Delhi sealing drive: Supreme Court slams DDA over tweaks to master plan

The court asked the DDA to file an affidavit explaining why changes in the Master Plan 2021 were needed.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2018 07:40 IST
Ashok Bagriya
Ashok Bagriya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Delhi Sealing Drive,Supreme Court,Delhi Development Authority
Over 600 shops across 100 shopping complexes in Delhi have been sealed over the past few weeks.(Burhaan Kinu/ Hindustan Times)

The Supreme Court on Monday questioned a proposal by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to bring changes to the Master Plan of Delhi 2021 to protect traders from the ongoing sealing drive in the Capital, slammed the authority for refusing to learn from past tragedies, and labelled it the “Delhi Destruction Authority”.

A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur said the DDA was buckling under pressure to bring in the proposed changes, and not looking at the interests of a larger section of Delhi’s residents.

“You propose to bring in changes in the Master Plan, you want to destroy Delhi? DDA is becoming Delhi Destruction Authority,” Justice Lokur said. “You have not learnt anything from the Uphaar fire tragedy, the recent Kamala Mills incident in Mumbai, or the Bawana fire. Everybody in Delhi has kept their eyes shut. You are just waiting for something to happen!” he added.

Referring to the illegal construction and other civic problems such as poor waste management, rising pollution and lack of parking space, Justice Lokur observed, “The pollution levels in the country are so bad that of the 20 most polluted cities in the world 13 are in India. And of the 13 cities in India, Delhi is at the top. I do not know what civic authorities are doing in Delhi.”

The court asked the DDA to file an affidavit explaining why changes in the Master Plan 2021 were needed.

Under the Master Plan 2021 are 2,183 stretches of roads where commercial and mixed-land use is permitted in the Capital.

The sealing drive is being conducted in areas where this is not permitted or where there have been other violations, such as building an extra floor or the use of a balcony or basement. Some of the markets that have been hit include popular hubs Defence Colony, Hauz Khas and Khan Market in south and central Delhi, leading to protests from traders and shop owners, who have got support from political parties, including the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Last week, the central government announced a slew of measures aimed at bringing relief to shop owners and ending the sealing drive. The government recommended allowing more construction in commercial and mixed land use areas, regularising commercial establishments in basements, and reducing conversion penalties in residential areas that are used for commercial activity.

The measures were to come into effect after the Master Plan 2021 was amended by the DDA, which agreed to the changes in its February 2 meeting.

The Supreme Court was hearing a petition against the sealing -- being carried out under instructions of an SC-empanelled monitoring committee -- filed by more than 30 marble shop owners in Chattarpur. The DDA , along with the municipal corporations, was appearing as a party to the case.

The bench chose to address the DDA directly and pulled it up for its recent proposal.

When contacted, DDA vice-chairman Udai Pratap Singh said: “We will follow what the Supreme Court has ordered. We will file the affidavit as sought by the court.”

“The court’s instruction to DDA has put question mark on their proceedings and in given circumstances, how can they approve the amendment in Master Plan 2021?” said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, Confederation of All India Traders. “But we request the apex court to ensure that the monitoring committee adheres to Delhi municipal corporation norms and sealing is carried in constitutional manner in city,” he added.

First Published: Feb 05, 2018 23:28 IST