SC asks States, UTs to respond to issues related to the homeless, plans for winter

NEW DELHI, Oct 11: The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked all states and union territories (UT) to respond within three weeks to issues presented before the court in a note by senior advocate Prashant Bhushan about the number of homeless people, shelter homes and the plans they have for them for the upcoming winter season.
A bench headed by Chief Justice UU Lalit, which was hearing petitions related to the urban homeless, was told the number of shelter homes in urban areas are grossly inadequate.
“We are not being pessimistic but the kind of pressure of population we have in this country, whatever you do as of now today after a year or two, there will still be some infirmity or the other,” observed the bench, also comprising Justices S R Bhat and Bela M Trivedi.
“We have such a large population who are unfortunately without any subsistence, without any kind of means, who are rendered homeless,” it said.
The top court suggested it would be better if these issues are dealt with by the high courts concerned.
Prashant Bhushan, appearing for one of the petitioners, said the apex court’s interventions in the matter have had useful and salutary effect.
“Do we keep interfering at every juncture?” the bench asked him.
Bhushan referred to the apex court terming housing for the homeless an important national issue and constituting a committee headed by former high court judge Justice Kailash Gambhir.
He said the matter has come up for hearing now, after almost three years.
“It is essential that all the states be asked to file status reports,” he said.
Bhushan said the states should file status reports giving details including the number of homeless people, the number of shelters functional in each state, their location and the facilities available.
He said the states should also give details about their plans for winter which is approaching.
The bench said in its order that a note has been submitted by Bhushan which seeks to highlight the existing issues and certain areas which needs attention.
“As stated in the note, certain questions raised in the penultimate paragraph call for detailed response on behalf of every state/Union Territories. We, therefore, direct all States/Union Territories to respond to the note and particularly to questions raised in the note,” it said.
The top court, which posted the matter for resumed hearing on November 29, directed that the responses be filed within three weeks.
During the hearing, the bench was informed about the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) and also that the Centre has provide funds to the states and UTs.
“Now to what extent that financial accommodation has been translated into the form of actual facility is a matter of execution so why should the high courts be not given that particular task?,” the bench said.
While hearing the matter earlier, the apex court had expressed shock over welfare schemes for the homeless not being effectively implemented even after spending thousands of crores of rupees.
The petitioners had referred to a report of the apex court-appointed committee headed by former Delhi High Court judge Justice Kailash Gambhir and said the number of shelter homes in some states was much less than required. (Agencies)