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[Sainik Farms] Who Will Be Responsible If A Building Collapses & People Die?: Delhi High Court Directs Centre To Consider Permitting Repair Works

17 May 2022 9:16 AM GMT
[Sainik Farms] Who Will Be Responsible If A Building Collapses & People Die?: Delhi High Court Directs Centre To Consider Permitting Repair Works

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday expressed its reservation on the Centre's decision placing an embargo on carrying out repair works in the existing structures in unauthorizedly raised "affluent colonies" in the national capital, such as Sainik Farms.

While hearing a plea filed by by Ramesh Dugar, Convener of the Area Development Committee at Sainik Farms, seeking regularization of the colonies in the area, a Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Navin Chawla orally remarked,

"What if some structures fall tomorrow and people die? Who will take responsibility? There should be some mechanism that may determine if any property is so precariously placed that it may send your team, have it surveyed...but some repair work be allowed."

ASG Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, told the Court that these constructions have been raised unauthorizedly. However, the Bench responded,

"Will that be an answer if something happens tomorrow? You can't leave things in this state...Please take a decision. We are not saying what decision, that's entirely your call. If you say it is illegal, take your Bulldozers and demolish everything, we will not say anything...Thousands of house are constructed there. The pragmatic way is, just like you have regularized others, regularize them, charge whatever is required, we don't think anyone will have an issue with that."

The Bench also expressed regret that the matter has been kept in limbo for decades, without any fruitful outcome.

On the last date, the Bench had slammed the government for stalling the issue of regularization. It had directed the government to come out with a firm stand and either declare that the constructions in the area are illegal and take steps for demolition or take a decision on its regularisation.

'Can't Be Kept In Limbo': High Court Asks Delhi Govt To Take A Definite Stand Over Regularization Of Colonies In Sainik Farms

Today, ASG Bhati informed the Court that the government has taken a conscious decision to not look into the aspect of regularization of 69 illegal colonies categorized as "affluent colonies" including Sainik Farms. She submitted that the government is focusing on redevelopment work of 1,797 unauthorized colonies which have been sub-divided into two classes. She also submitted that constructions in Sainik Farms are protected till December, 2023.

Unconvinced, the Bench observed,

"Even in respect of these colonies that you term as "affluent", you should take a decision, why should you leave it in limbo? You yourself call them affluent, so by all means do whatever is necessary for development, charge whatever needs to be...There are people who are facing acute problem, there are seepages, some structures are precarious. Who will be responsible is any structure falls tomorrow? Because you say they will not move a brick."

The Bench said that perhaps the government is deferring the regularization of "affluent colonies" due to fear of it being challenged on grounds of discrimination. However, affluent and non-affluent colonies are different classes and there is a good "intelligible differentia". It was also of the view that waiting for regularization of over a thousand non-affluent colonies will take "decades and decades".

Thus, the Bench directed the Centre to look into this aspect as continuation of status quo on necessary repairs may risk the life of the residents and the occupants.

The Respondents have been directed to explore the possibility of evolving a mechanism where there is "credible vigilance" in matter of grant of permission to carry out repair work in existing structures, pending further decision that the government may take with regard to affluent colonies.

A response in this regard is sought within next two weeks.

The matter will next be heard on July 6.

Case Title: Ramesh Dugar v. SDMC & Ors.

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