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A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said the Centre’s focus over the years had been to protect businessmen, who are illegally operating their businesses from residential premises, and neglecting the needs and requirements of other residents of the city. It asked the government why interests of traders, who comprise only around 10-15% of Delhi’s population, are given priority over the interests of the common man.
The court is examining the validity of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, passed in 2006 to give a protective cover for one year to illegal constructions and use of residential premises for commercial purposes in the city after the apex court had ordered sealing drive against them. Although the law was framed to give protection for only one year, the Centre passed successive Acts and ordinances to extend the deadline and the last law was passed by Parliament in December to protect illegal constructions till 2020.
Additional solicitor general A N S Nadkarni, appearing for Centre, said the government would file a road map for dealing with the problems. He said the law was framed to give protection to unauthorised constructions to avoid hardship and irreparable loss to a large number of poor people and it was not only to give protection to traders.
The bench said it is aware of the plight of poor people living in unauthorised colonies but asked the Centre why it was allowing traders to operate their businesses from such colonies. “Sum and substance of your arguments is that the government was not doing anything and it will not do anything till 2020. So we should adjourn the case till then,” it said referring to the law passed in December.
“You have to realise that people of Delhi are important but you are amending the Master Plan to allow unauthorised structures. Illegalities have been perpetuated over the years and they are being legalised now. There are large number of problems like garbage, huge traffic congestion, water shortage, air pollution but your are protecting the illegalities of traders,” the bench said.
“What have you done to remove the encroachment. Green area and roads in most of the colonies are being used for parking space,” the bench said.
Nadkarni assured the court that he would file a detailed plan of action including new parking policy on Wednesday.
Referring to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, senior advocates Ranjit Kumar and A D N Rao, who are assisting the court as amicus curiae, said the Centre was to set up satellite towns in NCR as per the law to shift unauthorised colonies from Delhi but the Government is not taking any step to comply with it.
Justifying the protection given to unauthorised structures, the Centre said, “A substantial portion of the city’s population lives in slums/unauthorised colonies, therefore the government, being duty-bound to protect the poor, had to intervene on humanitarian grounds even as such inhabitants are encroaching on public or private land. It may be submitted that it was an emergent circumstance whereby people cannot be left to their fate as the unauthorised development that has happened was demand-based and failure of the agencies to keep up with the growing demand. It is therefore imperative that the government frames policies for dealing with these unauthorised developments for an inclusive development of all sections of the society in Delhi.”