Supreme Court: The Division Bench of Hemant Gupta and A.S. Bopanna, JJ., expressed that

Government accommodation is only meant for in-service officers and not for the retirees or those who have demitted office.

The right to shelter does not mean right to government accommodation.

Challenge 

Decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court has been challenged in the present matter.

Background

Single Bench allowed the petition of a Kashmiri migrant, respondent – Onkar Nath Dhar who shifted to Jammu in the year 1989 or so. He was transferred to the office of the Intelligence Bureau in Delhi. Later, he was transferred to Faridabad, wherein he was allotted a government accommodation. Respondent attained the age of superannuation in the year 2006.

Respondent on making a representation to the appellant was allowed to retain the government accommodation till the circumstances prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir improve and Government makes it possible for him to return to his native place.

An eviction order was passed against Dhar under Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupant) Act, 1971, but the same was stayed by the Additional District Judge, Delhi.

Later, the Single Judge Bench relied upon an order passed by this Court in J.L. Koul v. State of J&K, (2010) 1 SCC 371, wherein it was held that it was not possible for Dhar to return to his own State and that due to which eviction order shall be kept in abeyance. The same was affirmed by the Division Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Analysis, Law and Decision

Supreme Court opined that the High Court Orders were unsustainable.

In view of the plethora of Judgments referred by the Court, Bench affirmed that

Government accommodation could not have been allotted to a person who had demitted office. No exception was carved out even in respect of the persons who held Constitutional posts at one point of time.

Therefore, decision of the Punjab and Haryana High Court was erroneous on the basis of compassion showed to displaced persons on account of terrorist activities in the State.

Further, reasoning its decision, Bench stated 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.

If a retired government employee have no residence, they have an option to avail transit accommodation or to receive cash compensation in the place of transit accommodation. 

Right to Shelter?

Elaborating more, the Court stated that the right of shelter is taken care of when alternative Transit accommodation is made available to the migrant to meet out the emergent situation.

Government accommodation is meant for serving officers and officials and not to the retirees as benevolence and distribution of largesse.

Policy of Centre to provide accommodation? | Terrorism in J&K

Answering in negative, Court stated that Centre or State do not have any policy to provide the accommodation to displaced persons on account of terrorism in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Adding to the above discussion, Bench held that there is no indefeasible right in any citizen for allotment of government accommodation on a nominal licence fee.

In view of the decision of J.L. Koul  v. State of J&K, (2010) 1 SCC 371  the Kashmiri migrants are entitled to transit accommodation and if transit accommodation could not be provided then money for residence and expenses.

Dhar and such like persons are not from the poorest section of the migrants but have worked in the higher echelons of the bureaucracy. To say that they are enforcing their right to shelter only till such time the conditions are conducive for their safe return is wholly illusory.

Concluding the matter, Supreme Court found that the orders of the High Courts were wholly arbitrary and irrational, therefore the present appeal was allowed.

Though, the Court directed respondent-Dhar to hand over vacant physical possession of the premises on or before 31-10-2021, i.e., after 15 years of his attaining the age of superannuation. [Union of India v. Onkar Nath Dhar, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 574, decided on 5-08-2021]

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