Stay on removal of encroachments in Uttarkhand's Haldwani to remain: Supreme Court [2.5.2023]

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that its order staying the Uttarakhand High Court directions for the removal of encroachments from 29 acres of land claimed by the railways in Haldwani will continue during the pendency of petitions in the matter before it.

On January 5, the apex court had in an interim order stayed the high court's directions for the removal of encroachments from 29 acres of land, terming it a "human issue" and saying 50,000 people cannot be uprooted overnight.

The pleas challenging the high court order came up for hearing before a bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and A Amanullah which said that the interim order of stay "is made absolute during the pendency of the petitions" and listed the matter for directions in the first week of August.

According to the railways, there are 4,365 encroachers on the land. The occupants were earlier staging protests in Haldwani, asserting that they were the rightful owners of the land. Nearly 50,000 people, a majority of them Muslims, belonging to over 4,000 families reside on the disputed land.

The apex court was on Tuesday informed that an adjournment letter has been circulated in the matter.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, said this matter needs to be heard and decided and the bench can fix it for hearing in July.

"You have got the protection in this matter. It is not an easy solution to find out, looking at the problem. But the solution was not which the high court found," the bench observed, adding it had already stayed the high court directions.

"We had recorded the reasons why we were staying that order," it said.

The bench then asked the lawyers appearing for the railways as well as the state about how much time they will take to find a solution.

It noted in its order that the state's counsel has submitted that the endeavour is on to work out a reasonable solution as early as possible.

"An adjournment letter has been circulated... The interim order is made absolute during the pendency of the petitions," the bench said, while listing the matter for directions in the first week of August.

The apex court had earlier also issued notices to the railways and the Uttarakhand government seeking their responses to a batch of pleas challenging the high court order for the removal of encroachments.

"Apart from that, there are issues of occupants claiming rights in the land as lessees/auction purchasers. We have cavil to the way the directions have been passed in the impugned order as there cannot be uprooting of 50 thousand people overnight within seven days," the bench had noted in its January 5 order.

"In the meantime, there shall be stay only of the directions passed in the impugned order(s). That has also to be coupled with complete restraint on any further occupation of land and/or construction whether by the existing occupants or by anyone else," it had said.

In its December 20 last year order, the high court had ordered the demolition of constructions on alleged encroached railway land at Banbhoolpura in Haldwani.

It had directed that a week's notice be given to the encroachers after which the encroachments should be demolished.

The residents have submitted in their plea that the high court has gravely erred in passing the impugned order despite being aware of the fact that proceedings with regard to the title of the residents including the petitioners are pending before the district magistrate.

There are religious places, schools, business establishments and residences on an area spread over 29 acres of land in Banbhoolpura.

The petitioners have claimed they have valid documents that establish their title and valid occupation.

03 May 2023