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Pulling up the authorities, the Supreme Court Thursday said it was the responsibility of the central and state governments to ensure that no deaths occurred due to lack of night shelters and asked that two shelters pulled down in this biting winter be restored within three days.

The apex court bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Deepak Verma said it was “insensitive and callous” on the part of the authorities to demolish night shelters meant for the homeless urban poor when the severity of the winter is increasing.

The bench said this when it was told that two night shelters that were set up on land belonging to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) were demolished during the last few days.

The court was hearing a petition by human rights organisation People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) seeking directions to the central government and states to set up adequate number of night shelters for the homeless urban poor.

It directed the DDA to restore within three days the two night shelters pulled down by it and also asked the Delhi government to ensure that all its 64 night shelters were functional and people sheltered there were given good quality blankets.

The court directed DDA to find out which officer was responsible for pulling down the two night shelters and take appropriate action against him.

The court said it was the duty of the central government and the states to ensure that no death occurred on account of lack or absence of night shelters.

“To preserve and protect the lives of the people is the basic responsibility of the welfare state,” Justice Bhandari said.

The court said that it was incumbent upon the “welfare state to ensure that no one slept under the open sky”.


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