It took 22 long years for a court to direct the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to return a plot to coal depot owner Darshna Rani. But six months after the verdict, the 75-year-old is still to get her due.
“It’s been almost six months since this judgment came in our favour, but getting the land is still a distant dream. I am sure they (the MCD authorities) will file an appeal in the high court. I don’t know for how many more years this case will go on,” said a visibly frustrated Vinod Kumar Batra, Rani’s son.
A coal depot owner, Rani has been running from pillar to post to get the plot which was legally allotted to her by the MCD but later cancelled.
Calling it a long and exhausting legal battle which started in 1988, Rani’s counsel M.M. Agarwal said: “Though we have won the case here, my client is still waiting for her plot which was promised to her.”
The city court slammed the Slum and J.J. (Jhuggi Jhopri) Department of the MCD for cancelling the land allotted to her, saying it was “improper, illegal and unjustified”.
“The manner in which the MCD has cancelled the allotment is unfair, unjust and illegal and not in accordance with established procedures,” Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau said in her judgement in January.
The Slum and J.J. Department is responsible for implementation of various schemes and programmes to provide minimum basic civic amenities and resettlement of squatter families.
“We had a plot in Laxmi Nagar on which the MCD wanted to build a school; so they promised to give us two plots on a monthly licence fee of Rs.175. We got only one, the other plot was cancelled on the pretext that we did not pay the licence fee,” Batra said.
In 1976, the order on two plots allotted to Rani were announced, and they were shifted from Laxmi Nagar in east Delhi to Seelampur.
“Since the plot given to us in Seelampur was surrounded by jhuggi jhopris, we asked for a transfer of land to Khichiripur but got only one plot,” said Rani. In 1977 they were given the plot in Khichiripur.
The reason given by the MCD for not allotting the second plot to Rani was non-payment of licence fee.
The additional sessions judge had said: “The non-payment of licence fee is devoid of merits since had that been the case, the site/plot promised by the MCD would not have been earmarked for Rani’s coal depot.”
“Cancelling the allotment of land is improper and illegal and the payment regarding the damages raised by the MCD is unjustified,” Lau had said.
“The statutory authority cannot issue the cancellation order on papers without fulfilling the necessary prerequisites, one of which is due observance to the principles of ‘natural justice’ before passing the aforesaid orders against the lawful allottee,” Lau had said.
According to Batra, the MCD asked them to pay Rs.10,000 as damages for not paying the monthly licence fee. “We paid the money asked by the MCD for the damages, but they still cancelled it.”