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Consider 26/11 attack victim's plea for housing 'sensitively': Bombay HC to Maharashtra

Rotawan, who is a victim of a terrorist attack, has been suffering since the age of nine and has had to live her life with disabilities and poverty, the Bombay High Court noted.
Last Updated 28 February 2024, 08:26 IST

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday directed the Maharashtra government's housing minister to consider 'with sensitivity' the request of Devika Rotawan, one of the youngest survivors of the 26/11 terror attacks case, for allotment of a house under a scheme for the Economically Weaker Section.

A division bench of Justices Girish Kulkarni and Firdosh Pooniwalla noted that Rotawan, who is a victim of a terrorist attack, has been suffering since the age of nine and has had to live her life with disabilities and poverty.

Rotawan is presently staying in slums and was at the mercy of her parents, the court said, adding that the monetary compensation given to her earlier was meagre in terms of the hardships she faced.

This is the third time that Rotawan, now 25 years old, has approached the court. In 2020, she filed a similar petition when the high court directed the government to consider her plea and pass appropriate orders.

In 2022, Rotawan once again moved the high court noting that her representation was rejected by the government. The government had then said that a compensation amount of Rs 13.26 lakh was handed to Rotawan on compassionate grounds.

The high court had then directed the state government to reconsider her representation for allotment of residential premises.

On Wednesday, the bench was informed by additional government pleader Jyoti Chavan that the secretary of the state housing department had taken a decision that Rotawan's representation cannot be considered.

The bench expressed displeasure with this decision and said there was no application of mind.

It added that Rotawan's case was 'exceptional and genuine'.

"Whatever monetary compensation was given to her then was meagre in terms of the hardships she has faced and now there is nothing left with the petitioner (Rotawan) so as to enable her to have a roof over her head," the court said.

The bench directed for Rotawan's representation to be placed before the housing department minister so that he could apply his mind and take an appropriate decision.

The court said the decision shall be taken within two weeks.

The court said while it was aware that the department was inundated with several cases for allotment of tenements under the EWS scheme, there would be such cases too where the authorities would be required to exercise their discretion appropriately.

"When a genuine case is presented before the department, the same would certainly require more human sensitivity, and basic human rights, and more particularly being a victim of a terrorist attack," the court said.

It added that it was constrained to pass this order as it was unhappy with the secretary taking a decision mechanically.

The high court was also irked with the fact that the secretary took his decision rejecting Rotawan's representation two years after she filed it.

"We are quite astonished at the snail's pace at which the decision is taken that too in a matter which raises issues of basic human rights and the right to shelter of a victim of a terrorist attack," the HC said.

Rotawan, who was nine years old at the time of the terror attacks at multiple locations in the city, was at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) railway station along with her father and brother, when two of the ten Pakistani terrorists opened fire.

She had later appeared before the trial court and identified Ajmal Kasab as one of the attackers at the CST railway station. Kasab was the lone terrorist who was nabbed alive. He was hanged in November 2012.

In her plea, Rotawan said she had suffered a bullet injury on her leg and her father and brother too sustained injuries. It said because of several morbidities, it was not possible for her father and brother to earn a livelihood.

The plea also said she and her family are living in penury and they would be rendered homeless as they have not been to pay the rent for their house.

On November 26, 2008, 10 Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists from Pakistan arrived by sea route and opened fire, killing 166 people, including 18 security personnel, and injuring several others during the 60-hour siege in Mumbai.

Nine terrorists were later killed by the security forces, including the NSG, the country's elite commando force, while Kasab was captured alive.

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(Published 28 February 2024, 08:26 IST)

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