While lakhs of commuters using National Highway-24 spend long hours on the road that provides connectivity from East Delhi and beyond to the heart of the city, a complaint before the Delhi Lokayukta has revealed that plots owned by a former Municipal Councillor had been encroaching on the public right of way and yet neither the Municipal Corporation of Delhi nor the Public Works Department of Delhi Government have acted in the matter thus far.
The encroachments, which fall in the Pandav Nagar area of East Delhi, have gobbled up 10 to 12 metres of the right of way thus impacting its widening. Though the road was widened at the time of the Commonwealth Games in this area, the encroachments were not removed.
Acting on a complaint by Bansi Lal, a resident of Pandav Nagar, against former Councillor Sharanjeet Sharma, Delhi Lokayukta Manmohan Sarin had initiated inquiry under Section 7 of the Delhi Lokayukta & Upalokayukta Act, 1995.
In his reply, Mr. Sharma admitted that his wife along with two others had purchased plots C-150 and C-151 in Pandav Nagar which are alleged to be encroaching on the right of way.
The Lokayukta said the PWD engineers produced on record the Zonal Development Plan of Zone-E, which showed the right of way of NH-24 on which these properties, among others, were constructed. He said the highway’s right of way was 90 metres and it was not disputed before him that the two properties were infringing on it.
The Lokayukta said counsel for the respondent also submitted that the former Councillor was not aware that the properties fell on the right of way and had purchased them in 2011. He also claimed that these properties had been in existence since 1952.
The Lokayukta said photographs annexed by Mr. Sharma showed that there were a whole range of other houses which also fell on the ROW.
Observing that a demolition order had been issued concerning the unauthorised portion of property No. C-150 and C-151, Justice Sarin said from the photographs produced it appears that the exercise was carried out on the third floor roof by puncturing the roof and thereafter the premises have been lying sealed since November 21, 2012.
Noting that “it is not understood as to what is referred to as ‘qua the unauthorised construction’, as once plans are not sanctioned, the entire structure becomes unauthorised,” Justice Sarin said as part of the building is also built on the right of way, the entire structure infringing the right of way would have to be removed. “Although the precise estimate is not available, the engineers from PWD state that it could be from 10-14 metres of width which comes within the right of way,” he said.
Terming the action by the Corporation as “extremely tardy” in the case of other properties mentioned in the complaint -- shops No. 5 and 6 which were alleged to be belonging to the Municipal Councillor -- the Lokayukta said the reply from the respondent does not carry any clear denial.
In view of the present situation, the Lokayukta has now directed the Deputy Commissioner, Shahdara South Zone, East Delhi Municipal Corporation, to review the status report and give an update with regard to each of the properties where notices have been served. The official has also been told to indicate the state of construction and completion in respect of the various structures and buildings against which complaints have been received as the moratorium against demolitions granted under the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Second Bill, 2011, may have a bearing on them.
The Lokayukta has also asked the PWD to consult the National Highways Authority of India and respond to the Councillor’s offer to remove the structures on the ROW at the time of expansion of the highway.