Delhi sealing: STF appears to be under “pressure”, says SC

Delhi sealing: STF appears to be under
Delhi sealing: STF appears to be under "pressure", says SC

Delhi sealing: STF appears to be under “pressure”, says SC 

The Supreme Court on Friday said a special task force, set up pursuant to its order to oversee enforcement of laws on unauthorised constructions and remove encroachments in Delhi, appeared be under some kind of “pressure”.

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta referred to the report filed by the court-appointed monitoring committee which has claimed that the STF was neither communicating with them, nor keeping them informed about their actions.

“It is a very unfortunate thing. Obviously, somebody is putting pressure on the STF. We do not know whether its builders or others. From the report, it appears that the STF is under pressure,” the bench said.

The counsel representing the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) said the STF has been sharing the reports with the monitoring committee.

“The monitoring committee says that not even a single communication has been received from STF except two,” the bench said, adding that the panel was “a committee constituted by this court. If you are treating the monitoring committee in this manner, it means you are treating this court like this.”

The bench also observed that the STF officials were not like “school children” that they were required to be told about this.

The court initially said it would call the vice-chairman of DDA to explain on this issue.

Later, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh, appearing for DDA, said the reports of STF were shared with the monitoring committee and assured the court that the needful would be done in the matter.

“You have to work for the people of Delhi and not for some section of people of Delhi,” the bench said, adding that instead of passing the blame, the authorities should work together.

The monitoring committee, comprising K J Rao, former advisor to the Election Commissioner, Bhure Lal, chairman of Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority and Major General (Retd) Som Jhingan, was set up on March 24, 2006, by the top court.

At the hearing today, the bench also dealt with the issue of depletion of groundwater level in Delhi.

ASG A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, said he would file an affidavit on the NITI Aayog’s report which had said that 21 cities, including Delhi, might run out of groundwater by 2020.

The bench also dealt with Delhi government’s application seeking its nod to issue a notification with regard to 279 roads under mixed-use guidelines of Master Plan of Delhi-2021.

Delhi government’s counsel said the monitoring committee had nothing to do with this issue and its judicial review was not necessary at this stage as it could be done after these roads were notified.

“We want to notify these roads. If there is something wrong in it, anybody can challenge it. Stage of judicial review has not come now. We are doing it as per the Act,” the lawyer said.

To this, the bench observed, “either we have the jurisdiction or we have no jurisdiction. If you say that we have no jurisdiction, then do whatever you want to do.”

The bench asked the Delhi government to provide the latest status of these roads in three weeks.

The apex court had earlier come down heavily on the Centre, the Delhi government and the civic bodies here for not taking any step to tackle the “serious problem” of groundwater depletion in the national capital.

In May, the court had expressed grave concern on “over-exploitation” of groundwater in most parts of Delhi and asked the authorities to avert a crisis, saying the situation was “semi-critical”.

The top court is dealing with the issue related to validity of the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protect unauthorised construction from being sealed. PTI

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