Calcutta High Court on Friday ordered the eviction of about 65,000 squatters from railway land along the tracks between Ballygunge and Tollygunge, on the Sealdah- Budge Budge section of Eastern Railway, in three weeks.
After rejecting a petition filed by the squatters, the court directed the railways, city police and civic authorities to produce a compliance report at the end of three weeks, stating that the court order had been carried out in full.
On the beautification of Rabindra Sarobar (the Dhakuria Lakes), the court said Calcutta Improvement Trust (CIT) would have to furnish a report stating the progress of work and citing the plan it has chalked out for development of the area.
The division bench, comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A. Banerjee, threw out a petition filed by some encroachers, seeking a stay on the eviction, and observed that they had 21 days to leave the place.
Eviction from the area between Ballygunge and Tollygunge has hung fire for long. This February, a joint raid had to be deferred for fear of chaos, as Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee backed the squatters.
On Friday, a petition was moved by the general manager of Eastern Railway, pointing out that the Supreme Court had rejected a plea filed by an association of squatters and upholding an earlier Calcutta High Court order asking the authorities to evict the unauthorised dwellers.
Uttam Majumdar, counsel for the railway, said an approval from the high court was necessary in this regard. “The court will have to pass a fresh order, in the light of the apex court directive,” Majumdar said.
While the railway case was being submitted, a petition was moved on behalf of 140 residents of the shanties along the railway track. Petitioners’ counsel Sukhendu Sekhar Roy told the court that though his clients were squatters, they had not received any eviction notice from the railway. “It will be unwise to evict them without a notice,” he claimed.
The court rejected the petition and directed that the eviction be carried out at the earliest.
Petitioner Subhas Dutta pointed out that the original case involved a specific order on the beautification of the Lakes. The CIT and other agencies had done little to develop the area.
An hour after the hearing, Dutta was back to tell the court he was being tailed. He claimed he had been followed to Delhi when the apex court had been hearing his case. The chief justice told the court registrar-general to arrange for Dutta’s security in court. The commissioner of police was directed similarly.