The Supreme Court on Monday said civic bodies in Delhi had their “eyes closed” and were “waiting for disaster to happen”, while hearing a petition filed against the sealing of commercial premises in the national Capital on the orders of a panel the top court had appointed.

“Everybody in Delhi is just keeping their eyes closed and waiting for disaster to happen,” said a bench of Justices Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta. “You [civic bodies] have learnt nothing from Uphaar fire tragedy and incidents in Bawana and Kamala Mills.”

The court also asked the Delhi Development Authority, “Are you looking after the interest of the people of Delhi or not?”

The Delhi Development Authority had recently proposed changing some rules in the city’s Master Plan 2021, which could benefit several traders facing the threat of sealing. The top court said it appeared that the Delhi Development Authority was “succumbing to some pressure”.

“What about the people who are staying in Delhi?” the bench asked Delhi Development Authority. “You have to hear the people also. You cannot hear only some people.” The court asked the civic body to file an affidavit within two weeks on the matter.

The civic body had proposed to have the same floor area ratio requirement for business-cum-residential plots and residential plots. Floor area ratio is the ratio of a building’s total floor area to the plot’s land size.

On January 22, in another hearing, the court had criticised civic authorities in the city after a fire in the city’s Bawana industrial area. It had said “human life does not seem to have great value” and that laws were being violated with impunity.

The sealing drive

Acting on instructions from a Supreme Court-appointed committee, civic officials shut down shops and restaurants in south Delhi’s Defence Colony Market on December 22 for alleged unauthorised constructions.

The civic body has since taken action against shops in 20 markets, including Khan Market, Mehar Chand Market, Sundar Nagar, Hauz Khas, Rajendra Nagar, Chhatarpur and Vasant Kunj. The shops were sealed as they allegedly have not paid conversion charges, and for encroachment and illegal construction, among other things.

The sealing drive is the latest flash point between the Aam Aadmi Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which controls three municipal corporations in Delhi. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said the government will approach the Supreme Court asking for a temporary ban on the sealing drive.