Delhi High Court Slams Illegal Constructions

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Forests Delhi's Lungs, Must Be Restored: High Court Slams Illegal Constructions

Delhi High Court said health is at the highest pedestal (File)

New Delhi:

Forests are “Delhi’s green lungs” and the only saviour from pollution and they should be “restored”, the Delhi High Court said while expressing concern over unauthorised constructions, including encroachments in the name of religious structures.

The High Court said people are unable to breathe in the national capital and are dying because of pollution and nobody can be permitted to stay in the forest areas and must be evicted.

“Let the forests be restored. Today where will you find more forests? So the existing ones must be preserved. These are the green lungs of Delhi. Have a heart. Be human. Understand that people are dying because of pollution. This is our only saviour. This is our last bastion.

“We will not be able to breathe. What will you see? How will you enjoy the heritage if you can’t breathe in the city? Let them breathe. Enough peers, dargahs, and temples are there. Enough. We have more than sufficient,” a bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet PS Arora said.

The court’s observations came while hearing a public interest litigation seeking that ancient monuments, particularly Ashiq Allah Dargah in Mehrauli, be protected from demolition.

It was the petitioners’ case that the dargah dates back to 1317 AD and is one of the earliest and most important Sultanate-era structures in the country and includes the chillagah of Baba Farid, the revered 13th-century Sufi saint.

The bench took judicial notice of the fact that Delhi is one of the cities worst affected by pollution and not a month passes when the Air Quality Index (AQI) does not cross the hazardous mark.

“Undoubtedly life in its expanded horizons includes all that gives meaning to a man’s life, including his culture and heritage and the protection of that heritage in its full measure,” it said, adding that, according to doctors, even the lungs of children are being adversely affected.

The court said it was of the view that the right to health, breath, heritage, and culture have to be harmonised and balanced.

It noted that Mehrauli and Sanjay Van are marked as green/forest areas in the Master Plan.

“This court is of the view that green areas are the lungs of the city and efforts have to be made by all statutory authorities to ensure that no illegal and unauthorised construction is carried out on this public land dedicated for a public purpose,” it said.

While looking at the pictures, the bench said these are new tiles put on the structure there and it has been developed as a sightseeing place where more and more people come.

Advocate Satyajit Sarna, representing petitioners Himanshu Damle and Seela Manaswinee Mahapatra, submitted that for hundreds of years if something has been used as a place of worship obviously it goes through changes.

We are talking about 800-year-old sites and they are even older than these forests, he claimed.

The court, however, did not agree with it and said this was very unfair and all this was being given some sort of a slogan.

“We are getting the forest area cleared so that people can breathe in Delhi. There is so much pollution. Some of these are apparent that they are new structures. It is all an encroachment. These tiles were in Delhi even 10 years before,” it said, adding that surely this type of tiles were not there in the 16th century.

While looking at some of the photographs annexed with the petition, the court said there is a proper dense colony constructed in the middle of a forest.

As the lawyer maintained that the structure was ancient, Justice Manmohan said they were certainly not ancient and were fresh constructions.

“This is being expanded on a very lavish scale. We have seen in Delhi how unauthorised construction starts, this is not something that is being done. No person will be allowed to stay there and they will have to move out. This will not work and people should not fire from your shoulder.

“If something is found to be sacred, we will direct them to preserve it but no one will be allowed to stay there. Everyone will move out otherwise the whole forest is going to be disturbed,” the bench said.

As the lawyer said this structure came before the forest, the bench said, “But the forest will be given priority.”

“We have seen how all this is done, there is a bigger game plan and all this is done with a slogan and to mislead the general public. This is done to create confusion and to create division in the society.

“The priority is the green lungs of Delhi. You don’t feel for Delhiites. Young children are not born with red lungs. Today when a surgeon opens the lungs of children or anybody else, they are not red and they are all black. Children are being born with defunct lungs, please feel for them,” the bench said.

“It is for the betterment of society at large. Health is at the highest pedestal. Look at the people who are suffering from lung diseases in Delhi, unbelievable. We are such an unhealthy population today. We have deformed lungs, it is terrible,” the bench said.

The court disposed of the petition while noting the statement made by the counsel for DDA and other authorities that all the structures declared by any statutory authority as part of the national heritage will be preserved and shall not be destroyed or demolished.

It was further submitted that all encroachments are being removed and any demolition action will be taken only per law.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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