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Haldwani Land Row: State Seeks Adjournment for 8 Weeks to Reach Workable Solution, SC Accedes

Tarique Anwar |
The matter will be heard again in May.
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on February 7 acceded to the Uttarakhand government's request to grant it eight weeks to work out an arrangement to rehabilitate people allegedly living on Railways land.

The matter will be heard again in May.

Following the Uttarakhand High Court order directing the removal of the occupants from the land claimed by the Railways, over 4,000 families residing at Banbhulpura locality in Haldwani were served eviction notices.

The residents claim that they have been residing in the area for decades on valid documents recognised by the government authorities.

With regard to Adv Prashant Bhushan's submission that the occupants have title to the land, the top court said, "If someone has a title, if someone encroaches, it will need a workable solution.

Taking exception to the High Court order, the apex court on January 1 had stayed the planned eviction - observing that "there cannot be uprooting of 50,000 people in seven days".

Asking the State and Railways to find a "practical solution", a division bench of the top court, comprising justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay S Oka, had observed, "There are two aspects here: one, they claim leases; two, they say they migrated after 1947, and the land was auctioned to them. Therefore, some rehabilitation has to be given as there are establishments. How can you ask them to clear the area in seven days?"

As the matter came up for hearing today, Senior Advocate Colin Gonsalves, representing petitioners, brought the court's attention to a letter submitted by the State.

Assistant Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati said the letter is by the State for an adjournment for four weeks to work out a workable solution.

She sought eight weeks. "Please give us eight weeks," she urged.

The bench acceded to her request.

Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra wondered if it could be earlier.

During his submission, Advocate Bhushan raised the issue of the title - saying that "they (the State) have filed documents that show the title of the land belongs to us".

The bench observed, "If someone has the title or if someone (is) encroaching, it will need a workable solution."

Gonsalves also submitted, "It is an artificial problem that can be solved instantly."

The bench, comprising justices SK Kaul and Manoj Misra, said, "You are a senior; invite her (ASG Bhati) for a cup of coffee and deliberate. No harm in brainstorming."

The ASG replied in affirmation, saying, "Happy, will be."

The court then made a light observation to let everyone have smiles on their faces. "Whoever wants to take the initiative, call for sandwiches," the bench added.

The matter was listed to be heard in May.

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