January 18, 2006

Illegal Constructions in Delhi-Two cheers for the Rule of Law

It is heartening to note that the Delhi High Court has remained steadfast in its directions to the MCD to demolish unauthorized constructions within Delhi. The Court has also given directions to carry out the task regardless of the status of the persons who might be affected. The Court has also directed for power and water to be disconnected for such constructions. It has also given eminently sensible directions to identify the builders and developers who were responsible for the unauthorized constructions and put their names in the Sub-Registrar’s office and on websites.(see)

It is clear that given bureaucratic and political will, it is not difficult to find solutions even to difficult-sounding problems.

For a change, even the Congress Party local leader Mr. Rambabu Sharma has given instructions to his party functionaries in the MCD to carry out the demolitions and take actions against erring officials. The people can only hope that instead of confining its actions to junior functionaries, it will send a strong signal by bringing to book, in the first instance, the senior-most officers in the chain of command, whose responsibility it was to supervise their juniors.

That there is a human aspect involved in these demolitions cannot be denied. But when a corrupt bureaucracy and an apathetic or conniving political class consistently ignores the law, there is little choice left to firmly establish the Rule of Law. The extent of corruption, apathy and connivance can be gauged from the disclosure by the Mr. Kapil Sibal that 80% of the constructions in Delhi were unauthorized!! This state of affairs in the Capital City of this ‘great’ democracy clearly shows the scant respect for law the builders, developers and municipal authorities have – a malaise seen in all parts of the country.

It is only to be hoped that the Delhi Government does not show the naked and brazen disregard for observing the law as the Maharashtra Government did recently by passing an Ordinance to nullify the effects of Court Orders. True, the Government was within its rights to do so. But in the eyes of the general public and the world at large, it will remain a colorable exercise of the right to wash out the sins of the criminal negligence of the administration in encouraging the disregard for law.

The development in the Court today deserves two cheers. The third is reserved for the time when the final judgment is pronounced and the consequential actions by the authorities reach their logical end (if that happens).