Slum Redevelopment and Judicial Intervention: A case study of Delhi

Slum Redevelopment and Judicial Intervention: A case study of Delhi

This Article is written by Ms. Anusha Arif, currently pursuing LL.M at TERI School of Advanced Studies, New Delhi. In this article, she described a case study of Delhi in context with slum redevelopment, Judicial intervention, and government policy.


Due to rapid urbanization and the cost of land in urban areas, slums are increasing in number and size in megacities especially Delhi. Rapid urbanization has led to the influx of workers from remote areas to the cities and with very low income often end up in substandard living conditions. Delhi boasts of the highest inter-state migrants that are attracted by the vibrant economic center that the capital of the nation is.

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These migrant workers provide the lubricant to keep the economy function by taking up the roles of domestic help, vegetable vendors, drivers, rickshaw, or auto-rickshaw drivers that help in providing last-mile connectivity in local areas for a variety of services. According to Census 2011 and the Report of the Committee on Slum Statistics/ Census (2010), the combined slum population of Delhi is approximately 32 lakhs.

Slum Redevelopment, Judicial Intervention and government policy : A case study of Delhi

Figure 1. Slum Population in Delhi 2001

As presented in Figure 1, the areas that have high concentrated slum population within the city. [1]However, the number projected can be significantly low compared to the actual population because of the limitations of organized data collection in slum areas. The problems of slum areas are numerous such as water supply, electricity, and sanitation. It can be agreed that slums present the stark contrast from the glamour and attraction of the city life that attracts migrants to these cities in the first place.

The low-cost housing market in India is essentially very poor and most private banks have not entered the market yet. The government of Delhi has come up with various schemes and policies to elevate the standards of living by taking measures for the redevelopment of slums and unauthorized colonies in many areas over the city. One of such policies is the Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy (2015) which was introduced to recognize the right to a healthy living environment enshrined under Article 21of the Constitution which is reiterated by the Supreme Court of India in many cases brought before it.

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The government of Delhi introduced the Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy in the year 2015. It recognized the need to provide adequate housing to the lowest income groups while also recognizing the role that this group plays in the economic activities of the cities ecosystem.

The Delhi government highlighted through comments of the Supreme Court in the case of Chameli Singh vs. State of UP[2]that the right to life under Article 21 is not a right to mere animal existence and that the right to housing is a fundamental right. It further highlighted that even poverty-stricken persons on public lands have a fundamental right to housing, where the court highlighted the duty of the government to introduce schemes for slum dwellers who have been living in the same area for several years. [3]

The Delhi High Court has also paved the way to establish the importance of the right to housing for slum dwellers. In the case of Sudama Singh & Others v. Deepak Mohan Spolia & Ors.[4] the High Court of Delhi that before any eviction the relevant authority must make provisions for the relocation and rehabilitation of the slum dwellers, when an appeal was raised to the Supreme Court, it further ordered for complete compliance to the directions given by the High Court.

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With the introduction of the Delhi Slum and JJ Rehabilitation and Relocation Policy, the government focused on the redevelopment of slum clusters and JJ bastis in and around the city of Delhi. The in-situ development of Kathpuli Colony and Kalkaji area was taken up on a public-private partnership model

Under the policy Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) was given the authority to act as the Nodel Agency and to access the implementation of the policy. The policy also provided specific eligibility criteria for rehabilitation or relocation. The provision specified that the bastis or slum areas would not be cleared out without providing alternate housing and laid down five years for the completion of the relocation task.

The policy was aimed at being simple, comprehensive and compact. The Delhi government adopted the public-private partnership model and released tenders soon after the policy was in place. In the year 2020, the government has initiated more projects under the policy. The Delhi Development Authority released plans to undertake rehabilitation in 96 JJ clusters. It conducted surveys at the beginning of the year to find out eligible slum dwellers and numbers of shanties in parts of the Dilshad Garden area of Delhi.[6]


Even with the policy in place, the challenges to slum redevelopment are numerous. One of the most prominent challenges is alternate housing for the period of redevelopment. In a case involving the demolition of the Shankari Basti area[7], the Delhi High Court ruled concerning the Delhi Slum & JJ Rehabilitation Policy and the Sudama Singh judgement that there arises a need to survey while consulting the JJ dwellers. The Court also specified that in the case in situ rehabilitation is not feasible then there need to separate provisions for relocation to a different site and be given adequate time for such relocation before the demolition.

However, through this judgment, the implementation projections can be made. The government of Delhi also took various measures to demolish slums in many parts of Delhi in the year 2020 when the world was coping with a pandemic. Data collected from slum areas around the Batla House and Okhla area reveal that nearly three hundred jhuggi jhopdi clusters and temporary houses were demolished in the month of September.[8]

Even after the judgment in the abovementioned case, the arbitrary action taken by the government of Delhi shows sincerity in abiding by the policy. The large scale demolition left many from an already marginalized group with nowhere to go especially in such unprecedented times.

In the same month, the Supreme Court ordered for the clearance of approximately 48,000 jhuggis[9] along the Delhi Rail Tracks. The order came after a report submitted by the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Board contemplating the compliance of the Indian Railway with the Municipal Solid Waste Management Rules 2016. The apex court ordered the removal of the jhuggis within a period of three months and ruled that no intervention political or otherwise would be entertained in the matter. Yet, the court did not provide for relocation in the original order.

The policy was first introduced in the year 2015 and laid down provisions for relocation within the next five years. The first two projects are undertaken by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) of the in-situ development of Kathpuli Colony and Kalkaji have not been completed in the last five years and new areas have already been added to the list. It is an understatement to call the magnitude of these projects enormous since so much of the area within the city is covered with slums, the government will need more time to fulfil the promises made under the policy.

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The policy which was originally set to be rolled out in the year 2009 finally saw the light of day six years after its initial inception. Slums present the excruciating reality of the disparities in access to resources. The urban slum dwellers are not just at the risk of losing shelter due to government intervention but extreme climatic changes also gravely affect their living condition.

Apart from these challenges, they also experience a lack of sanitation with no access to drinking water. The people who live in these slums are marginalized by society and the government is entrusted to provide even for the most marginalized. Even with the perspectives of natural justice, it is essential to focus on these groups to diminish the levels of everyday injustice that is faced by them.

The government often comes up with policies to ensure the welfare of the most marginalized groups, Slum redevelopment policies are an example of such policies. The Delhi government is not the first state government to take such a step. . In Mumbai, the Slum Redevelopment Schemes (SRS) were implemented as early as 1991 involving private developers in construction while the role of the government was only restricted to that of regulation.[10] Although the policy is good on paper, the implementation of it has been fairly poor with no completed projects in the last five years since its introduction.

The Supreme Court’s recent order also backtracks to the view where slum dwellers were considered to be illegal encroachers even when the decisions in various cases have stated that the urban dwellers have the right to housing. It has also stated that urban dwellers will not be considered illegal encroachers if they have been living in the same place for many years. However, when it comes to segregation the picture is quite clear. In July 2020 a wall created illegally to segregate the slum area in Vasant Vihar to supposedly check the spread of Covid-19.[11]

While the government is entrusted with the duty to provide housing, there is also the need for private players in this framework. The Delhi government under the policy introduced the redevelopment plans in a public-private partnership model (PPP) to enhance the flow of investors from big private groups through bids and tenders. The involvement of local government bodies in specified areas can help in speeding up the process, however since in the current framework the urban local bodies have very little financial powers, private players are still required to play a vital role.

The government should also take measures in creating a market structure for low-cost housing in India. With new areas added to the list under the policy, there is still hope for retribution. The focus of the government should shift from demolition and clearing of the slum areas to building a smooth system for the transition.


Edited by Aaditi Rohilla




[1] Census of India 2001

[2] 1996 (2) SCC 549

[3] Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation vs. Nawab Khan Gulab Khan 1997 (11) SCC 123

[4] 2010 168 DLT 218 DB

[5] Hina, Poorest of the Poor: A Comparative Study of Two Slums of Central and North East Delhi, Global Advanced Research Journal of Geography and Regional Planning (2013)

[6] Risha Chitlangia, Soon DDA to start in-situ redevelopment in 6 slums, HT, May 17 2019

[7]Ajay Maken &  Ors v. Union of India W.P.(C) 11616/2015

[8] Personal Interview Sept 17, 2020

[9] Rhea Banerjee, SC orders Evacuation of 48,000 Jhuggis around Delhi tracks in 3 months, Law Street Journal,  Sept 07 (2020)

[10] Naomi Hazarika, Slum redevelopment as a ‘Real Estate Frontier’: Insight from Delhi, Regional Studies Association ( 2020)

[11] Slum residents fume over wall construction after COVID-19 cases in Delhi’s Vasant Vihar’ The Indian Express, July 11, 2020.

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