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Delhi sealing drive to move beyond shops and restaurants, says panel

The drive, which started on Thursday, is likely to turn its attention next to prominent areas of the national capital where unauthorised constructions have come up

delhi Updated: Dec 23, 2017 23:28 IST
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Shops and other establishments were sealed at the Defence Colony market on Friday. (Sanchit Khanna/HT PHOTO)

The revived sealing powers of the Supreme Court- appointed monitoring committee are not confined to offences regarding the payment of conversion charges to the municipality.

The drive, which started on Thursday, is likely to turn its attention next to prominent areas of the national capital where unauthorised constructions have come up, land use has been violated and building norms of the municipality have been flouted.

The sealing drive will, however, exempt violations that have been given immunity in the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Amendment Bill, 2014, which was tabled in Parliament on Friday for a three-year extension to its December 31 deadline.

The Bill provides relief from sealing to slum dwellers, JJ clusters, street vendors, unauthorised colonies to be regularised, village abadi and urbanised villages, apart from public spaces such as dispensaries and schools.

“The municipalities are of the opinion that the Act provides immunity to the sealed properties, while the committee is of the firm view that the properties sealed are not covered under the provisions of the Act,” said the three-member monitoring committee in its report submitted to the Supreme Court. Based on this report, the SC-empowered the panel on December 15 to start the sealing process again.

The committee said in its report that during its earlier tenure between 2006 and 2012, the committee had created a ‘climate of acceptance’ of the laid down regulations under Master Plan, building bylaws and other regulations.

“In some cases, civic agencies were deliberately ignoring the laid down regulation while collecting the conversion charges clearly spelt out in the Master Plan,” stated the report about the current situation.

The top court while reviving the committee’s powers had observed, “the blatant misuse of properties in Delhi for commercial purposes on such a large scale could not take place without the connivance of the officers. There must be accountability, not only of those violating the law, but also of those errant officers who turn a blind eye to the misuse of residential premises for commercial purposes.”

The Supreme Court-appointed committee comprises KJ Rao, former advisor to the Election Commission, Bhure Lal, chairman of Environment Pollution Prevention and Control Authority (EPCA) and Major General (retd) Som Jhingan as members.

Civic authorities shut down more than 51 shops and restaurants in south Delhi’s posh Defence Colony market a for not paying conversion charges to the municipality on Friday. The drive is expected to continue till January 12 when a hearing related to its powers is slated for hearing in the top court.

“The monitoring committee is confident that if the rightful dues from public on various accounts — including conversion charges — are collected by the MCD, the financial state of these corporations would be more and sound and would overcome the present crisis,” it said.

As for not taking action against the offenders earlier, SDMC official cited the involvement of multiple agencies and a series of pending court cases.

“A team of officials led by the members of the panel are chalking out details about the next leg of sealing that will start on Tuesday. It might as well be another marker or a piece of agricultural land that is witnessing commercial activity on the city outskirts,” he said.

First Published: Dec 23, 2017 23:28 IST