The Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to decide within two months whether to allow construction of commercial complexes including shopping malls in the eco-fragile Ridge area of Vasant Kunj in South Delhi.
A Bench comprising Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice SH Kapadia, held that the construction without requisite clearances was not permissible, whether it was in ridge area or outside Ridge area.
The court, which had on May one stayed the constructions of the malls, also asked the Ministry to decide what remedial measures including imposition of costs can be taken.
It said that the Ministry has to take a decision by taking the land in question as a “constraint area”.
The court observed that “DDA should have been more transparent as an impression has been created that all requisite clearances have been optioned from the concerned authorities, including Ministry of Environment, while it is not so.”
The Bench, however, said “we are prima facie satisfied about the bona fides of the respondents (builders)…"
The DDA had auctioned 19.13 hectares of land in 2003 to various companies including DLF, Airtel, Maruti Udyog, ONGC and ONGC Videsh for about Rs 1200 crore.
The Malls under construction included two by DLF, having an area of 20,000 square meters each, one by Airtel in about the same area, one by Maruti Udyog and one by AMBI having an area of 23,000 sq meters. ONGC was yet to start construction.
The petitioner Ridge Bachao Andolan and another had sought demolition of the constructions on the ground these would cause irreversible damage to the environment of the area.
They termed construction as illegal for want of proper sanction and the same being in violation of environmental norms.
The builders had contended that they had bought the land from DDA under the impression that all requisite clearances had already been taken by DDA and had already made huge investments in the construction of malls.
On its part, the Environment Ministry had suggested to the court that instead of putting the clock back by ordering demolition, the same may be regularized by imposing heavy costs on the developers for starting constructions without obtaining clearance from the Ministry of Environment.
Reacting to the Judgment, Ridge Bachao Andolan leader Diwan Singh said the court has practically not answered any questions raised from the environment angle.