SC Mandates Sealing Of Residential Units Used For Commercial Reasons Without Licence
The sealing drive in the national capital is set to intensify. Reprimanding the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and other civic agencies for not taking prohibitive action against misuse of residential premises, the Supreme Court (SC) has now directed authorities to seal properties in Delhi that are being used for commercial activities without a license. Such homeowners would be given 48 hours to produce the relevant documents.
An estimated 56,000 properties are being misused and the SC Bench comprising of M M Shantanagoudar and S Abdul Nazeer said, “From 2006 onwards, the DDA and the municipal corporations of Delhi have not done anything and that is why we are facing these problems.”
The SC also pulled up the Centre for not intimating them about the survey conducted in south Delhi.
The story so far
Local shopping complexes (LSCs) across Delhi have been on the radar. On April 27, a circular from the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee to the civic agencies read: “The LSCs, under the jurisdiction of the New Delhi Municipal Council and south, east and north Delhi municipal corporations, violating the standard building plan, be sealed immediately.”
LSC’s in Sunder Nagar, South Extension-I (D block), Shankar Road Market in New Rajinder Nagar, Green Park Market, Rajouri Garden and Hauz Khas, that had violated building norms have already been sealed over the past few months. In most cases, residential units in these localities were being used for commercial purposes. Some of the buildings were also built flouting floor area ratio (FAR) norms while others had failed to pay conversion charges.
Adhering to the SC panel’s advice, zonal deputy commissioners with the support of police would help plan the drive in force.
Amid the uproar over a sealing drive, the Centre has also proposed to constitute a Special Task Force (STF) to look into unauthorised constructions and violations in the national capital. On April 3, the apex court had pulled up the Centre, asking it to figure out a way to provide relief to traders who had taken to the streets to protest the ongoing sealing without going easy against illegal constructions.
According to the Centre, the STF would identify encroachments on government land, suggest the course of action on unauthorised colonies and oversee effective and proper enforcement of applicable laws by local bodies. The STF would also take immediate action regarding removal or demolition of encroachment and unauthorised constructions on public roads, streets, footpaths, pavements, parks or public space and act against erring officials in any local body.
Meanwhile, the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has been bringing down illegal encroachments in areas within its jurisdiction such as Khari Baoli market, Kingsway Camp, Peera Garhi, Udyog Nagar and Nangloi. Last week, temporary encroachments measuring 800 sqmt was removed between Mukarba Chowk to Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar (SGTN).
Just by removing vehicles from no-parking zones, the NDMC was able to collect Rs 62 lakh as fine between September 2017 to early this year.
In the meantime
The SC has said that commercial establishments such as restaurants and showrooms should not be allowed to operate within residential areas. It also noticed that the pressure of such showrooms could also lead to immense water crisis while pointing out that the groundwater level in Delhi had already depleted.
"These showrooms and restaurants cannot continue in residential areas unless you want to put citizens of Delhi in danger of fire," the SC observed while referring to the lack of fire safety clearances for such eateries.
“Profit motive is not at all important. Health is more important than profit. Life of future generation is very, very important. What we have suffered, we have suffered but that does not give the right to anybody to put the life of children and future generation in danger,” it added further.
Delhi amid protests
In the past three to four months, traders have staged protests and have called for day-long strikes multiple times. The “complete breakdown” of law and order, as the SC puts it, is clearly a failure on the part of the Centre to stop illegal constructions.
The sealing drive by three municipal bodies in Delhi started after a monitoring committee appointed by the apex court found commercial centres to have violated clauses related to usage of space and several other offences. Now, traders expect the apex court to bring about a change in the law or defer the sealing drive, considering the move affects the livelihood of many.
Apart from rebuking the Centre for its failure to stop these protests, SC also reprimanded it for letting illegal construction mushroom. When the Centre’s advocate blamed the creating of unauthorised colonies on immigrants, the SC was nothing but curt in excoriating it.
According to the government, over 1,400 unauthorised colonies have crept up in the national capital in the last few years. Six lakh families inhabit these colonies, although there is no official data confirming the same. The SC pulled up the Centre, saying it should have come up with concrete data, considering it was directed to do so in Parliament in 2006. Twelve years later, the Centre is still unable to provide any clarity.
“From 2006 to 2018, you are still under the process? Do you not have any data? You had told Parliament in 2006 that you will take some time to give data and 12-year after that, you are telling is that you do not have the data (sic),” the SC noted.
“Is this the way you are playing with the lives of the people of Delhi? People of Delhi are not relevant for you at all,” the SC observed.
Affected traders almost got some relief after the three municipal corporations sought to resolve the issue by seeking a six-month stay on the drive recently. It was also proposed in the state Assembly that changes should be made in the Delhi Master Plan 2021 to provide relief to traders. However, the relief was only temporary. On March 8, over 500 shops were again sealed.
With inputs from Housing News