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Today, the Supreme Court will hear appeals of the Haldwani land eviction ruling.

The Uttarakhand High Court authorised the “use of force” to evict nearly 4,000 families from land claimed by the Railways, setting off a firestorm in Haldwani, and the Supreme Court will hear appeals of the decision on Thursday.

Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay Oka will likely sit on a two-judge panel to hear the challenge. A petition for an urgent hearing in the case was granted on Wednesday by a bench chaired by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud.

Following the Uttarakhand High Court ruling ordering the removal of the encroachment near the Haldwani railway station, residents of Banbhulpura held a candle march to protest their demands on Monday. (ANI)

Railways were instructed to “use the forces to any degree determining upon need, to expel the unauthorised occupiers forthwith after giving them a week’s time to evacuate the premises” by the High Court panel of Justice R C Khulbe and Justice Sharad Kumar Sharma on December 20 of last year.

Regarding the state’s earlier intervention, the 176-page High Court decision stated: “Due to the certain most renowned political shield, which was then being provided by the then ruling party for its political gains to the unauthorised occupants, to secure its vote bank, the State itself has filed a Review Petition, for no subsisting and valid reasons… seeking review of the judgement dated 9th November, 2016, which too was dismissed by the Division Bench vide its judgmen.

“…while dismissing the Review Petition, the Court considered the Misc. Application No. 243 of 2017, wherein the glaring revelations that were placed on record pertaining to the State machinery’s inaction for not providing an adequate assistance for removing the unauthorised occupants, despite the orders of the Court to execute the orders by removing the unauthorised occupants, were placed on record.”

The HC rejected the residents’ argument that the 1907 record proved the region was nazul land, stating that it is merely “an official communication; it will not have statutory effect.”

The High Court primarily examined a municipal record from 1907 that establishes the land’s use.

The HC rejected the residents’ argument that the 1907 record proved the region was nazul land, stating that it is merely “an official communication; it will not have statutory effect.”

“In Urdu, a nazul land is a piece of land that is frequently referred to as a ‘jaayajaad munjaapaata,’ which signifies a piece of land that the main occupier abandoned during the Mutiny of 1857 and thereafter belonged to the Queen. “No part of the territory of Haldwani Khas would be regarded to be ‘jaayajaad munjaapaata’, to be described as a nazul land, since no act of Mutiny of 1857 had ever taken place in the Haldwani Khas, so created in 1834,” the judgement stated.

There have been demonstrations against the court decision by the inhabitants, some of whom have lived there for decades. (Source: @ShayarImran on Twitter)

The HC stated that the Railways owns the land because it is next to the Haldwani Railway Station with respect to any lease or sale deed that originated on the basis of the relevant 1907 document. Ravi Shankar Joshi’s first complaint in 2013 about unlawful mining in the area was subsequently enlarged to include encroachment on public land.

Banbhoolpura’s affected citizens’ attorney, Tanveer Alam Khan, stated: “After the 2013 PIL, an Advocate Commissioner was appointed, who said that a few persons stay on the railway land and engage in illegal mining. The High Court ruled in 2016 that these individuals should be driven off the property. Orders to evict these persons from the alleged railway land were given without any prior notice or a fair hearing. However, the Supreme Court ruled in 2017 that these individuals should have the opportunity to a hearing. The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act should be used to hear the case, the Supreme Court further said.

Following a directive from the Uttarakhand High Court, over 4,000 households have received eviction notices and have been given seven days to leave the neighbourhood. (Source: @ShayarImran on Twitter)

A PIL was filed in 2013 by Ravi Shankar Joshi alleging that there is illegal mining in the area and that it has resulted in a bridge collapse on the Gaula river. According to advocate Piyush Garg, who represented one of the intervenors in the Writ Petition No. 30 of 2022, this is when everything began. After reviewing the plea, the court expanded the PIL’s purview and ordered the removal of any encroachments.

Meanwhile, the state government claimed that the land was its and lacked any lines of demarcation. Demarcation work was necessary in order to establish how much of the area is railroad land. When the case was brought back before the High Court, it was said that the initial problem was with the Gaula river, not the railway land, and that the petitioner might file a fresh petition over the encroachments if he so desired. The Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupiers) Act will still be used against occupants, the court further stated, according to Garg.

The petitioner re-filed its argument in 2022, asking that the unlawful squatters be removed in accordance with Section 147 of the Railways Act, which addresses trespass and the refusal to refrain from trespass. The court issued a general warning informing people that they can use intervention applications to voice their opinions. The court issued a final ruling on December 20 after denying all 10 intervention applications that were submitted.

After the afternoon namaz, hundreds of people—mostly women—have been showing out to protest in Haldwani and demand that the demolition project—which is set to begin on January 8—be suspended. (ANI Image)

It stated that the “railway authorities shall immediately, after giving the inhabitants over the railroads land a week’s notice, order them to remove the land within the aforementioned term, in collaboration with the district administration, and if need be, with any other paramilitary forces.”

The ruling indicated that the railway authorities, working in tandem with the local police and district government, might take immediate action and evict the occupants/encroachers from the property if they failed to leave after receiving notice.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Vivek Gupta, Additional Divisional Railway Manager, Izzatnagar, claimed they could verify their ownership of the area using historical maps, a 1959 notification, revenue records from 1971, and the findings of a 2017 survey. He claimed that in order to run more trains through the Kumaon area, the Railways needs this land. However, attorney Garg said that the Railways lacks paperwork defining the boundaries of their land.

According to a map from 1883 that was provided by them, the Railways only own 32.78 acres of land in the area. He added, “This land comprises the railroad station and the railroad lines.

Several concerned residents asserted that they had documentation proving that a custodian had bought their homes.

“Those who departed the nation at the 1947 Partition left their homes. The government then put those homes up for auction. Waris Shah Khan, 61, a resident of Banbhoolpura, asked, “If the residences were on railway land, why was it auctioned off by the government and sold to us under the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation Act)?”


Upper Himalayan High Court


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