HC asks lawyers to ‘keep an eye’ on homeless in their localities

Faced with complaints from NGOs over the harassment of the homeless in the city at the hands of police, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked lawyers associated with a PIL on the issue of night shelters to "keep a vigil in their neighbourhoods" to ensure that the homeless are accommodated at nearby night shelters.

With the civic agencies, Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), Delhi government, police, NDMC and several NGOs involved in the matter, over 12 lawyers are involved in the case.

A bench of Chief Justice N V Ramana and Justice Manmohan also held DUSIB CEO Amar Nath would be bound by the claims made in the affidavits filed by it, claiming the existing capacity of night shelters was "sufficient to take care of all such persons".

During a hearing last month, the court had warned DUSIB, saying it would hold its CEO responsible for any deaths of homeless persons due to cold and lack of adequate shelters. In the latest affidavit filed on Monday, DUSIB stated that apart from the 174 permanent and temporary night shelters run by it, an additional 28 shelters had been set up.

In addition, the court directed advocate Parvinder Chauhan, counsel for DUSIB, to ensure assistance was given if "incidents of urgent nature" were brought to his notice by the NGOs involved.

During the hearing, the NGOs associated with the PIL brought to the notice of the court several incidents of alleged harassment of homeless people by police. They said an FIR was filed at the Connaught Place police station on Monday against a man claiming to be a policeman for allegedly attempting to outrage the modesty of a woman. The court sought an affidavit, giving details of the incidents mentioned before it.

The court, which has been monitoring the issue of night shelters for the homeless since 2010, observed that the issue was sensitive and complicated, and that it was not possible to tackle the problem simply by passing orders.

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