The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the 25,000-odd traders and professionals facing the sealing drive in the capital to stop misuse of their residential premises for commercial purposes in accordance with their own undertakings before the court considers giving them any relief.
A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice YK Sabharwal directed them to inform the court-appointed Monitoring Committee that they have stopped the misuse.
If such information were found to be right, the Committee would not resort to disconnection of amenities and sealing of premises, the court said adding the Committee could conduct random checks if necessary.
It asked the Committee to file a report in this regard by November 20 and fixed November 21 for further hearing the mercy plea of the Centre and Municipal Corporation of Delhi to spare the traders and professionals falling in this category from sealing.
On the next date, the court will consider whether the traders/professionals could for the present be relieved temporarily from the undertakings and placed on a par with others covered under the September 7 and 15 notifications and given relief from sealing in terms of October 18 order.
The Bench, which thrice rejected such a plea in the last two-and-a-half-months, said this would also be applicable to those who have already shut down their shops or whose premises have been sealed as also those who have stopped misuse of their premises in compliance of their affidavits.
However, it said the Monitoring Committee may mention any particular establishment which in its opinion may not be given any temporary relief having regard to the larger public interest or the extensive nature of commercial activities carried out.
The Bench made it clear that sealing drive would continue against those not covered under the notifications and not given any relief under any of the court’s orders.
Meanwhile, based on the 12th report of the Monitoring Committee, the Bench allowed ration and kerosene shops under public distribution system and cycle repair shops to operate in residential areas. This is in addition to the 22 categories of shops already exempted from sealing.
But the court declined de-sealing of the premises of S-1 TV channel and a guesthouse which was sealed during the drive. It also refused to give any relief to Delhi International School, saying it would not consider individual cases.
Solicitor General GE Vahanvati submitted that the situation has changed considerably since the last order and sealing drive was in progress and the court’s orders were being implemented.
When he mentioned the names of some big establishments including the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the CJI wondered why should the TRAI select such type of premises? TRAI should have seen it before taking it on rent. "If the authorities are not going to regulate themselves then whom are they going to regulate," the CJI observed.
The court said the issue was two-fold - enforcement of the Rule of Law and whether to treat these 25,000 traders/professionals on a par with those who did not give undertakings and were covered under the notifications.
It took into account the Monitoring Committee report about Vikas Marg Vyapar Mandal, whose members have voluntarily stopped misuse of residential premises for commercial purposes.
Appearing for the MCD, senior counsel A M Singhvi submitted that the court should consider ordering de-sealing of premises covered under the notifications.
In separate applications, the Urban Development Ministry and the MCD have urged the court to allow these traders to continue their operations as they were covered under the government notifications issued on September seven and 15 which allowed commercialization along 2,183 roads/stretches in the capital.