The Supreme Court today asked the Delhi government, DDA and civic agencies here to apprise it on whether an environment impact assessment was conducted before proposing to amend the city's Master Plan-2021, a move that would come as a big relief to traders facing the threat of sealing.
The Master Plan-2021 is a blueprint for urban planning and expansion in the metropolis to ensure overall development and the proposed amendements were for bringing a uniform floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential plots and complexes at par with residential plots.
The FAR is the ratio of a building's total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land on which it is built.
A bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta noted the submissions of senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, assisting the court as an amicus curiae in the sealing matter, and asked the city government, Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and civic agencies to file an affidavit in this regard within a week.
It also sought details available with the Delhi Pollution Control Committee or Centre Pollution Control Board with regard to pollution here from 2006 onwards till date and the steps taken to reduce the pollution level.
The bench took a strong note of a report filed by a court-mandated Monitoring Committee, which said that during the process of sealing of offending premises, the officials were obstructed from performing their duties by a gathering at the instance of MLA Om Prakash Sharma and municipal councillor Gunjan Gupta.
The court issued show cause notice to Sharma and Gupta and asked them to explain why contempt of court proceedings be not initiated against them for the interference caused. It directed both of them to remain personally present before it on March 6, the next date of hearing.
"Since the Monitoring Committee is functioning under the directions of this court, any interference in its functions will amount to contempt of court," the bench said and directed the commissioner of Delhi Police to ensure that all protection was given to the members of the panel so that they were in a position to carry out their duties.
During the hearing, the amicus curiae told the court that the DDA has proposed to amend the Master Plan and steps have already been initiated in this regard.
He referred to the proposed amendments and said the authiorities should be asked whether they have conducted any environment impact assessment before making the proposals.
"Why the municipal and civic authorities are not taking action as per the law and why they succumb to pressure of one section of the society?" he asked.
The bench, while noting the submissions of the amicus, asked the DDA, Delhi government and municipal corporations to explain "whether any study has been conducted and whether any facts and figures are available with regard to congestion in the city of Delhi".
"Whether any steps have been taken to effectively manage traffic in consultation with the Delhi Police in view of the proposed changes," it noted, adding, "Whether fire safety measures have been considered and access to fire engines etc".
The court also asked them to give details as to whether steps for providing parking facilities have been provided for and taken into consideration before making proposed amendments and whether civic amenities, like availability of electricity, water, management of sewage disposal, solid waste management, were taken into account.
"Whether the safety of buildings which have been and which are sought to be constructed has been taken into consideration and whether any assessment has been made of all these buildings so that lives of the people in the buildings are safe and secure," the bench noted.
It also asked whether the issue of population density in Delhi, which was said to be in the region of 1.67 crore to two crore, was taken into consideration by the authorities.
The court has sought for statistics on pollution since 2006 till date, particularly when there was liberalisation in the roads notified for mixed or commercial use.
During the hearing, the counsel, representing the Delhi government, sought more time to file affidavit, saying the court has asked for so many details and it was not "humanly possible" to provide them within a week time.
To this, the bench said, when "they can change the Master Plan within three days, why they cannot do it within a week".
The apex court had earlier observed that the rule of law over sanction to construct buildings had "completely broken down" and expressed concern over illegal construction here.
It had also ordered restoration of its monitoring panel to identify and seal offending structures.
The committee, comprising K J Rao, former advisor to the Election Commission, Bhure Lal, chairman, Environment Pollution Control Authority, and Major General (Retd) Som Jhingan, was set up on March 24, 2006, by the apex court.
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