While admitting that Delhi faces a severe crisis due to illegal and unauthorised constructions, additional solicitor general A N S Nadkarni, however, said the Centre could not be blamed for it entirely and that the Delhi government, DDA and municipal bodies are equally responsible for the prevailing situation.
Elaborating its directions, the bench said, "We are not looking at small traders and we are not touching slum dwellers and residents of jhuggi-jhopri (clusters). We are looking at people who are running five-star restaurants and big showrooms from residential colonies. These are people creating problems as they are running their businesses illegally and without following any of the norms, including the safety norms. We saw what happened in the Kamala Mills fire tragedy (in Mumbai)."
The court said commercial complexes in the city had grown alarmingly and it is creating problems of traffic congestion and pollution. "Our lungs are already damaged due to pollution and lungs of children would also suffer because the Centre is not doing anything. You (Centre) have the power but you are not exercising that power. The Centre can turn a blind eye towards these problems but we cannot," the bench said.
Facing the heat for protecting unauthorised construction in Delhi for more than a decade, the Centre assured the court that "affluent people" will not be protected for running their businesses from residential premises and such shops could be demolished, if needed. Nadkarni pleaded that the apex court should monitor the sealing and demolition drive as it will ensure that all authorities work harmoniously. The Centre assured the court that it would sit with all the authorities concerned to find a solution to the problem and sought time to frame a holistic and comprehensive plan.
Advocate A D N Rao, who is assisting the court as amicus curiae, said police were not providing protection to the monitoring committee which is conducting the sealing drive in the city.
He said it was not possible for the committee to carry out the task as residents were opposing the drive. Nadkarni, however, assured that police security would be provided to members of the committee.
The apex court had, in March 2006, ordered the sealing of all unauthorised constructions in the city and appointed a monitoring committee which was given the task to conduct and monitor the sealing drive. The committee comprised former Election Commission adviser K J Rao, Environment Pollution Control Authority chairman Bhure Lal and Maj Gen Som Jhingan. The court had also directed sealing of those residential premises which were used for commercial purposes.
The sealing drive went on till January 2012 when the court asked the committee not to proceed further as the government had brought in force Master Plan 2021 for regularising some of the illegal constructions. But the apex court, in December last year, revived the committee and directed it to resume sealing, saying the authorities were protecting the vested interests of those with little or no respect for the rule of law and also stayed the amendment in Master Plan 2021 which allowed mixed land use.