SC appoints judicial panel on night shelters

New Delhi, Nov 11 (IANS) Observing that destitute people in urban areas continue to suffer without shelters, the Supreme Court on Friday appointed a judicial committee to inquire into availability of infrastructure and other facilities for night shelters in India.

The National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) remains a distant dream even after a lapse of long period, it said.

The committee will be headed by former Delhi High Court judge, Justice Kailash Ghambir.

An apex court bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao said: “A careful consideration of the submissions of the parties and the material on record discloses that the destitute in urban areas continue to suffer without shelters.”

“In spite of the availability of funds and a clear mechanism through which to disburse them, the order said, “we see an extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs on the ground. This is despite our continuous monitoring of the matter,” the court said.

Asking the committee to submit its report in four months, the court said: “Yet another winter approaches and enough has not been done for the protection of many homeless in our towns/cities.”

The court said Justice Ghambir will be assisted by a Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation – which will be the nodal ministry for providing logistical support to the committee.

The court also asked the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court to nominate, in consultation with Justice Ghambir, a judicial officer — either retired or serving — from the Delhi Judicial Service to be member-secretary of the committee.

“In spite of several directions issued by us, the infrastructure for the shelter homes has not been achieved. The Union of India has been constantly claiming steady progress but the NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) report suggests to the contrary.”

Observing that providing requisite infrastructure was only the first step, the court said that thereafter the other facilities have to be provided and proper maintenance of the shelter homes has to be ensured.

Noting that the states were not utilising the huge amount of money that the Centre was releasing to them, the court order said: “The Union of India has formulated a scheme and released huge amounts of money to the state governments which are responsible for the implementation of the scheme. The reasons for non-utilisation of funds for the welfare scheme are not forthcoming.”