Demolition drive: Delhi challenges court commissioners

New Delhi, May 17 (IANS) The Delhi government Thursday asserted before the Delhi High Court that the monitoring committee and court commissioners appointed by it to supervise the demolition of unauthorized constructions in the capital are “extra-judicial”.

Delhi government counsel Harish Salve made the assertion before a bench of Chief Justice M.K. Sarma and Justice Rekha Sharma, while challenging a 2006 high court order, which directed the chief secretary and the municipal commissioners to report to a nine-member committee of court commissioners supervising the demolition of unauthorized constructions in the capital.

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“The monitoring committee and court commissioners are extra-judicial and extra-statutory bodies and cannot direct the statutory bodies to implement its orders,” said Salve.

“They can act as eyes and ears of the court. If they find any irregularities, at best they could inform the court for a direction,” he added.

Salve pointed out that, “Judicial power of a court cannot be delegated to other bodies.”

During the arguments, he however admitted there were lacunae in the functioning of government authorities.

“It is a problem in governance. The job of monitoring and demolition of unauthorized structures should be done by the authorities,” he added.

At this the court observed, “Yes, it is their duty. We do not enjoy doing it. We ask them to do it, but they do not respond.”

Countering Salve’s submission, advocate Kirit Uppal, who represented the committee of the court commissioners, asserted that it was owing to the judicial intervention that the unauthorized construction had stopped.

He said the court had to intervene by appointing the monitoring committee and court commissioners for 14 municipal zones after the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and New Delhi Municipal Committee (NDMC) failed to act on court directions, pending since 1990, for removal of illegal structures.

It was because of the court’s intervention that “the ongoing unauthorized constructions” had been stopped since May 2006, said Uppal.

While disposing a public interest litigation by the Kalyan Sansthan Social Welfare Organisation against the mushrooming growth of unauthorised constructions in the capital, the high court had last had constituted the monitoring committee and appointed the court commissioners “to carry out, implement and execute” the directions of demolition of unauthorized constrictions passed by it.

Challenging the high court’s direction to the Delhi government’s chief secretary and the MCD commissioner, among others, to report to the committee, the MCD has moved a petition saying the direction was contrary to law and the constitution.

“The monitoring committee has no statutory backing or authority and its creation amounts to putting in place a parallel administration,” said the petition, while seeking modification of the court’s directions.

The arguments would continue Friday.