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Delhi Sealing Drive: The Apex Court Lashes Out at the Centre “You Can’t Go On Destroying Delhi”

The centre and the concerning authorities faced the heat of the Supreme Court for their failure to take proper action against Delhi sealing. Continuous protests and dharnas by traders against the sealing drive led to a complete breakdown of law and order in the national capital.

The 2006 Delhi sealing drive was a campaign run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to close (and hence”seal” the locks of) several illegal business establishments in Delhi as they are using residential areas for commercial purposes without any authorization and paying conversion charges. The top court has continuously reprimanded the government for not properly conducting the drive. The monitoring committee consisted of KJ Rao, former advisor to the Election Commissioner, Bhure Lal, Chairman, EPCA and Major General (Retd) Som Jhingan.

The sealing drive in Delhi is being run by the MCDs which are being ruled by the BJP. The government is, thus, being seriously criticized by the court and being questioned by a bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta for the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislation which gives protection to unauthorized construction from being sealed.

Their inability to perform their duties has led to situations that got termed as a “very serious issue” concerning governance. Additional Solicitor General (ASG) ANS Nadkarni represented the government before the committee and was asked to justify their stand extending their support to the laws safeguarding unauthorized constructions.

Mr. Nadkarni tried giving some reasons concerning the situation like it was due to massive immigration in Delhi leading to a huge gap between demand and supply. He also provided figures stating there were around 1,400 unauthorized colonies, housing about six lakh families and that data collection process is still going. These explanations were, however, forthright dismissed by the bench saying their failure is causing sufferance to the people of Delhi.

The bench further stated that the government is failing to implement the law miserably as everytime actions are taken, there are strikes and political disturbances across the union territory. The bench, representing the court, seem to not take into consideration any sort of lame excuses as the sealing drive which started in 2006 has still not witnessed success.
The centre defending themselves made a reference to the fact that some amendment proposals have been made by them for the Master Plan of Delhi-2021. The Delhi Master Plan 2021 permits a mixed land use policy under which commercial and residential establishments can operate simultaneously, albeit, in a restricted manner and it aims at providing some relief to the traders in Delhi.

During the questioning session, Mr. Nadkarni said that any illegal construction including any establishments on public lands, except for slums and JJ clusters, after January 1, 2006 are not being protected under the law. The bench made it clear saying it is not concerned at all with the slums or JJ clusters and that it would deal with regularization of unauthorized colonies other than these two.

The bench also enquired if there were facilities and infrastructures like sewage, drainage, parking, green areas, schools in such unauthorised colonies and if the residents settled there were making tax payments. The spokesperson of the centre in this matter need to appear again before the bench and produce the relevant documents and posted the matter for hearing the following day. The court is now firming its grip on the centre over the Delhi sealing issue.

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