Supreme Court defers hearing on Delhi sealing drive to February

A Supreme Court bench, which revived the sealing drive in Delhi, on Tuesday said that it was a “mistake” to have transferred cases related to unauthorised construction from the high court to the apex court.

The bench is headed by Justice MB Lokur.

“We made a mistake,” the judge said while adjourning hearing on a batch of petitions challenging the validity of Delhi’s Master Plan-2021 to February 2019.

The bench, which also comprises Justice Deepak Gupta, ordered listing of the matter to next year, after additional solicitor general AS Nadkarni sought more time to finalize government response to Niti Aayog’s report saying that there will be no ground water in Delhi in 2020. Justice Madan Lokur retires in December this year.

Additional solicitor general AS Nadkarni has submitted documents telling the Centre was ready with its response but needed to make some more additions for which he needed two more weeks. The court then said let the matter come up in February, prompting advocate DN Goburdhan, counsel for Delhi Government, to speak. “But, it was this court that transferred all the matters from high court to here,” the lawyer said, wondering why the bench gave such a long date.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, who is assisting the bench in the matter, urged the judges to hear the matter on an earlier date, hinting that it may be listed before Justice Lokur retires. But, the bench refused to relent.

Justices Lokur and Gupta had revived the monitoring committee, constituted by the top court in 2006, and empowered them to start sealing illegal commercial establishments. Pursuant to court orders, the municipal corporations and the panel has taken action against encroachment and unauthorized premises in residential colonies.

Strong resistance to the sealing drive from traders had also forced the Centre to amend the Master Plan, giving protection to some of the commercial establishments. However, the amendment was stayed by the SC after the Centre failed to give reasons for the changes made. Later, the government formed a high-powered special task force comprising officials of various agencies to initiate a co-ordinated approach against encroachment.

“We cannot let Delhi go the way other cities are going and let it flood when there are heavy rains. Unauthorised construction takes a toll on the environment and affects sewage, parking and waste management,” the bench had said in December.

“Prima facie we feel the rule of law has been violated and it has a vital impact on environment in Delhi,” the bench said.

First Published: Aug 15, 2018 02:50 IST

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