New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday lambasted the government for legalising the illegalities perpetuated so far by protecting illegal construction and now letting the traders hold the capital to ransom by their agitation against the sealing drive.
The apex court took strong exception to the protests and ‘dharnas’ by the traders and pulled up the Centre for protecting them by “holding 186 lakh people of Delhi to ransom".
“These people are saying that we have done something illegal, but please protect us. ‘Dharnas’ by the traders are admission of their guilt. Innocent people do not go on ‘dharnas’. That is why they are doing ‘dharnas’. What can be more arbitrary than this," a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
“Illegalities have been perpetuated and are now being legalised ... this is destruction," the bench said. It came down heavily on the government for extending protection to unauthorised constructions, saying it was like telling the whole country that “it is free for all".
The court told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A.N.S. Nadkrani, appearing for the Centre, that “you have to realise that people of Delhi are important, whether you are Delhi Development Authority (DDA), government, municipal corporation of Delhi (MCDs) or any other agency."
The top court also said there was rampant encroachment in Delhi and in the unauthorised colonies, there were no green areas, sewage, drainage facilities, parking and the innocent citizens were suffering due to all this.
“There will be eight to 10 lakh traders in Delhi. To protect them, you are holding 186 lakh people to ransom. It cannot be done. At Ghazipur and Bhalswa, you have garbage pile up of 60 metres. You have water shortage, you have huge traffic problem, huge problem of breathing air and pollution.
“What for? For the sake of traders? For protecting them and protecting their illegalities? Not only this generation, but it will have effect on the coming generations also," the court said, adding that the local bodies were “sleeping" in the matter and there was lot of corruption as well.
Nadkarni, while maintaining that ‘dharnas’ by the traders were not right, said the central government has become a villain. “Certainly, the central government has become a villain. It is not that the central government is to be blamed for it. It is a failure of system as a whole," he said.
To this, the bench said the government would have to send a “tough message" and rule of law has to be there. “The culture and heritage will go. Nothing will be left for the future if this is not done," the court said, adding that the government has not done anything for the past 10 years to deal with the situation.
“Do you have any plans or you just want these traders to hold the city to ransom," it asked, as Nadkarni responded saying, “we just want to have a solution for it".
When the ASG raised the issue of a plan to regularise the unauthorised colonies in Delhi, the bench shot back, “you cannot regularise something which is totally not in accordance with law. You can regularise those which are in accordance with law".
The court also sought to know from the Centre what its plan was for unauthorised construction for commercial activities and said those who have committed illegalities cannot be protected just because they have invested money. “What about those who are innocent people? They are suffering. Have you told the local bodies that you better do your jobs. They are sleeping. There is lot of corruption," it said.
Nadkarni gave the data on the number of unauthorised colonies in Delhi and said that as per 2012 figure, there were around 895 unauthorised colonies having built up area of more than 50%. However, the bench questioned the government for repeated temporary statutes on the issue and said if this “goes on and on, it will perhaps be a fraud".
When the ASG argued on the issue of rehabilitating the jhuggi-jhonpri (JJ) clusters and the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, the bench said the government was supposed to do development in around 55 JJ clusters in Delhi but nothing has been done.
The ASG said the protection granted to JJ clusters would have to be continued since the people residing there were from the weaker sections. When Nadkarni referred to the written note filed by the Centre today, the court said, “sum and substance of this is that you are not doing anything and will not do anything till 2020. You are doing nothing. Zero from 2006 at least."
The bench, which posted the matter for further hearing tomorrow, wanted to know what steps have been taken to remove encroachments in Delhi. The apex court had yesterday observed that there was a “complete breakdown" of law and order in Delhi and expressed anguish over the strikes and ‘dharnas’ against the sealing drive.
It is hearing arguments on the validity of the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protects unauthorised construction from being sealed. The apex court had earlier ordered restoration of its 2006 monitoring committee to identify and seal such offending structures.