Earlier, MLAs Rituraj Govind, Nitin Tyagi, and Saurabh Bharadwaj started a short discussion on ‘problems being faced by people of Delhi due to the sealing of commercial estates and the urgent need for appropriate legislation by the parliament to provide relaxation’.
The sealing drive, which has been underway on the directions of the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee, has assumed political overtones in Delhi with the 2019 Lok Sabha and the 2020 assembly polls drawing nearer.
The Supreme Court has termed the situation existing in Delhi as ‘not reversible,’ saying the authorities would have to make all out efforts to face with numerous problems like pollution, water crisis and traffic congestion in the national capital
May 4, 2018: The Supreme Court, on May 3, 2018, while hearing a matter relating to the sealing of unauthorised constructions in Delhi, observed that it was perhaps late to improve the situation but the authorities, including the Delhi government, would have to take all steps in a positive manner.
“Perhaps, the situation has become irreversible. Pollution, water, Yamuna water level and traffic congestion, we are having problems. Perhaps it is too late. Maybe it is irreversible. If efforts are made, things will improve. It cannot be done at the speed of light but at least you can start,” a bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
“The government of Delhi also has to take steps positively. Everybody has to move,” the bench observed. The apex court asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to consider these aspects in a positive way.
The apex court also questioned the DDA, as to whether they have made any other plan, in case the apex court strikes down the laws protecting unauthorised constructions from being sealed.
It said the amendments in the Master Plan of Delhi-2021 could become meaningless, if these are struck down by the apex court. The bench, which had earlier stayed any further progress in amending the Master Plan 2021, also said that the proposed amendments relating to the floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential plots and complexes, might lead to further constructions.
Floor area ratio 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.
“You (DDA) have to keep in mind the fact that the amendments that are under challenge from 2006, all that can be struck down. There is a possibility. You cannot say that you will deal with it when the court strikes it down. You must have another plan ready. The court also said if FAR was increased, huge constructions could come up in Delhi and the DDA cannot wish it away.
At the outset, additional solicitor general (ASG) ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the centre, told the bench that the special task force (STF), which would oversee enforcement of laws to deal with unauthorised constructions and encroachments in Delhi, has been constituted and it has started taking action against encroachments on public land.
The bench, however, observed that the STF was taking action against the poor people like tea stall owners on the pavements but not against those who were rich. “There are huge rooms for security guards, outside the big bungalows, on the pavements. Why are you not taking action against them?” the bench asked Nadkarni, who said ‘this is just the beginning’.
The discussion also took exception to the DDA giving only three days, for inviting objections from the public before the proposed amendments to the Master Plan.
“You are saying that three days is reasonable. We accept it but you seek four to six weeks to file an affidavit. When it comes to the citizens, you say three days are enough but when it comes to the government, you say six weeks is not enough,” the bench said and referred to the rules which stipulate 90 days’ time for inviting objections.
The top court also questioned the proposed amendment regarding floor area ratio and asked why there cannot be a status quo on it. Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, assisting the court as an amicus curiae, raised the issue of lack of environmental impact assessment, before proposing to amend the Master Plan. The bench asked the DDA to file a tabular chart, giving details as to what the rules were and what was the amendment proposed and posted the matter for hearing on May 8, 2018.