The Supreme Court Thursday said it was “unfortunate” that even after 14 years of setting up a monitoring committee to stop illegal industrial units in Delhi, around 5,000 of them were still operating in residential areas. The committee, headed by Chief Secretary of Delhi, assured the bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta that such illegal units will be sealed within 15 days. The court noted that the committee had said in its report that all such industrial units which were illegally running in either residential and non-conforming areas, would be closed down within 15 days and their electricity and water connection disconnected.
The committee, in its report filed in the top court, also said that 15,888 illegal units were closed down till August this year. “It is unfortunate that even after 14 years have gone by, the concerned authorities, chief secretary, commissioner of police, commissioners of municipal corporations and vice chairman of Delhi Development Authority (DDA) have not been able to close down these illegal units,” the bench said.
“Now, it is stated that needful will be done in 15 days,” the bench noted in its order. The monitoring committee, constituted in pursuance to a 2004 order of the apex court, comprises of the chief secretary of Delhi, the commissioner of Delhi Police, the commissioners of municipal corporations of Delhi and the vice chairman of DDA. In its report, the committee has said that if the 21,960 industrial units, which were allotted alternative plots for shifting from residential and non-conforming areas, have not closed down from residential areas, they would be sealed within 15 days.
The bench has listed the matter for hearing on November 26 and has asked the committee to ensure that its decision to seal these industrial units within 15 days was complied with. It also asked the committee to file a progress report on compliance of the decision taken by them in this regard on September 13.
During the arguments, the counsel representing the panel said the three municipal corporations have been asked to identify those industrial units which were earlier allotted plots to shift from residential areas but were still operating from there. The lawyer said that the civic agencies and DDA have been asked to carry out a comprehensive survey in this regard within two months and these bodies would review the situation fortnightly.
“You (court) will soon find that no industry will be running in the residential areas,” the counsel said. Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the Delhi sealing matter, told the bench that despite being allotted alternative plots in industrial areas, several such units were still operating from residential area.
During the hearing, the bench also dealt with the matter regarding issuance of advance notice of sealing to defaulters. Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, said the apex court had earlier said that 48 hour notice be given to such defaulters while the court-appointed monitoring committee on sealing has said that it should not be given. The ASG also said that as per the relevant statute, 15 days notice has to be given to the defaulters.
“If somebody is misusing the premises and you give them 48 hours notice, he will remove it within 48 hours,” the bench observed while questioning the ASG as to why 48 hours advance notice be given before taking action against unauthorised and illegal constructions. Nadkarni told the court that defaulters “cannot play with the law” and once a notice was given, it was enough for the authorities to take action against illegal constructions.
“It cannot work like that,” the bench said. The bench then referred to the issue of pre-natal sex determination diagnostic centres and said “nobody was caught” for these acts as once they were issued advance notice, such persons used to remove all the machines from the centres. The ASG told the court that discussions have taken place on this issue and he would file an affidavit in this regard.
The bench asked him to file affidavit on agreed procedure for issuance of notice and posted the matter for hearing on October 23. The monitoring committee on sealing, comprising K J Rao, former advisor to the Election Commissioner; Bhure Lal, chairman of Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority; and Major General (Retd) Som Jhingan, was set up on March 24, 2006, by the top court. The court is also seized of the issue related to validity of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protect unauthorised construction from being sealed.