Seven years after it ordered sealing of thousands of commercial establishments in the residential areas of the Capital, forcing the Centre to bring in laws to protect the traders, the Supreme Court now wants the Delhi HC to decide all such cases.
A bench of justice HL Dattu and justice JS Khehar, which heard the matter for two days, said Thursday since the issues raised by petitioners were linked to Delhi's local laws, the high court would be an appropriate forum to decide them. A formal order is likely to be passed on April 25.
The move, which signals a protracted legal battle, is likely to be welcomed by traders as it gives them multiple forums to get grievances redressed. Had the top court continued hearing the cases, its decision would have been final, denying them a chance to challenge an adverse order.
Sealing has been a volatile issue. Four people died in police firing when a traders’ bandh against the drive turned violent on September 20, 2006.
It even pitted the Centre and the SC against each other, with the court passing sealing orders and the government introducing laws to protect traders.
Once the SC passes the order, more than 900 applications of the owners of commercial establishment against sealing orders passed by a court-appointed monitoring committee would be transferred to the municipal corporations’ appellate tribunal.
The appellate tribunal is the lowest forum in judicial hierarchy.
These applications were filed in the SC following its order that every sealing ordered by its monitoring panel could only be challenged before it.
The bench's suggestion got support from senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, who has been assisting it as amicus curiae (court's friend) since 2005. "Though the transfer would send the traders to the lowest forum, it would be for good as the applications would get decided soon," Kumar told HT.
The HC among other issues will be hearing petitions challenging the validity of the master plan development (MPD 2021) and permission to construct third floor in residential colonies.
The HC may also look at the ordinance -- National Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act -- that was introduced after the MCD launched a drive in 2006 to seal commercial establishments operating from residential areas and unauthorised colonies.
"We are hopeful of an early verdict from the HC," said Jasbir Malik, advocate for one of the petitioners challenging the validity of MPD-21.
The last effective hearing in the case took place in 2009, when the Centre and civic agencies filed affidavits, detailing plans for basic infrastructure and amenities in tune with the MPD-2021.
Sanjiv Sen, counsel for the civic bodies, said, "We do not have any problem if the matter is sent to the HC."
In December 2011, the SC stayed its panel's decision to seal commercial premises operating in residential areas.