The Madhya Pradesh government bulldozed the houses of those who were allegedly involved in rioting. The State government claims that these demolitions are in response to illegal encroachments.
What are the various domestic and international obligations being violated?
- Right to housing: The right to housing is a fundamental right recognised under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. Further, it is also a well-documented right under the international human rights law framework, which is binding on India.
- Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care…”.
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- Article 17 further provides that everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others and that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. Thus, arbitrary interference with an individual’s property is a gross violation of the ICCPR.
- ICESCR: Article 11.1 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) recognises “the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions”. Under this article, countries are under an obligation to take “appropriate steps” to ensure the realisation of these rights.
- The international human rights law identified above has been judicially incorporated by the Supreme Court of India into the Indian legal system.
- The apex court in cases like Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab, Vishaka vs State of Rajasthan, and in the Puttaswamy vs Union of India has stated that the fundamental rights must be read and interpreted in a manner which would enhance their conformity with international human rights law.
- According to the UN Human Rights Office, an integral element of the right to adequate housing is ‘protection against forced evictions’. The right to adequate housing also entails freedom from arbitrary interference with one’s home, privacy, and family
- As the custodian of India’s constitutional order, it is high time that the judiciary acted and imposed necessary checks on the unbridled exercise of power by the executive. Courts should use international law to counter the nationalist-populist discourse.
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