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Big Q: Will courts kill Bill?

There may be high expectations from the Centre?s move to bring in a legislation for a stay on demolitions and sealing.

india Updated: May 13, 2006 21:33 IST

There may be high expectations from the Centre’s move to bring in a legislation for a stay on demolitions and sealing, a big question mark looms over the validity of such a law.

The step may well lead to a confrontation between the higher courts and the UPA government  or even Parliament, which is all set to pass the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Bill, 2006, granting a one-year moratorium on demolitions and sealings on court orders.

Some legal experts  say Parliament cannot reverse the court orders by “forcing” a year-long moratorium on action against illegal constructions through a legislation. According to senior Supreme Court counsel P.P. Rao, the court orders were based on certain laws that had been violated by people who carried out unauthorised constructions or set up shops in residential areas.

Unless the government changed these  very laws, the court orders for action against the violators could not be stalled.

“I have my doubts (on the acceptability of the legislation in the higher courts),” he said.
Senior advocate P.N. Lekhi  described the Bill as a “political smokescreen” which would not stand scrutiny in higher courts. 

“If the courts are really mindful of their self-respect, it will not take them  more than 30 seconds  to say that this is nothing but nonsense,” Lekhi stated.

Yet another eminent lawyer was of the view that the government could not “over-ride” the orders of the SC and High Court by getting  an ordinary Bill like the one cleared in the Lok Sabha on Friday.

For that, it needed to bring in a Constitution amendment Bill that would have to be passed by two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament. 

Another prominent legal luminary, who did not want to be named, asserted that the Bill seeking to push through a year-long ban on demolition and sealing amounted to “over-riding” court orders and this was beyond the powers of Parliament.

“The proper way of passing a Bill of such a nature is to amend the existing Master Plan with retrospective effect.”