New Delhi, Nov 8 (PTI) The Delhi High Court quashed on Wednesday a December 2022 demolition notice issued by the DDA to certain "unauthorised" constructions in the vicinity of the Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
It asked the DDA, the city's land owning authority, to re-start the process and grant hearing to the impacted parties before taking further action over encroachments on its land.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma said regardless of the environmental imperatives or earlier court orders, the DDA's obligation to act as per law and ensure procedural fairness to those affected by its actions remains intact.
The court's order came on a batch of petitions challenging the demolition notice on the ground that the properties of the petitioners did not fall within the targeted area in village Ladha Sarai but village Mehrauli, and the demarcation report for removal of the alleged encroachment could not be relied upon.
"Since it is an admitted position that no intimation was issued to the petitioners prior to the demolition notice as mandated by the provisions of the DDA Act, we hereby quash the demolition notice issued on 12th December, 2022," the bench, also comprising Justice Sanjeev Narula, ordered.
"Consequently, we direct the DDA to commence the process anew, ensuring that all petitioners are accorded a fair and reasonable opportunity to be heard in accordance with proviso to Section 30(1) of the DDA Act, before any further demolition action is initiated. This exercise shall be completed within a period of three months from today," the court said.
The court observed that the ambit of a writ court did not extend to resolving the intricate disputes over boundary delineations and it could not act as a civil court to affirm the petitioners’ status as owners or lawful occupants of the properties in dispute.
It, however, found merit in the petitioners' submission that those affected by the demolition drive were not given the opportunity to present their case before the authorities, a procedural safeguard enshrined in the DDA Act.
"The court’s involvement in overseeing the conservation efforts does not exempt the DDA from adhering to the statutory procedures laid down by the legislature. Principles of natural justice demand that those whose interests are adversely affected by an administrative action, must be given a chance to be heard, particularly when such action carries the significant repercussion of depriving them of their property," the court said.
The DDA opposed the petitions and submitted that the land in question was within the Southern Central Ridge, particularly the Park, which has immense historical and cultural appeal.
Every citizen and governmental authority is endowed with the responsibility to protect and maintain the Park and the the area in question has been earmarked as ‘green’ in the Master Plan of Delhi and are being maintained to conserve the Mehrauli Heritage Zone, the DDA said. PTI ADS ADS SK SK