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SC remains firm, orders resumption of sealings

Now, over 40,000 traders who had given affidavits to shift their shops out of residential areas face sealing, reports Satya Prakash.

india Updated: Nov 06, 2006 23:05 IST

Observing that a few thousand agitating traders cannot hold the capital to ransom, the Supreme Court on Monday ordered resumption of sealing drive against the commercial establishments in residential areas, which had undertaken to cease their operations by October 31.

"How can there be any such applications?..…We find no ground whatsoever to modify our order dated September 29," a Bench headed by Chief Justice YK Sabharwal said dismissing the applications of the Centre, the Delhi Government and the MCD.

The applicants had sought modification of the September 29 order and relief from sealing for the traders who filed affidavits but are now covered under the September 7 and 15 notifications.

The MCD had also sought to defer the sealing operations in view of the "volatile situation" arising out of the violent agitation by traders and diversion of police and security forces for peaceful celebration of 'Guru Parab' and 'Sant Nirankari Sammelan' in New Delhi this month.

The order would affect about 25,000 traders who had filed affidavits before the Monitoring Committee appointed by the court.

The Bench asked the Committee to decide the date for resumption of sealing drive. It also asked the committee to file weekly reports in sealed cover to it without giving copies to the Solicitor General, Amicus Curiae and the MCD counsel. This has been done in view of the alleged leakage of a report of the Committee to the media.

It clarified that there was no order for demolition and the shops had only been ordered to be shut down till they get any relief under the law and the validity of the two notifications were decided.

The court said "we have no doubt that the Government is not powerless to control the situation and no one can be permitted to put a dagger on the neck of the authorities. None can be permitted to hold the city and the law abiding citizens to ransom and then ask for relief," the Bench said rejecting Solicitor General GE Vahanvati's arguments that the sealing drive could not be resumed due to law and order problem. "It arose probably because we committed a mistake by granting relief to five lakh traders on September 29," it observed.

The CJI reminded the Government that the authorities under the Centre as well as states were obliged to work in aid of the Supreme Court in accordance with Article 144 and the law declared by the apex court was the law of the land under article 141 of the Constitution.

The court recalled how the government took similar stand of strong public reaction during 1984 anti-Sikh riots, 1993 Mumbai riots and 2002 Gujarat riots when the question of law and order came.

Maintaining that the government cannot abdicate its responsibilities, the Bench directed it to provide all necessary protection to the members of the Monitoring Committee and use the police force, if necessary, to maintain law and order. It said the law and order problem arose because of the hope generated as the authorities instead of implementing the orders were filing this kind of applications.

Vahanvati said the Government was not against sealing and that it should be carried out first against 5,500 premises, which were not covered under either of the two notifications or any court order. He, however, said sealing should be deferred in the case of 25,000-odd traders who had undertaken to cease commercial activities by October 31.

The Court also questioned the motive of the Delhi Government in approaching it in this matter.

"Why Delhi Government has come?" it asked and indicated that possibly it was to gain political mileage out of the current situation.

Counsel for a traders' association from Vikas Marg said about 3,000 of their members have closed commercial activities and the court said it would be taken in their favour at the time of final decision.

A desperate MCD had on Saturday apprised the Supreme Court of its inability to carry out sealing operations in the capital in view of diversion of police and security forces to ensure peaceful celebration of 'Guru Parab' and 'Sant Nirankari Samagam' this month.

It has been estimated that extensive police arrangements shall have to be made in order to ensure an orderly celebration of these festivals, the civic body had said adding, "due to diversion of security forces the situation has been learnt to be not conducive to sealing operations".

Stating that the situation has been reviewed by the Government at various levels, the MCD had submitted that it was of the view that "conducting sealing operations at these times would lead to a serious law and order problem as the current situation is very sensitive and volatile."

Email: satya.prakash@hindustantimes.com