On July 31, 2009, the Supreme Court had—in connection places of worship springing up in an unauthorised manner on public land, including roads—ruled that while the existing structures may remain, the government must prevent any such encroachments in the future.
However, barely six months after this Supreme Court ruling, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has admitted that it does not maintain any such records.
This shocking admission came as a reply by the MCD’s Central and South Zone offices to an RTI application filed by a government employee, J. Singh.
In his query, Singh had asked the MCD’s Central and South Zones to provide information regarding unauthorised religious places built on MCD land since 1980 in certain areas under these zones. Singh had also wanted to know if any commercial activity was continuing beside the religious places and if any action had been taken by the MCD to remove them.
He had also asked if these places had water and electric connections, the names and designations of MCD officials when these shrines were built and last, but not the least, if any action had been taken to restrict any further encroachment by religious places.
The answers, when they came, left him shocked.
“We don’t maintain such records,” was the MCD’s reply to Singh’s queries.
Undaunted, Singh took the matter to the First Appellate authority, the Deputy Commissioner of South Zone. The official admitted that “many unauthorised religious places had been built on MCD land, but we do not maintain such records.”
Singh has now filed an appeal with the Central Information Commission.
“I suspect, they (MCD officials) do not want to give me the information deliberately,” Singh told HT and added, “I am sure, they would give similar replies for other zones, too.”
Pointing out that this (non-maintenance of records) cannot happen, Sanjay Bhargava of Chandni Chowk Sarv Vyapar Mandal, said, “How can they not have any records? They carry out surveys for all kind of civil work and are bound to have records.”
However, Bhargava lamented, “Not just religious places, the MCD should remove all kinds of encroachments. But even if they have information about these, they deliberately don’t take any action.”
Municipal Commissioner K.S. Mehra asserted, “We maintain all kinds of records.” He, however, refused to comment on the reply given by Public Information Officers from Central and South Zones without looking into details.