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HP HC restrains NHAI from evicting petitioners without due process of law”

Shimla, June 1

The Himachal Pradesh High Court has provided significant relief to petitioners facing eviction along the National Highway. The court order restrains the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and others from evicting the petitioners without following due process of law.

The Division bench comprising Chief Justice M.S. Ramachandra Rao and Justice Ajay Mohan Goel passed the order on May 30, 2023, in response to a petition filed by Vinod Kumar Kuthiala and others against the NHAI and others (CWP No. 3382 of 2023).

“Pending further orders, the respondents shall not evict the petitioners or demolish the structures erected by them without following due process of law,” stated the court.

The petitioners argued before the court that the NHAI could not demolish their constructions without following the proper legal procedures in Dhalli Bazar, located on the outskirts of Shimla.

During the hearing, a notice was issued to Shreya Chauhan, Advocate, who accepted the notice on behalf of the respondents. The court directed the respondents to file a reply, if any, within three weeks from the date of the notice. Until further orders, the HC stated that the NHAI and other respondents shall not evict the petitioners or demolish the structures without following due process of law. The next hearing in the matter is scheduled for July 21, 2023.

Previously, on May 9, the Himachal Pradesh High Court had ordered the NHAI and the state government to remove illegal encroachments from all national and state highways within three months.

Also read: Illegal encroachment along N.Hs & S.Hs to be removed in 3 months directs State high court

A division bench of Justices Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Satyen Vaidya had instructed the Chief Secretary to ensure compliance with the orders while hearing a writ petition. The court acknowledged that temporary constructions made by the occupiers on the roadside for their livelihood could not be ignored. However, it emphasized that the court has a duty to remove illegal occupation of public property.

“The illegal occupants cannot be spared based on mercy,” the court had stated while rejecting the petition of Harnam Singh alias Rinku Chandel, a resident of Narel in Theog area. The petitioner had appealed to the court not to demolish his roadside dhaba, as it supports his family.

On May 25 and 26, the NHAI and the state government demolished various encroachments along the 27-kilometer road from Tutikandi to Hassan Valley on National Highway-05, resulting in hundreds of people becoming homeless.

In a statement issued by the President of the Himachal Pradesh Kisan Sabha, Dr. Kuldeep Tanwar, on May 28, 2023, expressed that taking unilateral action against encroachers without prior notice from the NHAI is unjustified. Tanwar stated that affected people should be given a one-time opportunity to present their views.

Some of the petitioners have now approached the court to halt the demolition and eviction process, and the Himachal Pradesh High Court granted relief on the grounds that the eviction process cannot proceed without following due process of law.

Some of the evicted individuals claimed that they were asked to vacate their shops, vegetable and fruit stalls, and food eateries on May 25 without being issued a notice.

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