Right to shelter doesn’t mean govt housing for unlimited period: SC

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The bench said the right of shelter to the displaced person is satisfied when accommodation had been provided in transit accommodation….reports Asian Lite News

The Supreme Court has held that the fundamental right to shelter cannot be construed as a right to government accommodation for retired government employees.

A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and A.S. Bopanna noted the right to shelter is a fundamental right, that may not be disputed, but such a right of shelter is granted to millions of Indians who do not have shelter.

“A section of society, more so retired government employees, who had earned pension, drawn retirement benefits, cannot be said to be in such condition, where the government should provide government accommodation for an unlimited period,” it ruled.

The bench said the right of shelter to the displaced person is satisfied when accommodation had been provided in transit accommodation. “The direction to allow a retired government servant to retain government accommodation for an indefinite period, to say the least, is a distribution of state largesse without any policy of the state. Such right of shelter does not and cannot extend to provide a government accommodation,” it held.

It was argued that the right to shelter is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution. Counsel for the respondent cited Delhi High Court judgment, where the Centre was directed to provide alternative accommodation to 24 petitioners, including a former Director General of Border Security Force, and their families subject to payment of a normal license fee.

The top court observed that judges of any forum shall vacate the official residence within a period of one month from the date of superannuation/retirement. However, after recording sufficient reason(s), the time may be extended by another one month, it added.

The bench further observed that compassion could be shown for accommodating the displaced persons for one or two months. “But to allow them to retain the government accommodation already allotted or to allot an alternative accommodation, that too with a nominal licence fee, defeats the very purpose of the government accommodation which is meant for serving officers,” it added.

The bench observed that a section of the migrants cannot be treated as preferential citizens to give them the right to shelter at the cost of millions of other citizens who do not have a roof over their heads. “Such right of shelter does not and cannot extend to provide a government accommodation,” it added.

The top court judgment came on an appeal filed by Centre against an order passed by a division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, which allowed a retired employee of the Intelligence Bureau, to retain his government accommodation at a nominal fee till the prevailing circumstances in his native state, J&K, improved, and he was able to return. The top court set aside the high court judgment but allowed the respondent to vacate the government premises on or before October 31.

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