Monitoring panel can’t act against residential properties flouting laws: Supreme Court
The SC-appointed Monitoring Committee has been spearheading the capital’s crackdown against the use of residential properties for commercial purposes, a move that has seen sealing of illegal business establishments in prominent neighbourhoods such as Defence Colony.Updated: Aug 14, 2020 23:10 IST
The Supreme Court said on Friday that the Monitoring Committee spearheading set up in 2006 to check illegal use of some properties does not have the power to act against residential properties that may be flouting laws, and ordered 11 homes sealed in Vasant Kunj and Rajokri areas to be unsealed and handed back to owners in three days.
The SC-appointed Monitoring Committee has been spearheading the capital’s crackdown against the use of residential properties for commercial purposes, a move that has seen sealing of illegal business establishments in prominent neighbourhoods such as Defence Colony. But, the court said, it cannot take action against residential properties, the prerogative for acting against which falls under different mechanisms.
The panel has anti-pollution crusader and retired bureaucrat Bhure Lal, former advisor to Election Commissioner KJ Rao, and SP Jhingon.
“The Monitoring Committee is not authorised to take action concerning the residential premises situated on the private land. If there is unauthorized construction or in case of deviation, the requisite provisions are under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act,” said the bench of justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari.
The Court reiterated that the committee formed under its order of February 16, 2006 had the authority to seal commercial units operating in residential areas and upon encroachment on public land. This power will not extend to unauthorised constructions carried out in private land over which the municipal authorities alone will have the authority under law.
This is the first time the committee’s power was questioned since it was formed on February 16, 2006. The decision came after the committee ordered sealing of 11 properties in Pocket D-3, Vasant Kunj and some properties in Rajokari area on a letter from the Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Mehrauli on February 22, 2019 complaining about unauthorised construction. The committee filed a report (Report No 149) before the Court on April 4, 2019 for approval.
The bench quashed the committee’s report and other reports submitted in connection with the said report and ordered the properties to be de-sealed and possession restored to owners within three days. The court added a rider that its decision is “not at all to belittle the yeoman service done by the Monitoring Committee for protection of Delhi.”
Advocate Nalin Kohli who opposed the action of the Monitoring Committee before the court spoke to HT and said that this order became necessary as the committee was expanding its powers. Kohli said, “The Committee has become an authority unto themselves. They shut down several farmhouses in Mehrauli area and this judgment will certainly be a relief to several persons whose properties were sealed despite the construction being for residential purpose and not commercial.”
The Delhi government and the Centre were on the same page in this case; opposing the Committee’s action.
The Court examined orders passed by it since 2006 and concurred with their submissions. Giving a 70-page judgment, Justice Mishra, who authored the decision, said: “It would not be appropriate for the Monitoring Committee to usurp statutory powers and act beyond authority conferred upon it by the Court. The Monitoring Committee could not have sealed the residential premises, which were not misused for the commercial purpose as done vide Report no 149 nor it could have directed the demolition of those residential properties.”