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Understanding the Olga Tellis Judgment

  • Published
    25th Apr, 2022

A 37­year­old Constitution Bench judgment of the Supreme Court which held that pavement dwellers are different from trespassers may become a game­changer in the Jahangirpuri case. The apex court ruled that pavement dwellers live on “filthy footpaths out of sheer helplessness” and not with the object of offending, insulting, intimidating or annoying anyone.

What is the Olga Tellis judgment?

  • Unauthorised occupation- The judgment, Olga Tellis vs Bombay Municipal Corporation, in 1985 by a five­judge Bench led by then Chief Justice of India Y.V. Chandrachud agrees that pavement dwellers do occupy public spaces unauthorised.
  • Chance to be heard- However, the court maintained they should be given a chance to be heard and a reasonable opportunity to depart “before force is used to expel them.”
  • Article 21- One major question was whether eviction of a pavement dweller would amount to depriving him/her of their livelihood guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
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