NEW DELHI: The jury is still out on who and to what extent will benefit from AAP government's decision to ban demolitions in the capital. In its order, the state's urban development department says it is taking a "holistic view on the existing policy of carrying out demolitions of residential houses, jhuggis, etc in Delhi by various agencies."
Experts say the legal validity of the order rests on thin ground given the fact that majority of demolition in the city is carried out by municipal corporations, DDA and New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC)- each of which is governed by separate Acts that binds them to take action against illegal construction.
Some feel the decision is aimed at lakhs of residents living in unauthorized colonies where illegal construction is rampant. Moreover, with the government exempting court ordered demolitions and removal of encroachment on public land from the ambit of its ban, the order can't protect a huge section of citizens.
Retired Delhi high court judge, Justice SN Dhingra viewed the ban as a sop by the government to a sizeable chunk of those who voted for Arvind Kejriwal. "The biggest beneficiaries will be the people who carry out illegal constructions in unauthorized colonies. With this order, the multi-storey flats that spring up almost overnight in such colonies will receive protection. I have lived in an unauthorized colony and know how the flats come up with lightening speed. The new order is a boon for them," Justice Dhingra opined.
Standing counsel for the corporations in high court, advocate Gaurang Kanth stressed on the legal position. "The municipality, DDA and NDMC are creatures of law governed by their respective Acts. It is their lawful duty to act upon illegal construction and the power to demolish any such construction cannot be taken away by an executive order," Kant explained.
The new order may force the state government to alter its stand before the HC on several demolition related cases where it is a party. In the petition filed by those facing demolition in Rangpuri Pahari area, the government's forest department has till now justified its decision. It has maintained that granting relief to slum dwellers of the area would embolden encroachers and adversely affect efforts of the forest department to protect the ridge land. During an earlier hearing it termed slum dwellers as "encroachers on notified ridge land in village Rangpuri." It remains to be seen what stand is taken by the new government in court.