Ninety-Two Shanties of Migrants Torched in Bengaluru Slum, Karnataka HC Takes Suo-Motu Cognizance

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The News Report

On 25 May, the Times of India reported that 250 migrants from Kalaburagi district are now homeless. This happened after their shanties in a slum called Kacharakanahalli were burnt down. It was in the last week of April that 92 shanties of migrants labourers got reduced to ashes. All the incidences took place during their absence i.e. when they had gone home.

These were construction labourers living in the slum for almost 18 years. The locals identified this area as the Sunday Bazaar slum. Almost 300 people lived there. It had 110 provisional houses out of which only 18 survived the conflagration.

Many workers had left for their villages in the district a few days before the lockdown. It rendered them jobless due to the outbreak of the pandemic. On April 25, a troop of people arrived visited the slum to set it ablaze. The residents who had stayed back opposed the perversity. Due to the opposition, the bullies left. However, they returned back in two days and succeeded in setting several houses on fire. On receiving information, the migrants rushed back to find their places. But, until then the houses were completely gutted. The policemen threatened them with lathi-charge or arrest. This was so when they tried to rebuild their sheds.

The Letter

Advocate Vaishali Hegde chose to write a letter about the cruel mishap. The letter written on May 29, addressed to Chief Justice Abhay S. Oka, relied on records published in the Times of India and other newspapers. The letter criticized the actions of these elements who took law into their own hands. They were setting fire to the huts in the slum. Their aim was to take the rights of the poor migrant of their lands and leave them “shelter-less”, the letter said.

The letter even condemned the actions of the police. As per reports, the police were only “mute spectators”. They escaped “citing some proceedings pending before the office of the deputy commissioner.” The letter urged the High Court against such illegal actions at the hands of some rowdies. It appealed to the Court to treat the issue as suo-motu public interest litigation. The Court must conduct an appropriate investigation into the matter, the letter said. The guilty must not “escape the clutches of law”, it read. It asked the Court to issue directions to the State authorities in this regard. Moreover, shelter, food and other facilities had to be made available to the poor labourers.

Suo-Motu Public Interest Litigation

The Karnataka High Court took suo-motu cognizance of the letter on June 2. This was then directed to the Registrar General to file a PIL. Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty led the Division Bench. They directed the Registrar to make the State Government and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike as party respondents to the petition. The matter is now posted for further hearing on June 11.


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