The Gujarat High Court, Thursday, disposed of a petition moved by 55 slum dwellers residing opposite the Sabarmati Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad opposing their eviction owing to the Gandhi Ashram Precinct Development Project. The plea was disposed of after the state government’s assurance that any action would be taken in accordance with law by following due procedures.
Terming the petition “premature”, the affidavit also stated that the petitioners’ apprehension of being evicted was simply “based on assumption.”
Relying on an affidavit-in-reply filed on December 21 by city deputy collector (West) JB Desai, on behalf of the state government, sub-divisional magistrate of Ahmedabad and the district collector, the court of Justice Nirzar Desai held that the petitioners’ apprehension of being evicted “is based on an oral order and there’s nothing in writing to point out that the respondents are taking any action against the petitioners immediately”.
On November 23, 2021, officials of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and the district collectorate had gone to the dwelling site situated opposite the Sabarmati Ashram to raze the dwellings but had to postpone the work due to protests by the dwellers. The authorities were forced to maintain status quo after the dwellers moved the HC seeking the court’s intervention.
Desai’s affidavit before the HC, however, claims that the visit to the site by AMC officials and Ahmedabad district collector was only for the “purpose of survey, verification and surveillance and not demolition of the encroachment”.
Submitting the petitioners’ apprehension that they will be removed without any due process of law is “misfounded” and that the majority of the petitioners do not have a legal right vested with them as a majority of the petitioners’ encroachments were removed earlier, the authorities, however, gave their undertaking to take necessary action in accordance with provisions of the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976 and Rules.
The authorities submitted that the petitioners have admittedly “encroached upon a public road under the Town Planning Scheme and necessary action will be taken by appropriate authorities under the provision of the Gujarat Town Planning and Urban Development Act, 1976, in accordance with the law”. It has also been pointed out that in a 2003 litigation, through an order in 2005, the AMC was directed to remove encroachments in accordance with the law. As a result, 31 encroachers were removed from the same land of which eight petitioners have “once again encroached and occupied the subject land.”