Mehrauli demolition: HC directs authorities to maintain status quo on properties against DDA's action
A large number of petitions on the issue were listed for hearing before two different judges Justice Mini Pushkarna and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora
The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the authorities to maintain status quo till February 16 on various properties in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park area in the national capital which have been identified to be demolished as part of an anti-encroachment drive.
The high court also asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to state its stand on a batch of petitions challenging the demolition action and seeking a bar on demolition in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park area in south Delhi till a fresh "demarcation report" has been prepared.
A large number of petitions on the issue were listed for hearing before two different judges Justice Mini Pushkarna and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora.
Nearly 20 multi-storey buildings, a large number of shops and houses and a private school building are among the structures constructed "illegally" over the last few decades in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, which the authorities have identified as part of the anti-encroachment drive.
Without interfering with the demolition exercise at this stage, Justice Pushkarna issued notice to the Delhi government and DDA on the petition by Mehrauli Minorities Resident And Shop Owners Welfare and directed that the matter be placed before the division bench headed by the Chief Justice, where a similar matter is already pending.
The drive, which began on February 10, comes a month ahead of a proposed G20 meeting at the park in south Delhi. According to the DDA, the old park has about 55 monuments under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India, state archeological department and the urban civic body.
The petitioner, who was raising the issue of demarcation report, submitted that Mehrauli has many slum clusters and several waqf properties, including mosques and dargahs, were located there.
He alleged the revenue minister of the Delhi government said on February 11 that a fresh "demarcation report" should be prepared as the present report has "certain objections" and, in the meantime, no demolition exercise should be carried out.
The DDA counsel said it is the land owning agency in the present case and the demolition exercise is in terms of the order passed by a division bench of the high court in December last year for removal of encroachments.
The lawyer contended the demarcation report is of the year 2021 and the minister cannot sit in review over it.
In the batch of pleas before Justice Arora, the court also directed the petitioners and their lawyers to meet DDA's Deputy Director of Land Management at his office tomorrow at 3.30 PM to present their claims on respective land parcels.
It asked the DDA to file a demarcation report with respect to the subject properties by Wednesday afternoon.
Advocate Kamlesh Kumar Mishra, representing the residents of Green Apartments in Mehrauli, said there are 62 families residing in 62 flats and the entire action of the DDA is illegal because the authorities are going ahead with the drive without giving any opportunity to the residents to be heard.
He said the residents of the apartments have got their title deeds registered by the registrar and the DDA along with the Delhi government has gone ahead with the demarcation exercise without notifying the people residing there, something which is not allowed under law.
On February 10, the high court had directed the authorities to maintain status quo on 400 jhuggis of Ghosiya Slum Colony in Mehrauli, which were also to be demolished.
The land on which the alleged encroachment was made belonged to multiple agencies including the DDA, Waqf Board, and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), it has been claimed.
According to the demolition notice, the land on which demolition is being carried out is a part of the Mehrauli Archaeological Park and the 'existing unauthorised encroachment' is acting as a hindrance to its development.
On December 23, 2022, the high court had refused to stay the demolition exercise proposed in Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
The DDA had then informed the court that no mosque or graveyard was being demolished by the authorities and that only the encroachers will be removed from places in and around the park. It said the exercise will be carried out in accordance with the demarcation report.
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