ASI files police complaint for initiating illegal construction

All-India Institute of Medical Sciences Deputy Director (Administration) Vineet Chaudhury, who has been named in several irregularities in the past year, is now in fresh and potentially far more serious trouble with the Archaeological Survey of India filing a police complaint against him for initiating unauthorised construction in the regulated area of Moth-ki-Masjid, a Centrally-protected monument.

Mr. Chaudhury had initiated construction of a hostel block within the AIIMS complex though it falls in the regulated area of Moth-ki-Masjid.

“Under Section 20B of the Ancient Monuments Archaeological Sites Remains (A&Y) Act, 2010, every area, beginning at the limit of prohibited area (i.e. 100 metres from the limit of the protected monument) and extending to a distance of 200 metres in all directions shall be the regulated area in respect of such protected monument or protected area for the purpose of any new construction and repair/renovation/addition/alteration of the existing building and structure”.

However, this can only be undertaken “after obtaining permission from the competent authority specifically appointed for this purpose”, states a complaint by the ASI to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, South District, Hauz Khas, dated October 3, 2012.

According to the ASI, Mr. Chaudhury initiating construction within the regulated area without obtaining permission “is an offence under Section 30B of the said Act and is liable for punishment with imprisonment up to two years or fine up to Rs.1 lakh or both”.

According to Section 30C of the Act, the penalty for Mr. Chaudhury is harsher still: “If any officer of the Central Government enters into or acquiesces in any agreement to do so, abstains from doing, permits, conceals or connives at any act or thing whereby any construction or reconstruction takes place in a prohibited area or regulated area, he shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term that may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.”

The ASI letter further alleges that a “police complaint has already been filed on 28.09.2012 at the Hauz Khas New Delhi police station, but the action by the SHO, Hauz Khas police station to stop the said construction is still awaited”.

When the ASI failed to get the SHO to act despite being a government organisation, it escalated the matter to the DCP, South District, requesting “that necessary instructions may please be issued to SHO Hauz Khas to get the said unauthorised construction stopped immediately”.

When contacted, SHO Hauz Khas Kulbir Singh told The Hindu that action had not been taken since it was not a cognisable offence”. Calls and SMSs to DCP Hauz Khas, Chhaya Sharma, went unanswered.

“Work suspended”

However, Mr. Chaudhury confirmed that though two storeys of the new hostel block have already been constructed, all construction activity was suspended over a month ago and a No Objection Certificate from the National Monuments Authority (NMA) was awaited.

“We have an existing hostel building built to a height of 26 metres that was constructed a decade ago. We had submitted an application for clearance to construct up to 30 metres for the new block but have not yet received any reply,” he said.

Adjacent to the hostel block, the construction of underground parking and a screening OPD is also in its final stages. Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had applauded Mr. Chaudhury for this construction and also used this to award him an extension of service outside his own cadre beyond seven years.

Responding to the ASI notice served under Section 30B of the AMASR (A&V) Act, 2010, of October 3, Executive Engineer (Civil), AIIMS, M. Rastogi has asked for the notice to be kept in abeyance till the NMA decides on the request made by AIIMS to allow construction up to the maximum permissible limit set by NMA.

When contacted, officials in the ASI confirmed that decision on the fate of the construction activity should not be confused with the primary offence of construction in the regulated area without sanction. “The AIIMS official has been charged with a serious offence and is liable for prosecution under the Act,” an official told The Hindu .

They pointed out that a demolition order to tear down the unauthorised construction could also not be ruled out. “We have a difficult task considering that Delhi has over 174 protected monuments. The Act has been strengthened to ensure that offenders are taken to task. There would be over 1,000 similar cases which are all in advanced stages in the courts.”