The 18th G20 Summit took place in New Delhi on 9th and 10th September 2023. The
central government aimed to focus the G20 meetings on "achieving inclusive,
equitable, and sustainable growth" and the theme of the Summit was
"Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam". However, the "beautification drives" conducted by the
government to prepare the city for the G20 Summit, comprising the demolition of
numerous slums, were antithetical to the very theme of the Summit. The
demolitions also violated many human rights, indicating where the poor lie on
the State's priority list and that being poor is nothing short of a crime in
This essay aims to highlight the unlawful nature of the slum demolitions carried
out in preparation for the G20 Summit, with the help of legal provisions as well
as case laws. Firstly, it discusses the Indian Acts and International
Conventions which have affirmed the housing rights of slum dwellers. It then
examines the case laws which have granted the right to shelter and provided
protection against arbitrary displacements. The essay finally analyses the
loopholes in the existing legal provisions on housing rights of the poor and
gives suggestions to provide remedies to those who have been displaced due to
the G20 Summit.
The demolition drives were carried out in over 15 areas of Delhi, including
Mehrauli, Tughlakabad, Pragati Maidan and Shakarpur, among others, according to
data collected by Land Conflict Watch. The slums in Mehrauli and Tughlakabad
(home to many UNESCO World Heritage sites) were demolished to prepare the area
for a heritage walk organised for the foreign delegates, while those in Pragati
Maidan were bulldozed as it was the main venue for the G20 Summit. Slums in
other areas, such as Yamuna floodplains and Moolchand were en route to the main
venue and thus taken down.
This phenomenon, unfortunately, is not new to India. When the Commonwealth Games
were organised in Delhi in 2010, close to 350 slums (housing 3 lakh people) were
demolished, on the pretext of developing the infrastructure of the city for the
Games. According to the report published by Housing and Land Rights Network,
only a third of those who were evicted were resettled and no adequate
compensation was provided. It is a pity that political parties are ever so ready
to snatch credit from each other on the passing of a bill or policy but refuse
to learn from and rectify each other's mistakes.
Indian Law On Slum Dwellers' Rights
In the case of U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Parishad v. Friends Coop. Housing Society
., the Supreme Court stated: "The right to shelter is a fundamental right,
which springs from the right to residence under Article 19 (1)(e) and the
right to life under Article 21." The Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance)
Act, 1965 provides the right to receive compensation to every person who has
any interest in the land which is to be acquired. The Act stipulates that no
entry shall be made into any building or house without the consent of the owner
and that a notice has to be provided to the owner 24 hours prior to making such
The Act also provides the right to appeal against an order of demolition
within a prescribed time limit. The Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and
Relocation Policy, 2015 contains provisions for rehabilitation and relocation
on the fulfilment of certain conditions.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the International Covenant
on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recognise the right to housing and
proper living conditions. The Convention on Rights of Child, in Article 27
paragraph 3, recognises the right of every child to a standard of living
adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social
Evolution Of Right To Housing Through Case Laws
The case of Olga Tellis vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation
 was the first
landmark case to create seminal jurisprudence on this issue. It dealt with the
forceful eviction of pavement dwellers in Mumbai during monsoons. In this case,
the Supreme Court held that the State must honour the constitutional rights to
life, livelihood and housing under Article 21, even in the absence of formal
legal title (ownership rights to the property) with the inhabitants. It
recognised two sets of entitlements as part of the right to housing � a
right to notice and hearing prior to evictions, and access to rehabilitation
under existing schemes for the same.
In the case of Sudama Singh vs. Govt of Delhi
, the Delhi High Court proposed
a mechanism, wherein the exercise of conducting a survey had to be undertaken
for the purposes of providing alternative accommodation. It also held that the
obligation of the State to provide or ensure rehabilitation and resettlement has
to be prior to initiating moves for evictions.
In Rutuparna Mohanty vs. State of Orissa
, slum dwellers evicted from the
premises of S.C.B. Medical College moved to Orissa High Court and sought interim
measures such as food, shelter, education and a direction to the State
Government to formulate a Rehabilitation and Resettlement Plan. The High Court
granted the reliefs sought and held that there was a legal obligation for the
rehabilitation of slum dwellers under Article 243W (Powers, authority and
responsibilities of Municipalities) read with 12th Schedule, which talk about
planning for socio-economic development and safeguarding the interests of the
weaker sections of the society.
The Delhi High Court, in the case of Ajay Maken vs. Union of India
that "the right to housing is a bundle of rights not limited to a bare shelter
over one's head. It includes the right to livelihood, right to health, right to
education and right to food, including right to clean drinking water, sewerage
and transport facilities, as well as the right to enjoy the freedom to live in
In the recent demolitions, before razing down the houses, the authorities broke
the handpumps so that the inhabitants wouldn't have access to water and would be
left with no option but to evacuate. This move was in complete ignorance of the
Ajay Maken judgement. Despite numerous Court rulings outlining eviction
protocols and remedies in case of non-compliance, there has been no
rehabilitation, no resettlement plan, or even a survey for those whose homes
were razed down during the "beautification drives" for G20.
In many instances,
notices were served as the demolitions were being carried out, in utter
disregard of the established legal procedure. This is a clear violation of the
fundamental right to shelter provided under Article 21 and Article 19
(1)(e) and observations held by the Indian Courts in landmark cases on
Public Housing Jurisprudence.
Loopholes In The Legal Framework
The policies on Public Housing and Rehabilitation of slum dwellers are still
very vague and non-uniform in the India. For instance, The relocation policy
under The Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2015
states that the Jhuggi-Jhopri clusters which have come up before January 1, 2006
shall not be removed without rehabilitation, but contains no rehabilitation
provisions for the slums that cropped up after this "cut-off" date. Such
policies lack inclusively and defeat the purpose of providing housing facilities
to all impoverished sections of the society.
Furthermore, in recent years, the
Courts have given many judgements ordering the removal of slums without
thinking twice about the helplessness which forces the poor to set up their
dwellings on public property, thus weakening the case laws affirming their
rights. Such lacunae give the government the courage to keep repeating the same
patterns over and over without any accountability.
- The Supreme Court should take Suo moto cognisance of the issue and direct
the Central and Delhi governments to take immediate steps to provide housing
facilities to those who have been displaced and design a rehabilitation and
resettlement plan at the earliest.
- In the meantime, the authorities should provide temporary living shelters as well as food and other basic amenities to the displaced.
- Compensation should be provided to families having very meagre incomes to sustain themselves and to continue their children's education.
- The Delhi government should also make changes to its policy which specifies a "cut-off" date for rehabilitation to remove arbitrariness and make it more inclusive.
- Efforts should also be taken to ensure the safety of women and children who have lost their homes.
- There should be a legal framework in place to protect the poor and downtrodden from exploitation and displacement.
The slum demolitions carried out by the State are punitive in nature and throw
the poor under the bus in an effort to portray the image of a poverty-free
country to the world, which is far from reality. Infrastructural development
must go hand in hand with the growth of all sections of the society, most
importantly the marginalised and deprived sections.
There is a need for more
robust and uniform laws to protect the rights of the slum dwellers. Shelter is
one of the most fundamental needs of a human and if India wishes to become a
developed country in every sense of the word, providing this basic requirement
to every citizen is absolutely imperative.
- G20 New Delhi Leaders' Declaration.
- Mukta Joshi and Prudhviraj Rupavath, 'Delhi's poor bear the brunt of #G20-linked evictions', Land Conflict Watch
https://www.landconflictwatch.org/twitter-threads/delhi-s-poor-bear-the-brunt-of-g20-linked-evictions (7 September 2023) accessed 30 September 2023.
- Housing and Land Rights Network, 'Planned Dispossession: Forced Evictions and the 2010 Commonwealth Games', Habitat International Coalition, (February 2011).
- U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Parishad & Anr v Friends Coop. Housing  AIR 114.
- The Constitution of India 1950, art 19(1)(e).
- The Constitution of India 1950, art 21.
- The Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act 1965.
- The Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy 2015.
- Olga Tellis v Bombay Municipal Corporation  AIR 180.
- The Constitution of India 1950, art 21.
- Gautam Bhatia, 'The Supreme Court's Eviction Order Ignores the Rights of Jhuggi Dwellers', Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy (5 September 2020) accessed 2 October 2023.
- Sudama Singh v Government of Delhi,  SCC OnLine Del 612.
- Rutuparna Mohanty v State of Orissa  SCC OnLine Ori 195.
- Ajay Maken v Union of India  SCC OnLine Del 7618.
- Outlook Web Desk, 'G20 Evictions: Homelessness Was The Cost Of Beautification Drive', Outlook (8 September 2023) accessed 2 October 2023.
- The Constitution of India 1950 art 21.
- The Constitution of India 1950 art 19 (1)(e).
- The Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, 2016.
- Colin Gonsalves, 'Courts Backing The Executive On Demolitions Is More Painful', Outlook (13 June, 2022) accessed 2 October 2023.