Over 2,200 kilometres of streets and footpaths have been encroached upon in the national capital, whose length is almost like travelling from to Kanyakumari, the Supreme Court said today, observing it reflected the magnitude of the problem.
Taking serious note of the massive encroachments on public lands in Delhi, it observed it was a “matter of great distress” that 2,280.43 kilometres of roads, streets and footpaths were encroached upon.
“You see the extent of encroachment … You see how serious the problem is,” a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta observed and asked the statutory authorities to take the matter seriously.
The observations came after the bench was informed that 844.33 kms, 811.01 kms and 601.2 kms of encroached roads and streets were cleared by the North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) and those in South and East Delhi respectively as on August 31.
Similarly, 11 kms in the New Delhi Municipal Council and 12.44 kms of streets in the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) area were cleared from encroachment.
The bench then observed that over 2,200 kms of streets were encroached upon in Delhi and the length of road was “almost like travelling from the national capital to Kanyakumari.”
An advocate assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the matter said the encroachments were due to the inaction by the statutory authorities in Delhi.
The bench also dealt with issues relating to encroachment of forest land and water bodies which was raised by the court-appointed monitoring committee in its report filed in the court.
The committee told the court that several water bodies in Delhi have dried up and encroached upon, which was a matter of grave concern.
The counsel, appearing for Delhi government, said they would file an affidavit giving full details of actions taken by its forest department to re-claim the encroached land and also by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) on water bodies.
The bench made it clear that once the special task force (STF), constituted on April 25 following the court’s order to oversee enforcement of laws on illegal constructions here, clears the encroachments, the statutory authority would have to ensure that there was no more encroachment on the area.
The monitoring committee said they have been doing their best to comply with the directions of the top court but they were not getting adequate support from executing agencies like the DDA and other local bodies.
The bench said it was expected from the statutory authorities as well as the police to extend full cooperation to the committee so that they could do their work properly.
On the point of issuing advance notice of sealing to defaulters, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, said they would sit with the amicus and make out agreed course of action to be taken in this regard.
The bench said it would hear the issue on September 12.
During the hearing, the amicus claimed that the STF was not sharing their reports and steps taken by them with the monitoring committee.
The bench asked ASG Maninder Singh, who was appearing for the DDA, to ensure that the STF reports were uploaded on its website so that all concerned could be aware about it. “We expect the STF and monitoring committee to work together for the purpose for which both of them have been set up so that there is no confusion,” it said.
The bench also observed that it appeared from the report of the monitoring committee that the STF was “working in conflict” with the panel.
“Monitoring committee is a committee constituted by this court. If you are treating the monitoring committee in this manner, it means you are treating the court like this,” the bench said.
The top court had in July directed that there would be “no stopping of sealing or demolition” of unauthorised constructions in Delhi after the Centre had said it had not given any instructions to the civic bodies to go slow or stop the sealing drive against offending structures.
The top court is dealing with the issue of validity of the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protect unauthorised constructions from being sealed.