Shantistar Builders v Narayan Khimalal Totame, Civil Appeal No. 2598/1989. Cited as: (1990) 1 SCC 520.

Constitutional challenge related to the right to life, including the right to a reasonable accommodation to live in (Article 21 Indian Constitution); mandatory order; supervisory jurisdiction; socio-economic rights included within the right to life.

Date of the Ruling: 
Jan 31 2001
Supreme Court of India
Type of Forum: 

Under Sections 20 and 21 of the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act, 1976, the State Government exempted certain excess land from the provisions of the Act on the condition that the land be used by the builders for the purpose of providing housing for the ‘weaker sections of society.'  It was alleged that the builders had not done so. Although it found that the applicant's writ of petition had been rendered infructuous, the Bombay High Court gave some directions regarding future monitoring of the scheme sanctioned under Section 20.
On appeal, the Supreme Court stated that “[b]asic needs of man have traditionally been accepted to the three - food, clothing and shelter. The right to life is guaranteed in any civilized society. That 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 Court iterated that shelter for a human being has to be a suitable accommodation which would allow him to grow and develop in every aspect - physical, mental and intellectual. A reasonable residence is an indispensable necessity for fulfilment of the constitutional goal in the matter of development of man and should be taken as included in ‘life' in Article 21.  

Amongst other things, the Court ordered the builders not to make any allotment of flats until the claim of the complainants (who belonged to the ‘weaker sections') were scrutinised and the allotment of accommodation for such number of persons as were found to belong to the ‘weaker sections' was provided. The Court prescribed certain guidelines in relation to such allocation and ordered State Government to constitute a committee for monitoring allotment of the flats to the weaker sections.

Keywords: Shantistar Builders v Narayan Khimalal Totame, Civil Appeal No. 2598/1989. Cited as: (1990) 1 SCC 520, Life, Right

Enforcement of the Decision and Outcomes: 

Five years later, the Supreme Court dealt with a request from Government that it alter its order (Shantistar Builders v Narayan Khimalal Gotame & Ors. 1996 AIR 786). During the course of its judgment, the court directed the Government “to comply with the constitution of the committee within 30 days from the date of the receipt of this order, since the same has already been delayed for more than five years from the date of the judgment constituting the committee”.

Significance of the Case: 

The case was later quoted approvingly by the Supreme Court in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation v Nawab Khan Gulba Khan & Ors (1997) 11 SCC 121, where the court stated, “it is the duty of the State to construct houses at reasonable rates and make them easily accessible to the poor. The State has the constitutional duty to provide shelter to make the right to life meaningful”.  The definition of shelter was further elaborated on in Chameli Singh v State of U. P. & Anr (1997) 11 SCC 121