The Delhi High Court has cleared the decks for the sealing of shops running from the premises of President's Estate on Talkatora Road. Some of the shops have been conducting business there since 1946.
The court upheld the Centre's move to seal shops on the ground that commercial activity in the sensitive area was a security risk and would also affect the area’s tranquillity.
Apart from the six shopkeepers in the market in the estate, those facing eviction also include residents of six quarters. Justice Sunil Gaur also ruled that mere acceptance of licence fee during the period after termination of licence agreement does not affect licensor's right to evict the licensee.
Petitions filed by a dozen other shopkeepers in the premises are pending before the court. The shopkeepers and residents had challenged the eviction process, initiated in 2003 under Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act. The eviction order was issued in 2006.
The Centre said they (shopkeepers) had no right to occupy the premises, as they did not pay licence fee after 1993 and "commercial use of the premises was a high security risk and was affecting the tranquillity in the area". "Eviction of the petitioners from the subject premises does not suffer from any arbitrariness or material procedural lapse, warranting any interference in these writ proceedings", Justice Gaur said.
The court rejected the argument of the petitioners that they could not be evicted in this manner, as they had been continuously paying the licence fee. The security angle was something the Centre suddenly raised ; the security issue had no mention in the eviction notice.
Rejecting the argument, the court said: "It is true that issue of security concerns was not there in the eviction notice but the plea was certainly there in the eviction petition…. besides, mere acceptance of payment from the petitioners during the period post-termination of the Licence Agreements would not justify raising the plea of acquiescence.”