Sealing squads shut down the corporate office of Bharti Airtel and socialite Bina Ramani’s fashion outlet Qutab Colonnade in Mehrauli village on Tuesday.
Shutters were also brought down on Indian Handicrafts Emporium, Indian Cottage Industries and other illegal commercial establishments operating from village land. The buildings were sealed on the instructions of the Supreme Court-constituted Monitoring Committee that had inspected the properties a day before.
The owners of Bharti Airtel and Qutab Colonnade had been sounded out about the sealing drive a day before and they had vacated the buildings before the sealing squads arrived.
Officials of Muncipal Corporation of Delhi had skipped the building on Monday – the day the high court was to pronounce the final verdict in the Jessica Lall murder case. Given that Qutab Colonnade was the site of Jessica Lall’s murder in 1999 – Tamarind Court was housed there — and given Bina Ramani was a key witness in the case, the move triggered widespread speculation. It was later clarified that the officials needed some clarifications from the DDA.
Bina Ramani, who went into a huddle with her lawyers to get the building de-sealed, accused the MCD of acting in a high-handed and arbitrary manner. "We have documents to show that the building in question has been commercial in nature since 1948. The place was leased out to Delhi government that ran a school from here. Later, we bought this place,” she said.
Ramani accused the MCD of selectively targeting people. “The building, Carma, that shares the boundary wall with Qutab Colonnade, has not been sealed, though it carries out the same business as we do. We will approach the Monitoring Committee and seek reprieve," she said.
Bharti Airtel issued a statement saying they have been operating Qutab Ambience for over 12 years. "On Monday, the authorities asked Bharti to vacate the premises, which was done promptly. Bharti has shifted its office temporarily to Gurgaon and would apply for de-sealing Qutab Ambience,” the statement said.