A 75-year-old woman’s four-decade wait for an alternative shop in lieu of the one demolished during the Emergency may soon come to an end with the Delhi High Court coming down heavily on the DDA for the delay and directing it to allot the store. While noting that the DDA took an unreasonable stand and did not empathise with the family’s situation, the court imposed a cost of Rs 50,000 on the agency for causing enormous mental agony and harassment to the woman, Kamla Sahni.
Justice Prathiba M Singh noted that all other members of the society who had shops at the cycle market at Esplanade Road in Chandni Chowk have been allotted alternative shops, except the plaintiff. “The DDA has in fact committed contempt of orders of this court, and also has deliberately misled the court in the suit proceedings,” the judge said. During Emergency between 1975 and 1977, several shops in the cycle market on Esplanade Road were demolished and one such Shop no. 57 was allotted to Suraj Balram Sahni and alternative shops were offered by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to owners of the shops.
After his death, the shop fell in the share of one of his sons Ram Gopal Sahni who also passed away during the pendency of the suit when the DDA was involved in various technical objections and internal policies. The court lamented that the history of this case aptly exemplifies the fate of a common citizen who has to deal with public authorities and even 40 years after demolition of the shop, the struggle of the family continues. It noted that the DDA has resiled from almost every statement it made before courts over the years and its officers have made “palpably false statements” in the court.
“The plaintiff is entitled, as a matter of right, to an alternative allotment. It was for no fault of the plaintiff that the shop was demolished. The allotment of the alternative plot/ shop has been delayed for more than four decades,” the court said. It added that the DDA’s conduct of not replying to any of the representations of the family was “unacceptable” and there was no reason why the family should not be allotted the shop at Jhandewalan cycle market. It dismissed the appeal of the DDA challenging the trial court’s order directing the agency to transfer rights of the shop at Jhandewalan market to the family.
The high court said the amount which was ordered by the trial court has been deposited by the family with the DDA and directed the agency to allot a shop vacant at Jhandewalan cycle market to the plaintiff’s wife Kamal Sahni within four weeks from the date of the order. The high court noted that initially, the DDA allotted a shop to the family at Janakpuri and asked it to deposit the money which they did. Later, the agency decided to allot a shop-cum-godown to them in Jhandewalan market and demanded money for it which was also paid, the plaint said, adding that when no allotment was done, the family approached the court.