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2.8 mn sq mt area in Delhi cleared of encroachments, Supreme Court told

The SC bench said there was a need to protect and preserve the encroached land and areas which have been retrieved by civic agencies under the directions of STF

Source: ANI twitter handle
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Delhi is facing "severe problems" due to unauthorised construction and encroachment which can be gauged from the fact that the special task force (STF) has already cleared as much as 2.8 million square metre of such area, the Supreme Court said Wednesday.

A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur was informed that the STF, constituted in April following the apex court's order to oversee enforcement of laws on illegal construction and monitor the removal of encroachments here, has also cleared about 3,202 sq mt of roads, streets and footpaths.

The bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta, was told that so far the STF has received around 7,000 complaints out of which about 3,400 complaints have been dealt with and efforts were being made to recruit additional staff for the task force so that they could do their works expeditiously.

"On perusal of the report, we find that the total area cleared from encroachment by STF under permanent structures is as high as 10,71,838 square metres. The area under temporary structures that has been cleared from encroachment is 16,99,858 square metres," the bench said.

"This confirms the severe problems being faced by Delhi due to unauthorized construction and encroachments and the magnitude of the problem," it said.

It also said there was a need to protect and preserve the encroached land and areas which have been retrieved by civic agencies under the directions of STF.

"Since the commissioners of the municipal corporations are part of the STF, we would require the STF to look into the matter with due seriousness and protect and preserve the land that has been taken possession/retrieved from the unauthorized encroachments. Needless to say, this also includes the roads/ streets/footpaths that have been cleared by the STF with the assistance of the municipal corporations," the bench said.
Regarding the large number of complaints received by STF about unauthorised constructions and encroachment, the bench said, "We may note that the fact that the STF has received more than 7,000 complaints indicates the magnitude of the problem of encroachments and unauthorized construction in Delhi."

At the outset, the bench pulled up Delhi Development Authority (DDA) vice-chairman Tarun Kapoor, who is also the chairman of STF, for not filing reports fortnightly before the apex court despite the court's earlier direction.

"We have to beg and say please tell us what is happening," the bench told DDA's vice-chairman who was present in the court.

Kapoor said that STF was holding fortnightly meeting and added, "I accept there is a delay (in filing report)".

To this, the bench said, "Why do you do this? First of all you cannot handle the problem and when the matter is before the Supreme Court, you say you will do whatever you want. What is this?".

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A N S Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that he has told DDA vice-chairman to file STF report in the court fortnightly.

"If you cannot do your job then tell us that I cannot do my job. We will replace you. If you want to do this, do it seriously. It was the idea of the Attorney General (to have STF and call for reports). What do people of Delhi will do? What do the Supreme Court will do," the bench said, adding, "It is too much".

When the ASG said that STF had to take staffs from other department to deal with the complaints, the bench said, "That is your problem, not ours. There can be million of excuses".

Nadkarni said that STF has laid down a time bound procedure for dealing with the complaints and they were also going to employ staff on their own within 15 days or by December 31.

He assured the bench that STF would submit fortnightly report in the court and said the task force was also in touch with the court-appointed monitoring committee on sealing in Delhi.

Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the Delhi sealing matter, then told the court about the huge area of around 28 lakh square