Use drones to map illegal constructions in Delhi: SC to Centre
The Supreme Court further directed the Centre to begin the work on digitizing land records, an exercise that the judges felt would make the land records of residential spaces in Delhi “time-tagged” and any changes made subsequently could be tracked to the date when the alteration is made
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the Centre to conduct geospatial mapping of the entire city by using drones and to digitise land records to check encroachments and rampant misuse of residential properties.
A bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and AS Oka directed the ministry of housing and urban affairs to submit a status report by November 14.
Justice Kaul, who authored the order, said, “This is what we had done in Chennai when I was the Chief Justice there.” The judge came prepared with a note on the technical aspects relating to the directions to be passed while indicating, “This is from a good Samaritan.”
The court further directed the Centre to begin the work on digitizing land records, an exercise that the judges felt would make the land records of residential spaces in Delhi “time-tagged” and any changes made subsequently could be tracked to the date when the alteration is made.
Amicus curiae S Guru Krishna Kumar, assisting the court in the matter agreed that such a step will place checks on rampant corruption by officers of civic authorities and land owning agencies in allowing unauthorised misuse of residential properties for commercial and industrial use.
The Supreme Court had set up a monitoring committee in 2006 to identify unauthorised structures and misuse of residential property for commercial property. After remaining dormant for some years, the committee was revived in December 2017. A total of 6,909 properties were sealed on the directions of monitoring committee out of which 1997 were sealed due to unauthorised construction and 4,912 were sealed due to alleged misuse. A total of 2,159 applications were received for de-sealing the premises, of which the committee approved 969.
In a judgment on August 14, 2020, a Supreme Court bench headed by justice Arun Mishra ordered de-sealing of all residential properties, and ruled that the monitoring committee had the mandate to act only against commercial properties, not residential ones.
The apex court on Friday directed all authorities to work on the above directions.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati informed the top court that the Centre will examine the order and carry out steps. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA), the land owning agency in Delhi which falls under the central government, had carried out geospatial mapping for preparing the Master Plan for Delhi-2041. However, what was proposed by the court was on a larger scale that would require advanced systems.
Friday’s direction is in continuation of its earlier order passed on September 13, when it formed a judicial committee comprising former Bombay high court Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice GS Sistani, retired judge of the Delhi high court. The committee was given wide powers of sealing and de-sealing of properties, regularisation or levy of penalties or conversion charges, demolition of unauthorised constructions and directing removal of encroachment.
In its September 13 order, the bench observed, “The concerns in the present proceedings arise from rampant unauthorised and illegal use of residential areas for commercial and industrial purposes. The ground situation brought it to such an adverse level that this court had little option but to step in directly into this area to ensure that the residential areas of Delhi city are not destroyed.”
The court noted that the monitoring committee orders were directly getting challenged before the top court which unnecessarily clogged the judicial docket. Instead, the ourt proposed a judicial committee so that there is a first appeal before the committee of judges and only in select cases, the top court will be approached for passing necessary orders.
The court directed the Centre to provide office space for the judicial committee within a week. As regards payment of fees and office expenses of the Committee, the court directed that the same be paid out of the funds deposited by the monitoring committee with the Supreme Court Registry.