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SC expresses concern over illegal constructions in Delhi, says rule of law has been violated

The sealing case had led to a face-off between the Supreme Court and the Centre in 2006, with the court passing sealing orders and the government introducing laws to protect traders.

delhi Updated: Dec 07, 2017 07:30 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi,Illegal construction,Supreme Court
The Supreme Court said it could consider reviving its monitoring committee that had sealed thousands of illegal commercial establishments in Delhi a decade ago.(Reuters File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said it could consider reviving its monitoring committee that had sealed thousands of illegal commercial establishments in Delhi a decade ago.

The top court also asked the Centre to respond to its proposal to restore the sealing powers to the monitoring committee, a move prompted by the failure of civic authorities to stop rampant unauthorised construction and misuse of residential premises.

“We cannot let Delhi go the way other cities are going and let it flood when there are heavy rains. Unauthorised construction takes a toll on the environment and affects sewage, parking and waste management,” a bench headed by Justice MB Lokur said.

“Prima facie we feel the rule of law has been violated and it has a vital impact on environment in Delhi,” the bench said.

It also sought additional solicitor general AS Nadkarni’s assistance on the next hearing, December 14, so that there is no “breakdown of rule of law in Delhi as far as construction is concerned”.

The sealing case had led to a face-off between the SC and the Centre in 2006, with the court passing sealing orders and the government introducing laws to protect traders.

In January, 2012 the court stopped the committee from sealing premises that were used in contravention of civic laws. This was done with the “hope and expectation” that the authorities would carry out their statutory duties and act against unauthorised usage.

“The hope, expectation and trust that this court reposed in the concerned officers seems to have been completely belied as is apparent,” the bench said while accepting two reports of the monitoring committee that highlights unabated illegal construction and misuse of properties.

“In view of the failure of statutory authorities to check unauthorised construction and misuser we propose to restore powers of the monitoring committee to prevent it,” the bench ordered.

Advocate AND Rao, assisting the court, said the committee had become a toothless tiger due to the 2012 order. “With no sealing powers this committee has become redundant,” he said.

The top court had on March 24, 2006 set up the committee comprising KJ Rao, former advisor to the Election Commission, Bhure Lal, chairman of Environment Pollution Control Authority (APCA) and major general (retd) Som Jhingan.

The committee sealed premises wherever residential properties were being used for commercial purpose. Only SC could hear the appeals arising out of such sealing orders.

However, in 2013 all such matters were referred to the Delhi high court after judges observed the issues raised by petitioners were linked to capital’s local laws. Around 900 applications filed by individuals challenging the sealing of their premises were sent to the local municipal tribunal to be dealt as per the civic laws.

Rao pointed out the 2013 verdict had set a one-year time limit for the HC to decide the petitions, which included a challenge to the validity of Delhi’s master plan-2021.

“If the court would have heard those matters we (committee) would have not given these reports,” Rao said.

He indicated how an unauthorised colony had sprung up in South Delhi’s Mehrauli area.

“This has happened right under the nose of municipal officials. And no one took action,” he said.

The shocked SC bench summoned the South Delhi Municipal Corporation’s commissioner on the next date.

“We would like SDMC commissioner to be present to explain how statutory duties conferred upon him and his subordinate officers are not being carried out.”

The last effective hearing in the sealing case took place in 2009, when the Centre and civic agencies filed affidavits, detailing plans for basic infrastructure and amenities in tune with the MPD-2021.

First Published: Dec 06, 2017 23:32 IST