The Supreme Court, on May 15, 2018, asked the centre to give a 15-day window, to consider objections to the proposed amendments to the Master Plan of Delhi (MPD) and take a final call, after considering all aspects. A bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Navin Sinha, also asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to advertise in leading dailies, on three consecutive days, the action plan placed before it for monitoring of all construction activities and fixing responsibility in cases of violation of the MPD and the building byelaws.
During the hearing, the bench sought to know from attorney general KK Venugopal, who appeared for the DDA, whether the government officials would be placed under suspension, if they failed to perform their duty and unauthorised constructions come up in areas under their jurisdiction. The AG sought some time to take instruction on the issue, after which the court posted the matter for hearing on May 17, 2018. Venugopal placed the action plan before the bench and said strong action would be taken, if it was found that unauthorised constructions have come up in an area due to the connivance of public servants. At this, the bench observed, “There is a garbage dump of around 68 metres high and you are not able to do anything about it. Wherever you want to take the garbage, people are objecting. The situation is irreversible. There is no water, so people cannot drink water. There is pollution, so people cannot breathe and there is garbage. Where is the city going?”
Venugopal, while referring to the action plan, said the authorities were taking steps on a ‘war footing’, to deal with the situation and a ‘tight system’ would be put in place.
He said an interactive website, along with a smartphone application, would be launched by the special task force (STF) set up to oversee the enforcement of laws on unauthorised constructions in Delhi, to facilitate the public to register their complaints on unauthorised constructions being carried out. The bench told the AG that the mobile phone application should be made operational within 15 days.
Venugopal referred to corruption in DDA and said the action plan aimed at curbing it and the persons responsible in the department, would be held accountable for any unauthorised construction in their respective areas. “Will you suspend such officials immediately? This does not take us anywhere. One can understand if you say that the official would be suspended immediately but you are not saying that,” the bench asked, adding, “If you are presuming that the official is in connivance, the least you can do is to suspend the official.”
Referring to the proposed amendments, Venugopal said the DDA was trying to remove all roadblocks, so that things could move smoothly and the centre, at the ‘highest level’, was also concerned about all this.
The bench then asked whether big malls in the national capital had taken prior environmental clearances, before starting the construction. “If they do not have it (clearance), they have to go and they cannot be regularised,” additional solicitor general ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the centre, told the bench.
Venugopal sought modification of the March 6, 2018 order, staying further progress in the amendment proposed in MPD and said it had created a ‘lot of problems’ and the court should rectify the order, so that amendments could be carried out. He referred to the concept of separation of powers and said that a statutory authority cannot be prohibited from framing a law and after passing of a legislation, the apex court might examine it judicially. “Please allow them to carry on with it. This is in nature of a law which governs the rights of building owners. This would be a very important law. Separation of powers requires the court to allow them to carry out the necessary work related to it,” he said, adding that the court should give them some leeway. He referred to the issue of migration to Delhi and said there was a tremendous overflow of population in the national capital and human life was involved in the matter. “These are matters which should be left to the executive. It is their jurisdiction. Please lift the embargo,” he said.
The bench asked the centre to publish in newspapers, the notification issued on the constitution of the STF, so that people and stakeholders are aware of their responsibility. The amendments are aimed at bringing a uniform floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential plots and complexes, on par with residential plots. FAR is the ratio of a building’s total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land on which it is built. The apex court had on March 6, 2018, stayed any further progress in amending the MPD 2021 to protect unauthorised construction from the ongoing sealing drive in Delhi, sternly observing that this ‘dadagiri’ (bullying tactics) must stop.