New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday blasted the authorities for letting rampant illegal constructions and encroachments to go on in Delhi and asked whether the officers were "sleeping" or "keeping their eyes closed".
A bench of justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said this after Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, informed that 1,130 applications were received by the authorities in Delhi for de-sealing of premises against whom action was taken for having unauthorised constructions.
Venugopal said that after considering these applications, 405 structures were de-sealed.
"What your officers are doing? You are saying that in 405 cases, no unauthorised constructions were found. What about the rest 700 cases? Are your officers sleeping," the bench asked.
The bench referred to an affidavit filed by the Special Task Force (STF), which was constituted on April 25 following the court's order to oversee enforcement of laws on illegal constructions in Delhi, and said that encroachment was there in city on around 695 km of roads.
The Attorney General said that encroachment was going on for decades in the national capital.
"All this is going on. How your officers are keeping their eyes closed," the bench asked.
Venugopal referred to a mobile application launched by Delhi Development Authority (DDA) on July 9 to enable the citizens lodge complaints about illegal constructions and encroachments and termed the issue as "very serious".
"It is one thing to say that people of Delhi should inform (about illegal constructions and encroachments). It is another thing to say that officers, who are sleeping, should wake up. To what extent people of Delhi will inform you," the bench said.
The Attorney General told the bench that steps have been taken to deal with this issue and an action plan was also in place for monitoring of all unauthorised constructions here.
He said that the STF was empowered to issue show cause notices to the officers who would be responsible for coming up of illegal constructions in their areas and if no satisfactory reply was given by them, FIR would also be registered against them, including on charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"Give us an opportunity because this has been carefully thought of. This will bring some sort of change," he said.
Meanwhile, an advocate assisting the court as amicus curiae in the matter said that Forum of MCD Engineers have complained about they being allegedly threatened by ward councillors.
"Have they identified these politicians," the bench said and asked the Attorney General, "what you propose to do if the politicians are doing this? They are ward councillors."
Venugopal told the bench that notice should be issued to these ward councillors as they cannot indulge in such acts.
Meanwhile, the bench directed that adequate police protection should be given to the officials while carrying out sealing drive.
During the hearing, the bench also observed no officials were willing to take responsibility and "everybody wants to wash off their hands".
To this, Venugopal said, "they (officers) realise that they can be prosecuted. They cannot say that they are not responsible otherwise they can resign and go".
The bench also asked the Attorney General as to why one month time would be taken by the STF to take action against the officers who would be found responsible for unauthorised constructions.
Venugopal said that the officer responsible for illegal construction in the area has to be identified after through inquiry and it would take time.
The bench also said that once unauthorised constructions are found in premises, the construction activity should be stopped there immediately.
The amicus raised the concerns of the body of resident welfare associations about notified roads in Delhi and said that parking on roads lead to increase in the pollution level.
The bench, however, said that issue of notified roads would be taken up for hearing later.
At the fag end of hearing, the amicus told the court that Delhi has lots of historical monuments and somebody from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) should also be made a member of the STF.
"Allegations were made earlier that in some of these buildings, people were living there," the bench observed.
To this, the Attorney General said, "where will the people go for shelter?"
The bench shot back and said that it was dealing with a separate matter related to National Rural Livelihood Mission (NULM) where there was no scarcity of funds but still, nothing was being done for the people.
"Please appear in that (NULM) matter," the bench told Venugopal, who later said that he was ready to appear in the case.
The top court is dealing with the issue of validity of the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protect unauthorised constructions from being sealed.