The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Central government what it has done about commercial establishments in residential areas in Delhi and when will these be demolished.
A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta said it was going to spare small traders that sell essential commodities like milk and bread in the residential areas but the big car showrooms, cloth showrooms, shops and restaurants, which are operating without any fire safety norms in residential areas, would have to go.
The bench also referred to the last year's fire incident in restaurants at Kamala Mills compound in Mumbai in which several people died.
It said several restaurants were operating from first floor of the buildings in residential areas in Delhi without any fire safety clearance.
"It is a 30 - year - old problem (unauthorised constructions and colonies in Delhi).
What have you done in these 30 years.
The MCD was granting licences left, right and centre without having any concern for anybody.
There is gross misuse of commercial establishments in residential areas.
You have a 30 - year explanation to give to the people of Delhi, " said the bench.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) A. N. S. Nadkarni, representing the Centre, said any commercial establishments in residential areas which were violating law would not be allowed to operate.
The ASG told the bench that striking down the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations, which protect unauthorised construction from being sealed, was not a solution and said the court should monitor the issue and authorities should be asked to perform their duties in a time - bound manner.
On ASG's suggestion to monitor the issue, the bench said: "We are not policemen.
Why should we do it?
Does the Supreme Court has nothing more to do?".
"When the Supreme Court says something, it is said there is judicial activism and judicial overreach. . .
The Indian government can shut its eyes but we cannot.
We have the constitutional obligations. "
The ASG said the Centre would hold discussions with all authorities concerned including the Delhi government, the DDA, the civic bodies and the court - appointed monitoring committee and come up with suggestions.
During the hearing, the bench also said: "The people of Delhi are suffering.
Children are suffering.
Our lungs are already damaged.
Lungs of our children will also be damaged.
Because the Union of India, the Delhi government, the DDA, the MCDs say 'you can do whatever you want but we will not do anything'. "
The bench was hearing pleas relating to the validity of the legislations that protect unauthorised construction from being sealed in Delhi.
In December last year, while expressing concern over rampant illegal construction in Delhi, the apex court said the authorities do not appear to have carried out their statutory duties in preventing illegal construction and ordered restoration of its 2006 monitoring committee to identify and seal such offending structures.