The Uttarakhand High Court on 4 August, 2022 issued directions to submit affidavit furnishing governmental efforts and plan of action for re-location, rehabilitation and pension provisions of Leprosy patients residing within 200 meters of Ganga. This was seen in the case of Act Now Welfare Society vs State Of Uttarakhand And Others (WP(PIL) No.143 OF 2018) and the case was presided over by The Honourable Chief Justice Shri Vipin Sanghi and The Honourable Justice Shri Ramesh Chandra Khulbe.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
The Act Now Welfare Society filed a petition in the High Court of Uttarakhand on behalf of the seven Leper Colonies with around 208 leper patients, with 330 other family members of the said handicapped persons residing in the said colonies. It was claimed by the petitioners that out of 208 patients only 161 are receiving pension of Rs 1500/- per month.
The District Magistrate, Haridwar has also placed on record photographs of the Leper Colonies. It is claimed that the colonies, namely, Chandra Shekhar Azad Kusht Ashram, Mahant Dayalpuri Kusht Ashram, Chidanand Kusht Ashram, Swami Vivekanand Kusht Ashram and Chandrapuri Kusht Ashram, Roorkee (Haridwar) have some pucca construction, whereas, others do not have pucca construction. The photographs placed on record show the extremely dilapidated structures which have been raised with tin-sheets and tarpaulin etc. It is pointed out by learned counsel for the petitioner that the photographs filed by the District Magistrate, Haridwar do not pertain to all the seven Leper Colonies.
The Society also claime concerns o one of the locations of the colony (Shiv Mandir Kusht Ashram, near Kali Mandir, Bhimgaura, Haridwar) which is situated on the forest land near railway line track where no construction is permitted.
LEGAL RELIANCE OF THE PETITIONERS:
The Society drew the attention of the Court firstly, to the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Pankaj Sinha vs. Union of India to the AIR 2018, SC 4297. The directions were contained in paragraph no.18 of the said judgment. According to the present Bench of the High Court these directions, inter alia, require the Union and the State Governments to pro-actively plan and formulate a comprehensive community-based rehabilitation scheme which shall cater to all basic facilities and needs of leprosy affected persons and their families. The Scheme should be aimed at eliminating the stigma that is associated with persons affected with leprosy.
The learned counsel also presented in court an advisory issued by the National Human Rights Commission on 14.01.2022 to the Central Government as well as to all the States with request that the recommendations given in the advisory should be implemented and action taken report should be submitted to the Commission within three months. One of the salient aspects on which the advisory has been issued and which fall for implementation by the State, is to launch special programs to wean away persons affected from leprosy from begging. The Union and the State Governments have been advised to make efforts to improve healthcare, sanitation, electricity and other civic amenities in leprosy colonies and leprosy homes and to ensure that no resident of leprosy colony is removed or evicted without being rehabilitated and adequately compensated.
The Honorable High Court upon looking into the matter has issued directions to the State Leprosy Officer to present in court affidavits, within six weeks, containing further information on the following points: –
- “What steps have been taken to implement the directions issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Pankaj Sinha (Supra), and in particular paragraph no.18 thereof.
- The said respondent should also indicate what action has been taken on the advisory issued by the NHRC dated 14.01.2022, particularly in relation to aspects on which the State Government has also been fastened with responsibility to implement.
- Since no construction can be raised or permitted to be raised within 200 meters of River Ganga, we direct the State to identify alternate location/land where the Leper Colonies, which are falling within 200 meters of the River Ganga, can be re-located.
- The State should also formulate plans for raising construction at such relocated sites and place the same before this Court.
- Only by way of suggestion, we may state that the State could consider providing accommodation in ‘Porta Cabins’ installed in appropriate locations purely on remissive/license basis to the Lepers and their immediate family members on the condition that they shall be permitted to occupy the accommodation only till they are fully cured of the disease, and they shall be required to move on, so as to make place for other new patients and their family members. The State should respond to this suggestion as well.
- The details of the identified land, where the aforesaid colonies could be shifted, be also indicated in the affidavit.
- In so far as the aspect of identification of land for the purpose of re-location is concerned, the District Magistrate, Haridwar shall file his counter affidavit.”
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY SIMRAN BHATT