Expressing displeasure at the delay in removal of unauthorised religious structures in the capital, the Delhi High Court on Monday directed the Delhi government to remove encroachments from 27 identified sites within four weeks.
“Land is the most valuable resource. How can the government take no action to recover the encroached land?” a special bench of Justice Muralidhar and Justice R S Endlaw said, after taking note of an affidavit filed by the Chief Secretary, which detailed the steps taken to remove unauthorised encroachments.
Pulling up the government and the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for “losing sight of the extent and value of the encroached land”, the court said it would “not allow writing off of the encroachment”.
Calling the affidavit “cleverly worded”, the court said, “This affidavit seems to be based on the “ability to utilise land” by the agency... does that mean that if you can’t use these small parcels of land then you might as well leave it? It seems that you are trying to write off the encroachment and let unauthorised construction stand as it is.”
The court has now directed the Chief Secretary and the Vice-Chairman of DDA to take action and file a progress report within four weeks, after brushing aside the government defence that officials were busy with election duty.
“You don’t do your own work, is that why all your officials have been asked to do election work? Elections are in December, you have had time... to get the work done” the court said.
Officials from the police and Home departments, who were present for the hearing, were later heard expressing their apprehension about public reaction over the demolition.
“Earlier, we had ordered that an action plan be made. At that time, the tenor was that we would get the unauthorised encroachment out. Now, it seems that you are trying to not take action at all,” the court said.
The court referred to the affidavit to point out that of the 27 sites which were to be taken possession of and handed to the DDA, only 10 had been formally taken over. There had also been no demolitions and nothing had been done regarding the remaining 17 sites, the court said.
The court noted that the action plan proposed by the government to remove encroachments had identified 34 structures in “sensitive” areas. No steps had been taken to begin negotiations with residents of