The Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956

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An Act no. 96 of the year 1956, being ‘The Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956’, a Central Government legislation, was assented on 28th December, 1956 by the President of India. The said Act was enacted with the object to improve and clear the slum areas in particular Union Territories and also to protect the tenants against eviction in such slum areas. Hon’ble Judiciary many times explained the purposed of this Act in their observations in the related matters. A full bench of Hon’ble High Court of Delhi, observed in the case of Bardu Ram Vs. Ram Chander, AIR, 1972 Del. 34 (FB), that the very important object of this Act is to enable the poor, who do not have any place to go to and if he will be evicted to remain in his dwellings until provision is made from a better live for him elsewhere. In the view of Hon’ble Apex Court, in the case of Lal Chand (dead) by L.Rs and Ors. Vs Radha Kishan, AIR 1977 SC 789, the Act was enacted for protecting tenants in slum areas from eviction, unless an alternative accommodation is available to them. The extension of the provisions thereof is provided to the concerned Union territories, however the Union Territories of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands are exempted. To bring into force the provisions of this Act, the Central Government is empowered under this Act. Similarly, a separate date of commencement for a each Union Territory could be provided, like, for Union Territory of Delhi, the Act brought into force on 8th February, 1957.

The important provisions relating to the purpose of the Act are given under second Chapter thereof. Section 3 is dealing with the declaration of any area which upon the report of concerned officer of on information, the competent authority satisfied that, any building in such area is not fit for human residence by the reasons mentioned in the provision, as slum area.

Further, the under the next chapter contained in it, the Act provides for powers to the Competent authority for the purpose of requiring the improvement of such slum area, buildings which are found unfit for human residence. In the process of such improvement, the competent authority is required to serve a notice to the owners of such buildings, under which such owners will be required to conduct improvement within the period of 30 days from the date of such notice. And in case of failure of the Owner thereof, to perform the work required under the Notice, then the authority to perform the work and the expenses will be recovered from such Owner as arrears of land revenue. The Competent authority is also empowered to demolish such buildings which are found unfit for the human habitation and is of such conditions which cannot be made fit for such purpose.

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Moreover, the Act further makes provisions for clearance of the slum and conduct re-development thereof, under its chapter-IV. Such clearance of the slum can be made under these provisions by removing or demolishing every buildings in the slum areas on which the competent authority is satisfied that the same should be removed. In the process of such clearance of slum area, the first step which the Competent authority is required to take is to declare the his intention in the notification, thereafter to make an order in this relation. Notably, both this, notification and order at their stages should be first submitted to the Administrator thereof. On confirmation of the order by the Administrator the owners of buildings are required to demolish the same within 6 weeks or otherwise within the period so specified thereof. And similar to above, in case of such owners’ failure to perform demolition, the competent authority to perform the said demolition and recover the expenses from such owners, as arrears of land revenue. On such demolition, the competent authority is empowered to make plan for developing the cleared land by the Owners thereof. Similarly, for such improvement of slum area, any adjoining or surrounding land is required as necessary for the purpose, then the Central Government can acquire the land on payment of compensation to the owners thereof.

The Act under its fourth Chapter makes very important provisions as to protection offered to the Tenant in the slum areas against eviction. The section 19 says that there should be previous permission of the competent authority even after having decree or order of eviction. The Competent authority is required to make an enquiry and hear the tenant thereof, on any application made for such eviction. On rejection of permission or otherwise, if any party thereof feels aggrieved can prefer appeal before the Administrator against the order of the Competent authority. The eviction of tenants from government building are exempted to cover under the provisions of this Chapter.

Moreover, the provisions relating to power to enter, inspection, braking, etc. of such areas and its legality are given under chapter dealing with miscellaneous provision under this Act. Certain important provisions among them, are including the power of the Competent authority to direct persons carrying on any dangerous or offensive trade in the area of slum by its order. Further, the offences under this Act have been defined under section 32. It is given that, any person violates the order, notice, etc. under this Act, or acts otherwise which under this Act leads to an offence as given under the said provision, should be liable to punishment. There are different punishments for different offences and the maximum punishment is an imprisonment of 3 months and fine as mentioned. The Court can only proceeds with the prosecution, when there is prior sanction of the Competent authority. The Competent authority can delegate its powers in certain circumstances to other officers. And the actions of such competent authority or of any officer taken in good faith and also in pursuance of this Act, should not be subjected to any legal implication or sanction. These authorities are treated as public servants. Finally, the Central Government is having authority to make rules under this Act, on the matters given under the provision of section 39 of the Act, in particular for carrying on the object and purpose of the Act. Likewise, the Government has framed ‘The Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Rule, 1956′.

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by Faim Khalilkhan Pathan.