The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) for slashing the one-time conversion charge for commercial use from Rs 89,000 per square metre to around Rs 22,000, and asked why such a step was taken.
Observing that the DDA seemed to be under a “lot of pressure”, the apex court, while hearing an application related to sealing in defence colony market here, sought to know from the DDA and other civic agencies as to whether the constructions allowed were in accordance with environmental laws and the steps they had taken for fire and other safety measures, availability of water, electricity, footpaths for pedestrians and adequate parking facility.
A bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta asked the DDA’s counsel how the conversion charge for commercial use of upper residential floors of various markets in the national capital had been reduced.
“Will you (DDA) do whatever you like to do? Please file an affidavit. It appears that you are under lot of pressure. What about environmental law and fire safety,” the bench asked DDA and directed the authority to apprise the court on what basis the conversion charge was reduced. It asked the DDA to file an affidavit in this regard within two weeks.
As per a notification issued in December last year, the rate of conversion charge for commercial use of upper residential floors of various markets here was slashed from Rs 89,000 per square metre to Rs 22,274 per square metre of built-up area and the reduced rates would remain in force till June 2018.
During the hearing today, the bench also dealt with an application filed by some lawyers whose office, located in the basement of a building in the posh Hauz Khas market here, was earlier sealed by the authorities.
The bench, which had on January 25 asked the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to de-seal the lawyers’ office, said there were “so many violations”.
“You are going to create problems for everybody. It is better you admit that you have made a blunder,” the bench observed, adding, “You close your office by March 31. You cannot regularise it. You are putting the life of people in danger”.
The counsel representing the applicant sought some time to seek instructions in the matter.
The bench granted time to the lawyer but said it has made its view clear that the office has to be closed down by March 31.
Meanwhile, the DDA informed the bench that they have prepared an affidavit as per the apex court’s earlier direction seeking various details, including whether an environment impact assessment was conducted before proposing an amendment to the Delhi Master Plan 2021, and it would be filed soon.
The top court had on March 6 stayed any further progress by the authorities to amend Delhi Master Plan 2021, which is aimed at granting protection from the ongoing sealing drive in the national capital, while taking strong exception that neither the Delhi government, nor the DDA or the Municipal Corporations of Delhi (MCDs) had filed affidavits as per its directions.
It had also observed that the rule of law over sanction to construct buildings had “completely broken down” and expressed concern over illegal construction. It had 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.