the country facing constant threat of heavy rains and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the court order has made many people homeless, having to live in makeshift tents amidst the debris of their homes.

Last month, the Supreme Court directed the Haryana government and the Municipal Corporation of Faridabad to remove “all encroachments”, consisting of around 10,000 residential units, in the Aravalli forest area, saying “land grabbers cannot take refuge in the rule of law” and talk of “fairness”.

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The people of Khori have been fighting the verdict along with various organisations, demanding the demolitions be ceased, or at minimum that the dispossessed people be rehabilitated. However, no immediate action has been taken.

On Friday, experts from the United Nations Human Rights Council called on India to halt the eviction of around 100,000 people, including 20,000 children, from Khori village in Faridabad, which began last Wednesday, and said “it is particularly important residents be kept safe during the pandemic”.

“We appeal to the Indian government to respect its own laws and its own goal of eliminating homelessness by 2022 and to spare homes of 1,00,000 people who mostly come from minority and marginalized communities,” the expert statement reads.

“We find it extremely worrying that India’s highest court which has in the past led the protection of housing rights is now leading evictions placing people at risk of internal displacement and even homelessness, as is the case in Khori Gaon”.

It emphasises that the “role of the Supreme Court is to uphold the laws and to interpret them in light of internationally recognised Human Rights standards not to undermine them. In this case, the spirit and purpose of the Land Acquisition Act 2013 among other domestic legal requirements have not been met”.

Meanwhile, social activists and residents alleged that situation has worsened in Khori village and that there has been no let-up in the demolitions even after the United Nations’ experts urged an immediate halt.

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