The Supreme Court, on March 6, 2018, took strong exception to the non-filing of affidavits by the Delhi government, the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and municipal corporations of Delhi (MCDs), on whether an environment impact assessment was conducted, before proposing amendments to the city’s Master Plan, despite the court’s February 9, 2018 direction.
A bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta, observed that the authorities were ‘not bothered’ and were not filing affidavits despite the court’s order. “This is contempt, nothing short of contempt. This ‘dadagiri’ (bullying behaviour) has to stop,” the bench said, adding, “You are appearing before the Supreme Court of this country and you are saying as if you can do anything and you do not have to file a reply.”
The Master Plan-2021 is a blueprint for urban planning and expansion in the metropolis, to ensure overall development and the proposed 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.
During the hearing, the top court also discharged BJP MLA Om Prakash Sharma and municipal councillor Gunjan Gupta, against whom it had earlier issued show cause notices for contempt, for allegedly obstructing the authorities from carrying out the sealing drive. The bench said it has gone through the CD containing video footage of the protest and it appeared that Sharma and Gupta were not obstructing the authorities but only discussing the matter, to convince them that sealing should not be done. However, the bench took umbrage to the derogatory language being used in the video footage and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal being insulted by the protestors. “You cannot insult the prime minister and any chief minister, just because they are not from your political party. You must show respect to them,” the bench said.
During the hearing, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the sealing matter, referred to the February 9, 2018 order and said the court had framed nine issues and asked the authorities to file their affidavits but nobody has filed it yet. “They (authorities) are not bothered. Why should they bother? People of Delhi can die,” the bench said, adding, “We will stay the amendment in the Master Plan of Delhi. We will say no need for amendment”.
When the counsel representing one of the authorities sought two week’ time to file an affidavit, the bench shot back, “You take as much time you like. In the meantime, this (proposed amendment) will not be implemented. Accordingly, we have no option but to accept whatever has been suggested by the amicus and conclude that none of the requirements recorded in the order dated February 9, 2018 have been fulfilled, by any of these authorities. That being the position, further progress in the amendment of the Master Plan is stayed,” it said.
The apex court had earlier said that any interference in the functioning of the committee would amount to contempt. It had said that the rule of law over sanction to construct buildings had ‘completely broken down’ and expressed concern over illegal constructions. It had also ordered restoration of its monitoring panel, to identify and seal offending structures. The committee, comprising KJ Rao, former advisor to the Election Commission, Bhure Lal, chairman of the Environment Pollution Control Authority and major general (retd) Som Jhingan, was set up on March 24, 2006, by the apex court.