Stop illegal construction: SC to DDA
Terming DDA as “Delhi Destruction Authority”, the Supreme Court on Monday asked it not to succumb to pressure, a likely allusion to political efforts to halt sealings, by amending the city’s Master Plan in haste without due consultations with all stakeolders.
Though it did not stop the DDA from its current moves to alter the Master Pan and allow changes in the FAR (floor area ratio) and slash penalties, the SC sternly observed that DDA should not allow rampant unauthorised constructions with no basic amenities, which are destroying the national capital.
“There is rule of law and you cannot give freedom to people to violate law,” the court said, asking DDA to act tough against people who were constructing buildings in violation of the law, adding that its hopes of purposeful government action have been belied.
A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said DDA must also hold consultations with residents and resident welfare associations (RWAs) before taking any decision, an indication that changes in the Master Plan may take longer than envisaged by the civic body which has acted in concert with the ministry for housing and urban affairs.
Authorities waiting for disaster to happen: SC
The court slammed the Authority for allowing illegal construction to go on for years.
It said all authorities in the city kept their eyes closed and the national capital was being ravaged by its own citizens and government officials who had allowed unauthorised constructions and misuse of residential premises for industrial and other commercial purposes over the years.
“Everybody (authorities) is keeping their eyes closed. They are waiting for some disaster to happen in the city. They have not learnt lessons from Uphaar and Bawana fire tragedy,” the bench said.
The court’s ire stemmed from the inaction of various central authorities, principally DDA, in not moving to draw up norms and impose older ones after sealing drives that began in 2006.
Instead, the previous UPA and current NDA governments have chosen the expedient solution of a legislation, renewed every three years, protecting properties from sealings and demolitions. DDA’s counsel told the bench that the authority has proposed to change the Master Plan to provide relief to traders hit by the ongoing sealing drive. In the meeting chaired by Lt Governor Anil Baijal, DDA approved the proposal to give uniform floor area ratio (FAR) in shop-cum-residential plots on a par with residential plots, reduce penalty on nonpayment of conversion charges from 10 times to twice the amount and allow commercial activities in basements.
However, the proposed changes are subject to availability of parking and statutory clearances, including fire, structural safety and building bylaws’ compliance.
The authority submitted that it was committed to protect the city and it had sought response from people on the amendment in the Master Plan.
The bench, however, insisted that DDA give wide publicity of its proposal to seek response from common people and RWAs before taking any final decision. “What about RWAs and the people who are staying in Delhi? You have to hear them also. You cannot hear only some people. Are you for the interest of Delhi’s residents or not?” the bench asked DDA. The sealing drive was revived in January after the SC allowed court-appointed monitoring committee to identify and seal illegal premises.
The apex court had in March 2006 ordered sealing of all unauthorised constructions and appointed a monitoring committee which was given the task to conduct and monitor the actions.
The committee comprised former advisor of Election Commission K J Rao, Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) chairman Bhure Lal and Major General Som Jhingan. The court had also directed sealing of those residential premises which were used for commercial purposes.
The sealing drive went on till January 2012 when the court asked the committee not to proceed further as the government had brought in force the 2021 Master Plan for regularising some of the illegal constructions.
But the committee was asked to keep filing reports on the status of unauthorised construction in the city. After going through committee reports which project a grim picture of unauthorised constructions, the court expressed concern over lack of government action. “On January 3, 2012, this court expected that the authorities in Delhi would carry out their statutory duties and therefore passed an order to the effect that the monitoring committee shall not further seal any premises. The hope and trust seems to have been belied as is apparent from the reading of the reports,” the bench had said.