Delhi High Court dismisses National Herald publisher AJL’s plea against eviction order

The Delhi High Court Thursday dismissed National Herald publisher AJL’s plea challenging a single judge order to vacate its premises at ITO here.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao rejected the appeal of Associated Journals Ltd (AJL) in which it had challenged the Centre’s decision asking it to vacate the ITO premises.

“We have dismissed the appeal,” the bench said.

It also rejected the oral request of AJL’s counsel that they be granted two week’s time to vacate the premises.

AJL had appealed against the single judge’s December 21, 2018 order that directed it to vacate the premises at ITO within two weeks, after which eviction proceedings under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1971, would be initiated.

The single judge had also said that by transfer of AJL’s 99 per cent shares to Young India (YI), the beneficial interest of AJL’s property worth Rs 413.40 crore stands “clandestinely” transferred to YI.

In its order, the single judge had said that AJL has been “hijacked” by YI, in which the Gandhis are shareholders.

The December order had come on AJL’s plea challenging the Centre’s order to vacate the building.

The Centre had ended its 56-year-old lease and asked AJL to vacate the premises, saying no printing or publishing activity was going on and the building was being used only for commercial purposes.

During the arguments earlier, AJL, represented by senior advocate Abhishek M Singhvi, had said transfer of the company’s majority shares to YI would not make Congress President Rahul Gandhi and his mother Sonia Gandhi the owners of the Herald building here.

He also contended that the Centre never raised the issue of lack of printing activity at the Herald building prior to June 2018, by when publishing of some of its online editions had already commenced.

The Centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, had argued that the manner the shares were transferred, the court needs to “pierce the corporate veil” of AJL to see who owns the premises — Herald House — leased to it for running a printing press.

The government had contended that the land in question was allocated to AJL on lease for printing press and this “dominant purpose” was stopped several years ago.

The Centre had contended before the court that transfer of 99 per cent stake in AJL to YI, which bought over the Rs 90 crore debt for a consideration of Rs 50 lakh, led to a “virtual” sale of the Herald building at ITO.

The L&DO had ended the lease – entered into with AJL on August 2, 1962 and made perpetual on January 10, 1967 – asking the company to hand over the possession by November 15, 2018.

In its plea, AJL had also said the digital versions of English newspaper National Herald, Hindi’s Navjivan and Urdu’s Qaumi Awaz have commenced from 2016-17.

The weekly newspaper ‘National Herald on Sunday’ resumed on September 24, 2017, and the place of publication was the ITO premises, AJL said, adding the Hindi weekly newspaper Sunday Navjivan was being published since October last year from the same premises.

Remove bunds blocking flow of water into Yamuna: Delhi HC to Haryana

The Delhi High Court Tuesday asked Haryana to remove the bunds that, according to the Delhi government, were blocking flow of clean water into the Yamuna and was leading to an increase in pollution levels in the national capital’s water supply.

The direction by a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao came after the Haryana government stated in an affidavit that it will remove the bunds.

In its affidavit, the Manohar Lal Khattar government has said the bunds were put up in DD-8 canal to ensure that pollution from it does not flow into the Yamuna.

It also denied the Delhi government’s allegations in its recent application, that due to the bunds the water supply of the national capital was getting more polluted.

Haryana in its reply to the application has said that of the 1,000 million gallons per day (MGD) water requirement of the national capital, 500 MGD good quality raw water is supplied by it through canals and 440 MGD is sourced from the Ganga and tubewells.

Only the remaining 60 MGD water which is sourced directly from the Yamuna would contain high levels of ammonia, it has said and added that Delhi was the largest contributor to pollution in the Yamuna.

The Delhi Jal Board (DJB), represented by senior advocate Dayan Krishnan and advocate Sumeet Pushkarna, told the bench that they need to go through the affidavit and sought time to respond to it.

The court, thereafter, gave the DJB time till March 13 to respond to the claims made by Haryana in its affidavit.

Haryana, in its affidavit filed by the principal secretary of its water department, has claimed that the raw water supply from it to Delhi never gets affected or reduced even in the lean season.

It has also said that Delhi should take urgent steps to reduce its losses which are alleged to be 10 per cent during treatment and 30 per cent after that, as residents of Haryana suffer from dearth of water to ensure the national capital does not.

Haryana has contended that some losses during treatment are inevitable, “but losses to the extent as projected by DJB are unpardonable and can even be termed as criminal wastage of precious raw water.”

It has further said that “any deficiency in water supply to the citizens of Delhi is because of mismanagment and inaction on the part of the DJB”.

It has also said that at Agra in Uttar Pradesh, which is downstream of Delhi, the Yamuna water received is of much worse quality and therefore, that state has installed a water treatment plant (WTP) of much higher capacity.

Haryana has stated that the DJB should also consider setting up a WTP of higher capacity.

It has contended that the application filed by the DJB was not maintainable and was liable to be dismissed as Delhi was receiving more than its requirement of water from Haryana and the surplus can be used to dilute the ammonia levels in the Wazirabad reservoir.

The DJB, in its plea, had claimed that if urgent steps are not taken to remove the bunds it would adversely affect the water supply to central Delhi, including the Lutyens zone.

It had claimed that the DD-8 channel which supplies additional water to Yamuna to dilute its pollution levels has been blocked by Haryana and therefore, the water being received at Wazirabad was unusable for treatment as it had high levels of ammonia.

The application had said that water treated at Wazirabad is supplied to Central Delhi where all the major government offices, bungalows and the Supreme Court and the High Court are located.

It also sought directions to Haryana to control the pollutants that it was discharging into the Yamuna.

The DD-8 channel carries clean water from the Delhi Sub Branch Canal (DSBC) and the Munak canal into the Yamuna to ensure the reservoir at Wazirabad is always kept full, the application had said.

The application was moved by the DJB in a PIL by a lawyer, S B Tripathi, seeking sufficient water supply for the national capital.

The high court had earlier asked the Haryana government to ensure that it releases the entire quantity of water required as per the undertaking given by it to the court.

Haryana has to release 719 cusecs of water per day into Munak canal and 330 cusecs per day in DSBC, according to the undertaking and earlier court orders.

SDMC shifting responsibility to trap and translocate monkeys : Delhi High Court

The AAP government told the Delhi High Court Tuesday that the South Delhi Municipal Corporation was shifting the responsibility of trapping and translocating monkeys from the city.

The Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) of Delhi government said the civic agency cannot abdicate its responsibility on the pretext of a letter which is not valid in respect of trapping the monkeys from habitation areas.

The CWW’s submission came in an affidavit filed before a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao which listed the matter for further hearing on March 6.

“The contention of SDMC about the local body being not empowered to catch monkeys is not valid,” said the affidavit, filed through Delhi government additional standing counsel Anuj Aggarwal.

“By making such application, it is a move by the municipal corporation to shift the responsibility of trapping and translocation of monkeys from the inhabited areas and the civic agency cannot abdicate its responsibility on the pretext of a letter which is not valid in respect of trapping monkeys from habitation areas of Delhi,” it said.

It also stated that the monkeys in the inhabited areas in Delhi are commensal in nature and not those found in the wild and these commensal monkeys have evolved by adapting themselves to live close to human habitations and sustain on food provided by the residents of the nearby areas.

The court was informed that in pursuance to earlier direction, a meeting of all the concerned authorities was held under the chairmanship of Principal Secretary (Urban Development) on January 23.

The Delhi government said officials of all the civic agencies in the national capital had participated in the meeting and action points, which are to be followed, were decided to implement the judgement of the high court in tackling monkey menace here.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by advocate Meera Bhatia for directions to the authorities to take steps to deal with the menace of monkeys in the city.

The court had earlier noted that the problem of increasing monkey population was “aggravating with each passing day” and that the increase in simian numbers would not wait for testing of the oral vaccine for sterilising them.

NGO Wildlife SOS had earlier told the court that monkey population is rapidly increasing in urban areas due to the easy access to food, especially in garbage, as compared to forest areas where they have to forage for food.

The SDMC had earlier told the court that it “lacked the expertise” and was ill-equipped to catch monkeys.

Advocate Gaurang Kanth, appearing for the SDMC, had made the submission while seeking modification of the court’s 2007 direction to it to catch monkeys and relocate them in the Ridge area of the city.

The Delhi government, in the affidavit, added that that it had floated two tenders for catching and sterilising monkeys, but it found no takers.

It said it has been decided in the January meeting that in case the bid fails for the third time, the animal husbandry department may be assigned the job of earmarking at least one animal hospital within each MCDs and New Delhi Municipal Council to start the work of laparoscopic sterilisation of monkeys at least in four such identified hospitals.

The strength of doctors and other supporting staff may be enriched by the fund provided by Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), placed at the disposal of CWW, it said, adding that the animal husbandry department may strengthen infrastructure facilities for smooth process of sterilisation of simians.

The affidavit stated that entire cost of sterilisation and post sterilisation care would be met by the funds give by MoEF and there would not be any burden of Delhi government or civic agencies.

“The job of catching the monkeys, transporting them to animal hospital ear marked for sterilisation and then releasing them back to the same location would be done by the concerned civic agency under the supervision of enforcement committee headed by CWW,” it said.

It said that till the sterilisation process begins, the job of catching monkeys and releasing them in Asola Bhati Wildlife Sanctuary will be continued by the civic agencies as per the high court’s order.

The high court had earlier asked the Delhi government to come out with an alternative plan to reduce the increasing monkey population in the national capital if it was not finding any bidders for its tenders to sterilise the simians.