The Supreme Court today castigated Delhi’s civic authorities for “keeping their eyes closed” and waiting for disaster to happen, questioning the DDA on its proposals to change the city’s Master Plan 2021. Hearing a matter related to sealing in Delhi, the apex court said it appeared that the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) was “succumbing to some pressure”. “Everybody in Delhi is just keeping their eyes closed and waiting for disaster to happen. You (civic bodies) have learnt nothing from Uphaar fire tragedy and incidents in Bawana and Kamala Mills,” a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said. The DDA recently proposed bringing uniform floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residence plots and complexes at par with residential plots, a move that would come as a big relief to traders facing the threat of sealing. FAR is the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built.
During the hearing, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, who was appearing for some of the petitioners, said the DDA had recently proposed changes in the Master Plan. “What about the people who are staying in Delhi?” the bench asked DDA. “You have to hear the people also. You cannot hear only some people,” it said. The bench referred to the ongoing illegal constructions in Delhi and asked, “Are you (DDA) looking after the interest of the people of Delhi or not?” Stressing that there has to be rule of law, the court said Delhi was grappling with several problems like waste management, pollution and parking. “Twenty out of 13 most polluted cities of the world are in India. Delhi is perhaps the most polluted. I do not know what civic authorities are doing in Delhi,” Justice Lokur observed.
The bench directed the DDA to file an affidavit within two weeks, indicating the changes it proposes in Master Plan 2021. The DDA’s proposals are expected to come as a big relief to traders, who have been seeking uniform FAR, as several properties have been sealed by the civic bodies recently. Civic bodies in north, south and central Delhi have been carrying out sealing drives. It started in December last year with action against more than 50 shops in Defence Colony Market at the instance of a Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee. The apex court had observed on January 31 that the mandate given to its monitoring committee to oversee implementation of laws relating to the sealing of illegal premises in Delhi does not mean that other authorities would not do their work.
The court made the observation while hearing the pleas by traders of a marble market in south Delhi where South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) had carried out sealing drive as per the direction of the monitoring committee. The apex court had earlier observed that the rule of law over sanction to construct buildings had “completely broken down” in Delhi and expressed concern over illegal construction.
It had also ordered restoration of its 2006 monitoring committee to identify and seal such offending structures. The monitoring committee, comprising K J Rao, former advisor to the Election Commissioner, Bhure Lal, Chairman, EPCA and Major General (Retd) Som Jhingan, was set up on March 24, 2006, by the apex court.