The case "Olga Tellis & Others v. Bombay Municipal Corporation (1985)" is a landmark judgement by the Supreme Court of India that significantly contributed to the interpretation of the right to life under the Indian Constitution. Here's a detailed summary:
- Petitioners: Olga Tellis and others, who were pavement dwellers in Bombay (now Mumbai).
- Respondent: Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the State of Maharashtra.
- Context: The BMC issued notices to pavement dwellers in Bombay to evacuate and demolish their dwellings as part of a drive to remove encroachments on public property.
1. Right to Life and Livelihood: The primary issue was whether the eviction of pavement dwellers infringed upon their constitutional right to life and livelihood under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
2. Balancing Rights and Public Interest: The case also dealt with the challenge of balancing the rights of the pavement dwellers against the need for urban planning and public order.
Supreme Court's Judgement
- Interpretation of Right to Life: The Supreme Court held that the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution includes the right to livelihood. It reasoned that no person can live without the means of living, i.e., the means of livelihood.
- Eviction Justified but with Conditions: While the Court recognized the right of the government to evict encroachments for public good, it also laid down guidelines to ensure that evictions were carried out in a humane and justified manner.
- Notice and Hearing: The Court mandated that before any eviction, the pavement dwellers must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard.
- Provision of Alternative Shelter: It was directed that where feasible, especially in cases of extreme hardship, the state should provide alternative shelter to those evicted.
- Expansion of Article 21: This judgement expanded the scope of Article 21, making it clear that the right to life is not merely a physical right but includes within its ambit the right to livelihood.
- Human Rights Perspective: The case is often cited for its humanistic approach and consideration of the plight of the poor and underprivileged in urban areas.
- Precedent for Future Cases: It set a precedent for numerous other judgments where the Supreme Court of India interpreted the right to life to include various socio-economic rights.
"Olga Tellis & Others v. Bombay Municipal Corporation" is a seminal case in Indian constitutional law, marking a shift towards a more expansive and inclusive interpretation of the right to life. It reflects the dynamic nature of constitutional interpretation in responding to the needs and challenges of changing times, particularly in addressing the rights and concerns of marginalised sections of society.