The Supreme Court on Thursday refused permission to the Centre and the MCD to exercise their discretion to defer sealing of about 48,000 commercial establishments in residential areas of the capital in view of the charged atmosphere due to the ongoing traders’ agitation.
These commercial establishments were supposed to cease their operations by October 31 in accordance with the affidavits filed by them before the court-appointed Monitoring Committee.
Additional Solicitor General Amarendra Sharan and senior counsel AM Singhvi mentioned the matter before a three-judge Bench headed by Justice KG Balakrishnan seeking an early hearing.
Singhvi wanted the issue to be heard by the appropriate Bench headed by the Chief Justice YK Sabharwal during the lunch break itself in view of the situation arising out of the agitation.
However, the Bench fixed Monday for hearing of the applications of the Centre and the MCD, as the Chief Justice who is heading the Bench hearing the sealing case, was busy with a Constitution Bench matter till Friday.
As the court refused an early hearing, Sharan urged that the authorities be allowed to exercise their discretion to defer the sealing drive in view of the charged atmosphere. But the court simply turned it down. “We don’t know what is your administrative discretion,” it observed.
For the first time Delhi Government joined the Centre and MCD in seeking relief for the traders. Senior counsel VP Singh supported the Centre’s application as also their early hearing plea.
The Centre and the MCD have sought relief from sealing for those traders who earlier filed affidavits that they would cease commercial activities in residential areas but were now covered under two notifications allowing commercialization/mixed land use on 2,183 roads/streets.
In their applications, the Urban Development Ministry and the MCD urged the court to permit them to continue their commercial activities beyond October 31, 2006 subject to their filing additional undertakings before the Monitoring Committee.
Comparing their position with that of those covered under the notifications, the Centre said that despite being similarly situated they were being deprived of the benefits of the notifications.
Stating that these traders have already demonstrated their compliance of the court orders by submitting affidavits, the Centre submitted that extension of such relief to them “would prevent avoidable hardship to this category of persons including those wage earners who are dependent on these commercial establishments for their livelihood.”
The MCD pointed out that in case the court subsequently held the September seven and 15 notifications as constitutionally valid these premises would have to be de-sealed as the said shops would be covered under the Notifications. However, it sought immediate sealing of those premises whose owners had earlier filed undertakings but were not covered under the notifications dated September seven and 15, 2006.
The MCD said it has analysed the categories of those who had filed undertakings and there were only 5,500 premises, which were not covered under either of the two notifications.
“Out of a total number of around 48,000 affidavits submitted, the number of affidavits covered under commercial roads as per the two notifications are over 25,000 while those who are covered under mixed land use roads are nearly 8,000 in number,” it said.
“Those who are covered under the small shops category (of 20 sq mtr and dealing in 22 permissible items) are above 9,000 in number,” it said, adding some of these 9,000 persons are also covered under commercial roads and mixed land use roads. Those falling in small shop category and not covered either commercial roads or mixed land use roads are around 1,500 in number, the MCD said.
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