Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation

Bench: C.J., Y.V. Chandrachud, J., A.V. Varadarajan, J., O. Chinnappa Reddy, J., S. Murtaza Fazal Ali and J., V.D. Tulzapurkar.

Appellant : Olga Tellis

Respondent : Bombay Municipal Corporation

Citation : 1986 AIR 180, 1985 SCR Supl. (2) 51

Issue :
  • The question estoppels against fundamental rights or waiver of fundamental rights?
    • What comes under the scope of life as under Article 21?
    • Whether the provisions of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act, 1888 are constitutional or not?
    • Whether pavement dwellers qualify as “trespasser” under the Indian Penal Code?
Facts:
  • In 1981, Bombay Municipal Corporation, also known as the BMC, along with other functionaries of the Maharashtra government, decided to evict the pavement dwellers and those who were living in slums.
    • By virtue of this decision, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Mr. A.R.Atulay ordered the eviction and removal of the slum and pavement dwellers out of Bombay and to their place of origin.
    • Eviction was as per section 314 of the Bombay Municipal Corporation Act 1888.
    • A writ petition was filed in Bombay HC for an order of injunction restraining the officers of the State Government and the Bombay Municipal Corporations from implementing the directive of the Chief Minister.
    • The High Court of Bombay granted an ad interim injunction to be in force until July 21, 1981. Respondents agreed that the huts will not be demolished until October 15, 1981. Contrary to agreement, on July 23, 1981, petitioners were huddled into State Transport buses for being deported out of Bombay.
Appellant’s contentions:
  • “Right to life” as under Article 21 includes the right to a means of subsistence and that a person shouldn’t be deprived of his/her livelihood.
    • When a person is expelled from slums or sidewalks and have no where to go, it would amount to deprivation of his/her rights, and thus unconstitutional.
    • The procedure under section 314 of the Act to eliminate intrusion on the sidewalk is arbitrary and unreasonable since it not only does not provide notification before the removal of the intrusion but also provides that the Municipal commissioner can make sure that the intrusion is eliminated “without notice.”
Respondent’s contentions :
  • It was contended that the pavement dweller had themselves admitted to the High Court that they did not claim any basic right to install cabins on sidewalks or public roads and they would not prevent their demolition after the scheduled date.
Final Decision:

The court observed that right to life also includes the right to livelihood. “The sweep of the right to life conferred by Art. 21 is wide and far-reaching… That, which alone makes it possible to live, leave aside what makes life liveable, must be deemed to be an integral component of the right to life.” Bu the court also observed that the Constitution does not put an absolute embargo on the deprivation of life or personal liberty. By Art. 21, such deprivation has to be according to procedure established by law. The court observed that, “”In order to minimise the hardship involved in any eviction, we direct that the slums, wherever situated, will not be removed until one month after the end of the current monsoon season…”

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