Right to own property or real estate was our original Fundamental Right given by The Constitution of India. During emergency time this Right was taken back by Government in 1975 and till now not resorted. It is now on under Article 300A, Right to Own a property is given as constitutional Right. Hence government do not need any Land Acquisition Act or any such Act which empower it by prerogatives to acquire any property or shelter in India.
Most unfortunately, government after government no budgetary allocations to shelter needs provided. Phonic statments and vision statements without any execution plan are made to lure the attention. But unfortunate citizen living in unhygienic conditions in slums and villages where even drinking water or power have not reached.
In various cases, the Supreme Court has enlarged the meaning of life under Article 21 of the Constitution to include within its ambit, the right to shelter. In some of the cases upholding the right to shelter, the Court looked at differentiating between a mere animal-like existence and a decent human existence, thereby bringing out the need for a respectable life.
Upholding the importance of the right to a decent environment and a reasonable accommodation, in Shantistar Builders v. Narayan Khimalal Totame (1990) 1 SCC 520: AIR 1990 SC 630 the Court held that,
“The right to life would take within its sweep the right to food, the right to clothing, the right to decent environment and a reasonable accommodation to live in. The difference between the need of an animal and a human being for shelter has to be kept in view. For the animal it is the bare protection of the body, for a human being it has to be a suitable accommodation which would allow him to grow in every aspect – physical, mental and intellectual. The Constitution aims at ensuring fuller development of every child. That would be possible only if the child is in a proper home. It is not necessary that every citizen must be ensured of living in a well-built comfortable house but a reasonable home particularly for people in India can even be mud-built thatched house or a mud-built fireproof accommodation,”
In Chameli Singh v. State of U. P [(1996) 25CC549 132] a Bench of three Judges of this Court had considered and held that the right to shelter is a fundamental right available to every citizen and it was read into Article 21 of the Constitution of India as encompassing within its ambit, the right to shelter to make the right to life more meaningful. In para 8 it has been held thus : (SCC pp. 555-56)
“In any organised society, right to live as a human being is not ensured by meeting only the animal needs of man. It is secured only when he is assured of all facilities to develop himself and is freed from restrictions which inhibit his growth. All human rights are designed to sachieve this object. Right to live guaranteed in any civilised society implies the right to food, water, decent environment, education, medical care and shelter. These are basic human rights known to any civilised society. All civil, political, social and cultural rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Convention or under the Constitution of India cannot be exercised without these basic human rights.”
Emphasizing further on the right to shelter, the Court in this case held that,
“Shelter for a human being, therefore, is not a mere protection of his life and limb. It is home where he has opportunities to grow physically, mentally, intellectually and spiritually. Right to shelter, therefore, includes adequate living space, safe and decent structure, clean and decent surroundings, sufficient light, pure air and water, electricity, sanitation and other civic amenities like roads etc. so as to have easy access to his daily avocation. The right to shelter, therefore, 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. Right to shelter when used as an essential requisite to the right to live should be deemed to have been guaranteed as a fundamental right. As is enjoined in the Directive Principles, the State should be deemed to be under an obligation to secure it for its citizens, of course subject to its economic budgeting. In a democratic society as a member of the organised civic community one should have permanent shelter so as to a physically, mentally and intellectually equip oneself to improve his excellence as a useful citizen as enjoined in the Fundamental Duties and to be a useful citizen and equal participant in democracy. The ultimate object of making a man equipped with a right to dignity of person and equality of status is to enable him to develop himself into a cultured being. Want of decent residence, therefore, frustrates the very object of the constitutional animation of right to equality, economic justice, fundamental right to residence, dignity of person and right to live itself.”
In PC Gupta Vs State of Gujarat and Ors, in 1994, the Court went further holding that the Right to shelter in Article 19(1) (g) read with Articles 19(1) (e) and 21, included the right to residence and settlement. Protection of life guaranteed by Article 21 encompasses within its ambit the right to shelter to enjoy the meaningful right to life. The right to residence and settlement was seen as a fundamental right under Article 19(1)(e) and as a facet of inseparable meaningful right to life as available under Article 21.