Open spaces and green cover provide the much-needed breathing zones for people when they are grappling with the hazardous scenario of ever-increasing pollution and the move to lock the gates of a public park is “totally unacceptable”, the Delhi High Court has said while directing the city's civic body to take over two parks next to the Jama Masjid in Old Delhi.
The high court questioned the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) for not taking possession of the two public parks and asked it to take action in accordance with law to assume their control so they are available for use by the general public.
It said if any police assistance is asked for, the same shall be provided.
"After all, a statutory authority cannot lose possession of the public parks,” the court said.
The high court said parks are like an oasis in the concrete jungle that exists in cities and the public at large, including the young and the old, need green spaces for playing, walking and exercising, and denial of this right will be infringement of Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
“The importance of maintenance of green cover in the present milieu needs no emphasis. The open spaces and green cover provide the much needed breathing zones for the people when the society as a whole is grappling with the hazardous scenario of ever increasing pollution. The parks are like an oasis in the concrete jungle that exists in cities.
“The move to lock the gates of a public park and denying access to the public is totally unacceptable. The public at large, including the young and the old, need green spaces for playing, walking, exercising etc. Denial of this right would be infringement of Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Mini Pushkarna said.
The bench directed the MCD to file a fresh status report and listed the matter for further hearing on December 21.
It said courts have held time and again that the ‘public trust doctrine’ enjoins upon the government authorities to protect natural resources like air, sea, water and green cover that must not only be used for a public purpose but must be available for use by the general public.
The MCD counsel claimed before the court that the North Park and the South Park abutting the Jama Masjid, despite being public parks, are in "illegal" possession of the mosque authorities who have locked the gates.
The high court, which termed it a “serious issue”, was hearing a plea by Mohd Arslan on alleged unauthorised encroachments in public parks around the Jama Masjid.
The court noted that on July 28, the counsel for the Shahi Imam/Managing Committee of Jama Masjid had sought time to seek instructions in the matter. However, no one appeared for the Shahi Imam or the managing committee in the recent hearing.
The court had earlier impleaded the Delhi Waqf Board as a party to the petition and directed the authorities to ensure that unauthorised encroachments are removed from public parks.
-With PTI Input