Government protecting illegal structures with eyes closed, says Supreme Court
A Supreme Court bench said lives of 186 lakh people have been held to ransom because the Delhi administration wants to protect 15 lakh traders.delhi Updated: Apr 03, 2018 23:54 IST
The Supreme Court on Tuesday criticised the Delhi administration, saying it had legalised unauthorised construction in the national Capital by bringing in a law to save such structures from demolition and were sending out a message that they would protect “illegality”.
A bench of justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta said by promulgating The National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Amendment Act, the Centre has protected illegal commercial premises with eyes closed. “You are making a law which is arbitrary and perpetuating illegality. You are protecting those who have committed the illegal acts and letting innocent persons suffer. Lives of 186 lakh persons have been held to ransom because you want to protect 15 lakh traders,” the bench told additional solicitor general AS Nadkarni.
The law officer on behalf of the Centre justified the law and argued the proposed changes to Master Plan — 2021, at present under stay by the court — was intended to clear the mess.
“What mess? MPD has been changed to legalise whatever was illegal,” the court shot back.
The court also refused to vacate its stay on the proposed changes to Delhi’s Master Plan 2021, which was tweaked to give relief to commercial establishments by increasing the floor area ratio and help them escape the court-monitored sealing drive launched last December. As many as 4,000 shops, restaurants, offices and other commercial set-ups have been sealed in popular markets such as Defence Colony, Amar Colony, Meharchand Market, Hauz Khas, Khan Market and Karol Bagh.
“If you (DDA) are not quick enough to file an affidavit before us then even we are in no hurry to lift the stay,” the bench told additional solicitor general Maninder Singh who on behalf of the land-owning agency requested the court to hear DDA’s application to lift the stay.
On March 8, the top court had stopped the government from notifying the changes in the MPD-2021.The court was upset as the DDA had failed to respond to its query on whether it had undertaken a study to assess the environmental impact of the changes in the plan.
In December, the court revived the committee that had sealed thousands of such properties for alleged violation of municipal norms almost a decade ago.
The Supreme Court is now hearing a set of old petitions that were filed challenging the ordinance brought in after the court clamped down on rampant misuse of residential buildings for commercial activities in 2005. Brought in 2006, the ordinance later became a law in 2011 with a validity of three years. At present, illegal constructions between March 2002 and May 2014 are protected from demolition. Also, MPD-2021 also regularises several activities that were illegal in 2006.
Wasn’t extending a temporary statute after every three years a fraud on the Constitution, the bench wondered. Nadkarni said from the court’s observations it appeared that the Centre had “suddenly become the villain” and that cooperation from local authorities was required to stem the illegality. “They (civic authorities) are cooperating. Who says they are not? Look at the level of corruption. It’s for this reason that unauthorised construction has continued for the last 10 years and you (the Centre) are still in the process of making a plan to prevent destruction of the city. Where is the place to dump garbage, water-supply and electricity for the people? Rule of law has been left meaningless,” the bench said. It will continue to hear the matter on Wednesday.