Enforce laws to ensure safe, dignified housing


The Bombay HC’s judgment calls for strict and efficient legal mechanisms to check for such malpractices, but such laws may achieve little if they’re allowed to be derailed by vested interests and political considerations

The constitutional right to livelihood includes the right to reside in safe buildings and the owner of the structure, whether it be a public authority or a private body, has an obligation to ensure this, the Bombay high court (HCs) has ruled on a suo-motu (on its own) public interest litigation on a spate of building collapses in the city.

The debate on housing in India has largely centred on providing adequate living space to the poor and marginalised sections of society, granting sufficient compensation to those displaced by government or private projects, or providing affordable housing for all. And yet, with shoddy construction, opaque financing, regulatory shortcuts and handover delays — the collapse of several floors in a Gurugram highrise earlier this month and the upcoming demolition of the Supertech twin towers in Noida — there is a pressing requirement to look at the quality of housing provided as well. In several judgments, the Supreme Court has stressed on how the right to housing emanates from the fundamental right to life and human dignity. In a landmark 1996 decision, it noted, “the right to shelter…does not mean a mere right to a roof over one’s head but right to all the infrastructure necessary to enable them to live and develop as a human being.”

Unfortunately, a spate of building collapses, shoddy construction and years-long delay in handing over possession of flats have rendered many of these pronouncements virtually meaningless. The Bombay HC’s judgment calls for strict and efficient legal mechanisms to check for such malpractices, but as the experience in Delhi and Mumbai show, such laws may achieve little if they’re allowed to be derailed by vested interests and political considerations. Safe, adequate and dignified housing will require an implementation of the laws in both letter and spirit.


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