The top court came down heavily on the Centre and other authorities for their "failure" to do their job, saying due to this, such a situation has arisen and termed it a "very serious issue" concerning governance.
There is a “complete breakdown” of law and order in Delhi, the Supreme Court said, expressing anguish over the strikes and ‘dharnas’ against the ongoing sealing drive in the national capital. The top court came down heavily on the Centre and other authorities for their “failure” to do their job, saying due to this, such a situation has arisen and termed it a “very serious issue” concerning governance. A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked searching questions to the Centre over the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protects unauthorised construction from being sealed. “You cannot go on destroying Delhi. There has to be some reason,” the bench told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A N S Nadkrani, appearing for the Centre. “Tell us that there will be no ‘dharnas’ in Delhi. There is a complete breakdown of law and order in Delhi,” the bench said, while asking the Centre to justify its stand supporting the laws which protects unauthorised constructions.
Nadkarni said there were lakhs of immigrants in Delhi due to which there was a gap between demand and supply and there were around 1,400 unauthorised colonies, housing around six lakh families. However, the top court took exception to the fact that no official data and figures were available on record regarding the number of such people residing in such colonies and unauthorised structures. “Government and its bodies are not doing their jobs. This is an admission of failure by you that ‘I have failed to do my job, so please help us’,” the bench observed, adding, “this is a very serious issue. It is a matter of governance and people of Delhi are suffering because you are not doing your job”.
The court also raised the issue of “repeated temporary statutes” and asked whether it can be done like this. “Everytime you tell Parliament that extend it for one more year. Can you go on like this? Please look into this, otherwise you are befooling Parliament.” The court also sought to know what action has been taken on unauthorised constructions which were not protected under the law. “You can make a statement today that any unauthorised construction after January 1, 2006 will be sealed,” the bench said, adding hundreds of such colonies have come up after over the years. “You do not implement your law and when we say do it, then there are strikes and all,” it said.
When the ASG said that strikes against the sealing drive were “wrong”, the bench said, “we do not know what is right or wrong, but this is happening”. As the ASG referred to the Master Plan of Delhi-2021, the bench asked as to when these unauthorised colonies started to come up in Delhi. When Nadkarni told the court that the process of data collection was going on, the bench shot back, “from 2006 to 2018, you are still under the process? You do not have any data? You had told the 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”.
The Centre, while saying that it would come up with the data, told the court that there was a phenomenal increase of population here and they have proposed amendment to the Master Plan of Delhi-2021. The bench referred to the laws protecting unauthorised constructions here and asked the ASG if the orders passed by the top court in this matter have been “nullified”. “No. Court orders cannot be nullified,” he said, adding, “the Supreme Court’s orders stand”. He said that except for slums and JJ clusters, other encroachments on public lands have not been protected and anything illegal constructed after January 1, 2006 was also not protected under these laws. However, the bench said it was not concerned with the slums or JJ clusters. “According to you, was there any unauthorised colony between March 31, 2002 to January 1, 2006? If yes, what action did you take to prevent coming up of these unauthorised colonies?,” the bench asked. “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 bench observed. When the ASG raised the issue of regularisation of unauthorised colonies, the bench said it would deal with colonies other than JJ clusters and slums.
During the hearing, the bench also sought to know whether there were facilities and infrastructures like sewage, drainage, parking, green areas, schools in unauthorised colonies here and whether the residents there were paying the taxes. It asked the Centre to tell us what it proposes to do to deal with the issue and show the relevant documents and posted the matter for hearing tomorrow.
Earlier in the day, an advocate, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter, urged the court to defer the hearing but the bench said it would examine the issue today and hear arguments on the validity of the laws protecting unauthorised constructions here. The apex court had earlier 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 in March 24, 2006, by the court.