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Delhi: Demolitions And Sealings

It was in December 2005 when the Delhi High Court directed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to remove over 18,000 illegal constructions spread across spread across 12 zones of the city. The government's actions have only angered the courts an

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Delhi: Demolitions And Sealings
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Delhi: Demolitions And Sealings
It was in December 2005 when the Delhi High Court directed the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to remove over 18,000 illegal constructions spread across spread across 12 zones of the city. The government's actions have only angered the courts and exacerbated the situation.

SANDEEP SINGH

September 20: Three persons are  killed, one of them in police firing, and scores including security personnel are injured as the traders' bandh against MCD's sealing drive turns violent in Seelampur and adjoining areas of North-East Delhi.

September 18: The Supreme Court criticizes the government for taking "ad hoc" decisions to protect a particular section of society from the sealing and demolition drive in the capital. Referring to the September 7 and 15 notifications of the Centre and Delhi government allowing certain commercial activities in residential areas, Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal observes "the last minute notifications are causing utter confusion and chaos to the citizens... An impression is given as if judiciary is on one side and government on the other side".  

September 15: The Delhi Government issues a notification clearing 2,204 roads for mixed land use, commercial stretches and pedestrian shopping streets in the C, D, E, F, G and H categories of colonies across the capital.

September 9: Seelampur, in North East Delhi, sees violent protests during an anti-encroachment drive aimed at clearing temporary structures in the main markets. The police and MCD team are pelted with stones by a mob of over 1000 shopkeepers. The Rapid Action Force (RAF) has to be called in to control the mob

September 7: The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) makes several amendments to the Delhi Master Plan, 2001, allowing  professionals to  use their basements as offices, except in 70 up market localities; exemption of  MCD or government-recognised pre-primary schools from sealing and permitting commercial activity in city's 350 villages, except the polluting or hazardous units. However, the amendments leave out Delhi's up market areas and only service shops like groceries, beauty salons, Cyber cafes are allowed to operate. 

September 1: The Municipal Corporation of Delhi resumes its demolitions drive and the sealing of shops in residential areas after a gap of three months.

August11:
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) demands the Centre to bring an 'amnesty scheme' for the traders.

August 10: In a severe jolt to the union government and the Parliament, the Supreme Court stays the May 20 notification of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 that suspended the sealing of illegal commercial premises and warns that violators will face consequences. Hearing the PILs challenging the Constitutional validity of the law, the bench headed by Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal observes: "though prima facie the Act is an 'invalid' statute, we are not inclined to completely stay the legislation". The court orders the Municipal authorities to resume their sealing drive and reseal some 5000 shops, which were sealed by the court and then unsealed by the government. The court also order sealing of 40,000 shops after September 15 that had given affidavits to stop commercial activities on their premises and sealing of banquet halls, nursing homes and banks on less than 200 square meters in residential areas. 

July 17: The Supreme Court terms the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act 2006 as "wholly invalid and void", with the bench of Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justice C K Thakker observing: "this is pure and simple legislature over-ruling this court... First you come here and ask for six months time, then you withdraw your application, we do not know whether it was part of your strategy... The legislature can not direct any authority not to comply with the orders of this court" . Chief Justice Sabharwal also notes "at least, I am not aware of the legislature exercising its powers as an appellate authority".

However,  the Urban Development Ministry says the Supreme Court observations do not come in the way of operation of the law passed by Parliament and therefore there is no cause of action

May 23:
The Supreme Court refuses to stay the operation of the new law placing a one-year moratorium on the demolition of unauthorised structures in the capital but decides to examine the legality of the controversial legislation. 

May 20: The Municipal authorities completely halt their demolition drive as the legislation providing one-year moratorium comes into force. Nearly 2,642 illegal constructions are demolished since December 19, 2005, and around 15,000 commercial establishments functioning in residential areas are sealed, out of which 6,000 were desealed after receiving affidavits by the owners. 

May 20: After keeping the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Bill-2006 under examination for four days, President A P J Abdul Kalam finally gives his assent to the bill.

May 19: Lok Sabha MPs flay the Delhi High Court ruling on the demolition drive as "contempt" of Parliament which had passed a legislation to halt the action for a year.

May 19: Several RWA's file a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the Delhi Laws (Special Provision) Bill, 2006, claiming that he Bill was politically motivated keeping in view the coming Municipal elections in the city and it should be declared as ultra vires of the Constitution as it violates the fundamental rights of the law abiding citizen.  

May 18: The Delhi High Court constitutes a two-member committee of retired Director General of Police B L Vohra and former city Police Commissioner R S Gupta to monitor the drive against unauthorised constructions in the capital.

May 15: The Rajya Sabha passes the Delhi Laws (Special Provision) Bill, 2006 by a voice vote after members, cutting across party lines, demanded immediate stoppage of demolitions and sealing of shops. However, the Delhi High Court  rules that the demolition drive would continue until the Bill is signed by the President and is notified by the government.

May 12:
Lok Sabha passes the Delhi Laws (Special provisions) Bill, 2006 which proposes a one-year moratorium from punitive action against unauthorised development in the capital and provides for status quo as on January 1 ,2006 of unauthorised development in respect of mixed land use, construction beyond sanctioned plans and encroachment by slum dwellers, JJ dwellers, hawkers and street vendors in the city. The BJP slams the bill as an "eyewash". 

May 11:
The Supreme Court issues a contempt notice to Delhi BJP MLA Harsharan Singh Balli for allegedly breaking open shops sealed by the MCD and also clarifies that no court would entertain any plea regarding the ongoing sealing drive as the matter is being heard by the apex court. 

May 8: Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit announce that the Prime Minister has given an assurance that a bill to provide relief from court-ordered demolitions and sealings in the capital is being drawn up ahead of the Parliament session.

April 28: The Supreme Court , while allowing the sealing drive to go on without interruption, criticises the Union governmnet for its attitude towards the sealing drive saying it has complicated the matter by adopting a "policy of appeasement." The Bench of Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal and Justice C K Thakker observes: "Appeasement causes confusion. We extended the time (for sealing) but meanwhile it (Centre) came out with a notification... By doing so what message you (Centre) want to convey to the law abiding citizen... It is a deliberate failure because of extraneous considerations at the cost of the citizen and the message is the law abiding citizen suffers". The apex court also observes that it was because of the nexus between various departments, government officials, law enforcing agencies and businessmen that there was unauthorised commercial use of the residential areas.

April 25:
Union urban development minister S Jaipal Reddy announce that the Centre may introduce a bill in Parliament to provide relief from demolitions and sealings in the capital in case the Supreme Court turns down its plea to halt the MCD drives for six months.

April 25: The Delhi High Court orders the CBI to inquire the role of a Deputy Commissioner of MCD, besides SHOs working in Krishnanagar police station between 1999-2005 for illegally permitting construction of three huge shopping complexes in the area.

April 20:
The Delhi High Court orders a CBI inquiry against erring officials in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and ask the civic body to file an Action Taken Report (ATR) on the status of demolitions that need to be ''complete and not merely cosmetic".

April 12:
The Centre moves to the Supreme Court seeking directions to the local bodies to complete the exercise of identifying mixed use roads and streets in residential areas within six months in a systematic and organised manner as per provisions of the Delhi Master Plan.

April 10: The Union urban development minister S Jaipal Reddy announce that the Centre and municipal authorities in Delhi will togetherseek six-months' time from the Supreme Court to halt the demolition and sealing drives "but there are no immediate plans to bring in any ordinance."

April 10: A delegation of Delhi traders meets President A P J Abdul Kalam and seeks his intervention in the ongoing demolition rive against illegal constructions while claimeing that the business community was neither a petitioner nor respondent in the PIL against illegal constructions in the capital.  

April 6:
DPCC chief Rambabu Sharma asks the Centre to seek more time from the Supreme Court over sealing of shops and if no relief is forthcoming it should bring a bill to legalise such commercial establishments.

April 5:
Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha L K Advani writes a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking him to convene an all-party meeting on the sealing drive and asks the government to promulgate an ordinance to save the shops running in residential areas.

April 3:
The Supreme Court extends till April 7 the deadline for filing affidavits for shifting their establishments to commercial areas.

March 31: The MCD adopts a resolution to permit commercial activities on 229 roads of the capital, which also includes the roads in the 'mixed-land use' category, a demand strongly raised by the trading community and opposed by Residents' Welfare Associations.

March 30:
Traders in Delhi  go on a 48-hour strike against the sealing drive.

March 30: The Residents Welfare Associations across the capital jointly condemn the Centre's move to permit commercial establishments to operate from residential areas, saying 

March 29: Additional Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam  informs the Delhi High Court that the Union government  will "demolish without remorse" all unauthorised constructions made in the capital's Lutyens Zone which houses the residences of several VVIPs including Union Cabinet Ministers. The Court, which earlier sought explanations from the Centre "as to with what authority the PMO" was framing guidelines for carrying out constructions and alterations in the Lutyen's Zone in violation of the Master Plan, asks Additional Solicitor General to file an affidavit in support of the assurance.

March 29: Amidst strong protests from the trading community, the MCD begins sealing shops running illegally in residential areas but avoid targetting shops in the mixed land use areas notified only a day earlier.

March 28:
In a controversial attempt to give relief to small shopkeepers affected by Supreme Court directive to seal shops in residential areas, the Urban Development Ministry notifies some amendments in the Master Plan 2001 allowing some commercial activities to run in residential areas. The new policy legalise commercial activities on the ground floor of residential premises on as many as 118 roads in the capital.

March 27: Unhappy over DDA's decision to allow shops in residential areas, the RWAs hold a protest demonstration outside Union minister of state for urban development Ajay Maken's residence, saying it would impose constraints on infrastructure such as power and water.
 
February 18: Union minister of state for urban development Ajay Maken welcomes the Supreme Court's order on banning commercial use of residential buildings saying it reflected the government's standpoint for a tough action against major building and land law violations in Delhi.

February 17: The Delhi High Court orders the MCD to close down all banquet halls functioning in the capital's residential areas, adding the Supreme Court order on dismantling commercial structures in residential areas would apply to banquet halls as well.

February 16: The Supreme Court directs the MCD to publish the list of residential premises used for commercial purposes in the national capital in violation within ten days in newspapers. A Bench headed by Chief Justice Y K Sabharwal also directs the owners of such premises to stop the misuse of the residential premises within 30 days of the publication and later file an affidavit with MCD Commissioner that they have stopped the misuse of the premises. The apex court also appoints a committee comprising former bureaucrat Bhure Lal, former Election Commission official K J Rao and Maj Gen Som Jhingan to monitoring the sealing drive in the capital.

February 16: 
The Delhi High Court criticizes the MCD for its 'pick-and-choose policy' and orders stern action against top officials of the corporations for permitting unauthorised constructions saying "the action should not be confined merely to Junior Engineers and Assistant Engineers, but should apply equally to Deputy Commissioners, Superintendent Engineers and other high-ranking zonal officers".

February 15: Several complaints against ashrams of religious gurus, including Asaram Bapu, Radhaswami Satsang Sthal, Sudhanshu Maharaj Ashram and Darshan Darbar Dhera, are filed with MCD for  illegal land use.

February 14:
The MG Road fashion designers, who had sought a stay on the ongoing demolition drive on their shops, withdraw their petition after the Delhi High Court suggested that the matter could be clubbed with other related petitions.

February 7:
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh directs constitution of a high-powered committee to go into the issue of court-ordered demolitions in the capital and come out with practical solutions to end the current "uncertainty".

February 6: The MCD issues notices to several reputed public schools, including Vasant Valley Public School and G D Goenka School, in Delhi's posh Vasant Kunj area for "violating" building bye-laws. 

February 5:
A 'mahapanchayat' of residents of Delhi's 360 villages, attended by Congress MP Sajjan Kumar, JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav, RLD chief Ajit Singh and Mahender Singh Tikait of All India Kisan Sabha, issues an ultimatum to Delhi government to stop demolitions in 15 days' time. 

February 3:
The Delhi High Court once again refuses to entertain a batch of petitions filed by business houses seeking a stay on the demolitions at 1 and 2, MG Road, saying that "it was inevitable as the rule of law had to prevail in the Capital to make it a beautiful place to live" and "we cannot allow mafia and muscle-power to rule the city". 

February 1:
The hub of fashion in the national capital, the up market MG Road is  targeted by the MCD following the High Court's orders that malls and shopping complexes in "lal dora" areas, that were unauthorised, should be demolished. The area houses several outlets of some of the big names in the Indian fashion industry such as Suneet Verma, Ranna Gill, Rohit Gandhi, Rohit Bal, Leena Singh and Mandira Virk.

January 31:
The Delhi High court rules that existence of unauthorised construction shall not be an obstacle in the conversion of a property into freehold. However, the court clarifies that despite the grant of such conversion, it was the duty of the civic authorities to ensure removal of unauthorised constructions.

January 27:
The MCD serves notices on 16 Delhi politicians including Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, her four cabinet colleagues, Speaker Chaudhary Prem Singh and MP Sandeep Dikshit asking them why the alleged illegal constructions they own should not be demolished.

January 25:
Acting on a High Court's directive, the MCD puts on its website the list of over 18,000 illegal constructions against which the court has ordered that action be taken and asks the power distributing companies NDPL and BSES as well as Delhi Jal Board (DJB) to access the list on its website and disconnect power and water connections of the defaulting properties. The website crashes two days later due to heavy rush of visitors.

January 20:
An MCD report gives a clean chit to Shiela Dikshit's property in Nizamuuddin East area for flouting Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) norms. 

January 19: Lt Governor B L Joshi advises politicians, including Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit and DPPC chief Rambabu Shama, to voluntarily pull down any illegal structures owned by them.

January 18: Referring to the illegal properties of politicians being spared by the MCD, Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Rekha Sharma of the Delhi High court directs the civic body to take action against the "big fish" violating building norms in the capital that "would create an atmosphere where the rule of law will prevail over the 'rule of jungle' and honest citizens will come forward to demolish their unauthorised constructions themselves."

January 18: Mayor of Delhi Satbir Singh demands a probe into the allegation that Sheila Dikshit's personal property in Nizamuddin East area is an illegal construction. 

January 13: The Delhi High Court warns that it would invoke its extra-ordinary powers to dissolve MCD if the civic body fails to put an end to the marriages being illegally conducted in the capital's farmhouses. The Court grants two weeks' time to the civic body to file a reply on the complaint that the marriages continued to be conducted at the farmhouses despite its earlier orders

January 10: Municipal Corporation of Delhi recommends initiation of penalty proceedings against 94 engineers for allowing some 1,500 unauthorised constructions in their areas. 

January 3: The Delhi High Court refuses to stay or defer the demolitions reprimands  MLA Prahalad Singh Sawhney for approaching the court for such a direction saying "we do not want mobocracy to take over the city. Vested interests should not have a say over the legal implications of our order".

December 21: Union urban development Jaipal Reddy says  there are no overnight solutions to the problem and the MCD will "proceed with its job" without causing much inconvenience to the people.

December 20:  Cutting across party lines, Delhi Assembly unanimously adopts a resolution to stop the demolitions.

December 19: Condemning the demolition drive against illegal constructions, the BJP blames the Congress government in Delhi for it and demands that the action be stopped immediately. Sheila Dikshit says her government was working on an "action plan" on the issue of unauthorised constructions. Several Resident Welfare Associations welcome the demolition drive and demand that the Delhi High Court orders must be enforced equitably to generate public support. Several illegal properties of city's politicians are identified by the RWAs.

December 18: Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit  asks  urban development minister Jaipal Reddy to take immediately notify the Delhi Master Plan 2021, which provides for mixed land use in residential areas.

December 17: Amid protests by the affected people, the MCD begins its massive demolishment drive. 

December 14: Acting on a PIL, the Delhi High Court directs the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to remove over 18,000 illegal constructions spread across spread across 12 zones of the city in four weeks and observes that "there is a strong nexus between MCD officials and the builders" The order was made by a Division Bench of Justice Vijender Jain and Justice Rekha Sharma after the court found that its earlier order with regard to 32 illegal structures in Patel Nagar locality was flouted by the officials.


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