Order of the Supreme Court regarding night shelters in Delhi, 28/03/2023

Order of the Supreme Court of India in the matter of E R Kumar & Others Vs Union of India & Others dated 28/03/2023.

The matter related to night shelters in Delhi.

The applicants had approached the SC when one temporary night shelter at Sarai Kale Khan was dismantled. The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) said that three other temporary shelters exist in the vicinity and can accommodate those who were seeking shelter in the dismantled shelter. This has been contested by the applicant stating that DUSIB had demolished eight more temporary night shelters during the pendency of these proceedings.

The SC noted that the DUSIB and the authorities have no proposal to put up any fresh shelters instead of those demolished rather the contention of the DUSIB is that there was sufficient capacity in other permanent shelters, as there are vacancies.

The Committee appointed by the apex court chaired by Justice Kailash Gambhir (retired) had after a detailed inspection of various night shelters (both permanent and temporary) observed that basic facilities such as blankets, sheets, mattresses, drinking water, sufficient lockers, lights, provision for complaints, vector control, proper ventilation provision, first aid kits, pillows, facility of kitchen and display board are lacking. "In such circumstances, the reasons for the vacancy position in the permanent shelter is not far to seek," the SC said.

The SC was also informed that as on date there are three temporary shelters, located at Geeta Ghat. These three cater to certain special categories of homeless such as individuals afflicted with tuberculosis, orthopedically disabled and persons with mental health conditions.

Having regard to these circumstances, the DUSIB, the Delhi Police, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and all other authorities in the state of NCT of Delhi was directed by the SC to not demolish the three shelters, operating presently at Geeta Ghat and any other temporary shelter, without approaching SC.

The DUSIB was also directed to present a plan within the next six weeks about the creation of alternative shelters instead of those demolished at the behest of the Delhi Police, DDA or any other agency. The State Level Committee was asked to inspect all the facilities in Delhi and present its report.