Sealing Drive in Delhi: Supreme Court Seeks Reply from Officials

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Land & Development Office (L&DO) to respond on the allegations levelled by the court-appointed monitoring committee that officials were not cooperating in the sealing drive to “appease political leaders”.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra & Deepak Gupta granted the L&DO seven days’ time to file affidavit to make its stand clear on the court-monitored sealing drive against illegal & unauthorised constructions in Delhi. Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni, however, refuted the allegations & agreed to file affidavit.

In a scathing report, the panel told the court that L&DO was not cooperating in the sealing drive & stalling the process to “appease political leaders”. In a five-page report submitted before SC on the status of action taken against unauthorised buildings & removal of encroachment from public land, the committee said there is a wilful non-cooperation on the part of L&DO to frustrate the court’s mandate on sealing & sought intervention to direct the agency to carry out the drive.

The report said the committee had convened a meeting of Delhi Police, officers of MCD, L&DO & SDMC to chalk out plan to seal more than 300 premises in Amar Colony & June 25 was fixed as the date to carry out the operation. However, on the morning of June 25 a communication was received from L&DO saying operation had been deferred & sealing notice kept in abeyance on the ground that the constructions enjoyed protection under Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2011.

“From the sequence of events, the conduct of officials was to stall sealing at the last moment to appease political leaders,” the report added.

Authorities not proceeding with sealing drive: Monitoring Committee

New Delhi: A monitoring committee, which is mandated by the court to identify and seal unauthorised constructions in Delhi, today claimed in the Supreme Court that civic bodies have refused to carry out sealing drive on the ground that amendments in Master Plan of Delhi-2021 were not finalised yet.

Master Plan of Delhi-2021 is a blueprint for urban planning and expansion in the metropolis to ensure overall development and the proposed amendments are aimed at bringing a uniform floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential plots and complexes on par with residential plots.

FAR is the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land on which it is built.

The matter was mentioned before a vacation bench of justices U U Lalit and Deepak Gupta which said it would hear the issue on June 14.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, who is assisting the top court as an amicus curiae in the sealing matter, mentioned the issue before the bench and referred to the apex court’s May 15 order which had said that the monitoring committee would continue with its duties and responsibilities.

He placed before the bench a report of the monitoring committee and said that government authorities have said that since the amendment in the Master Plan of Delhi-2021 was not finalised, they would not allow sealing to go on.

Kumar said that on June 8, the monitoring committee had inspected some areas in South Delhi and asked authorities concerned of South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) to take action against some unauthorised structures.

“They (authorities) said we will not seal them,” he said.

To this, the bench asked him to serve the copy of the report to the counsel appearing for the Delhi government, the Union of India as well as SDMC and said that the matter would be heard on June 14.

Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, who is appearing for Delhi Development Authority (DDA) in the matter, said that he would inform the DDA about it.

The monitoring committee, comprising K J Rao, former advisor to the Election Commissioner; Bhure Lal, chairman of Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority; and Major General (Retd) Som Jhingan, was set up on March 24, 2006, by the top court.

The court had on May 24 rejected the Centre’s plea seeking modification of its order in which the DDA was asked to invite suggestions from the public on amending the Master Plan of Delhi-2021.

The top court had on May 15 accepted DDA’s action plan in which it had listed out steps including launching of an interactive website and a smart phone application to enable the public register their grievances regarding illegal constructions and given the authority 15 days time to make it operational.

The DDA had also proposed to fix responsibility on officials in cases of illegal construction activities in the national capital and violation of the master plan and building bye-laws.

In its five-page action plan, the DDA had earlier said that it intends to check all ongoing and future unauthorised constructions in the city under the supervision of a special task force which was constituted on April 25 following an apex court order.

The court had on March 6 stayed any “further progress” in amending the Master Plan of Delhi-2021 to protect unauthorised construction from ongoing sealing drive in the national capital, sternly observing that this ‘dadagiri’ (bullying tactics) must stop.

Delhi held to ransom by traders who protested against the sealing drive : Delhi High Court

 In an apparent disapproval of the government’s proposed amendment of the master plan after traders protested against the sealing drive, the Delhi High Court has observed that a few people have “held the city to ransom”.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar further observed that by sitting on a dharna “you can get the master plan changed”.

“Not because it is required nor after checking if the city can handle it. It is done because a few hundred people sit on a dharna.

“The master plan is being amended because the traders have held the city to ransom by pulling down their shutters,” it said and asked the authorities whether an environment impact assessment was conducted before proposing to amend the Master Plan-2021.

The Master Plan-2021 is a blueprint for urban planning and expansion in the metropolis to ensure overall development and the proposed amendments were for bringing a uniform floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential plots and complexes on par with residential plots.

The observations by the bench came while hearing matters pertaining to unauthorised constructions and encroachment of public land.

The traders, across Delhi, had on February 2 shut down their shops in protest against the sealing of commercial establishments running from residential areas or premises.

The Delhi Development Authority had, thereafter, proposed to amend the master plan by providing uniform FAR for shop- cum-residence plots or complexes on par with residential plots, as given to properties on mixed-use street.

The FAR is the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land on which it is built.

The Supreme Court had earlier observed that the rule of law over sanction to construct buildings had “completely broken down” in Delhi and expressed concern over illegal construction.

It had also ordered restoration of its 2006 monitoring committee to identify and seal such offending structures.

With the commencement of the sealing drive, the traders had protested by shutting their shops as well as going on dharnas.