The Delhi government’s environment department and municipal corporations are preparing to crack down on doctor’s clinics, nursing homes and laboratories operating in residential areas for allegedly violating provisions in the mixed land-use category as laid out in the Delhi Master Plan.
However, sources said, efforts to send notices to clinics and labs over the last week have resulted in confusion as there is no database on such establishments.
The decision came months after the Supreme Court, in its order issued on March 20, slammed the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) and the municipal corporations, while ordering the closure and shifting of Dr Dangs diagnostic laboratory in South Delhi. The lab has been ordered to close by June 22.
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The order was issued to the lab for alleged violations of the master plan norms, including provision of parking space and using more than the permitted 25 per cent space in the place of residence — as mandated in the mixed land-use policy.
When contacted, Dr Navin Dang, director of Dr Dang’s Medical Diagnostic Centre said, “I am a law-abiding citizen. Our lab is a quality lab in Delhi. I do not want to comment on the matter at the moment as our lawyers are still examining the judgment.”
According to the Delhi Master Plan, the “area/street for mixed use activity should be identified by conducting a study of the impact on the traffic in that area/street in which such mixed use activity is likely to take place. Environmental needs and impact on municipal services of the area must also be evaluated if mixed use is allowed.”
So, officials explained, clinics and healthcare establishments can only operate in residential areas if they produce documentation of such a survey.
“Even if the survey finds such a clinic feasible, they are allowed to operate only on the ground floor of the premises. So doctors cannot go and set up clinics or labs in residential areas where they do not live. If they live in the area, only up to 25 per cent or 50 sqm (whichever is less) can be used for the establishment,” a senior official said.
Sources said these provisions, as mandated by the SC in its order, are not met by a large majority of clinics, labs and nursing homes in residential colonies.
With the deadline approaching for the closure of Dr Dangs lab, the DPCC — during a meeting held last week — had decided to seek data of clinics, labs and nursing homes that are operating in residential areas from the health department.
A DPCC member who attended the meeting said, “While the order is against one lab, on examination we found that it should extend to all such establishments. Meetings were held with municipal corporation authorities and the health department, because the court questioned the DPCC’s role.”
However, sources said the government’s legal department has said the matter doesn’t lie within the jurisdiction of the DPCC alone.
“The matter pertains to the violation of building bylaws. The master plan has to be dealt with by the appropriate department such as the municipal corporations. So while we have asked for lists of such labs from the health department, the DPCC cannot regulate them on its own. We need co-operation from municipal and Health department authorities,” another official at the meeting said.
Meanwhile, municipal corporation authorities have already started visiting labs and hospitals in different parts of Delhi to direct them to comply immediately.
“It has been jointly decided that such hospitals, clinics and labs will be asked to comply with the norms within 30 days or close down and shift their premises from residential areas. Our teams are visiting clinics, hospitals and nursing homes, but it is very difficult because there is no comprehensive list of these establishments, particularly the small ones,” a source said.
Sources said the department is also trying to issue specific guidelines for labs and clinics.
While the existing DPCC rules state that “health care establishments” should apply for “consent to establish” under the air and water pollution Acts, it exempts establishments set up prior to November 2008 which have less than 50 beds.
New facilities established after that with more than 10 beds should apply for the certificate.
“We have been getting complaints from labs that the rules are specifically for establishments with beds with no mention of labs or clinics. So many of them do not have the certificates,” an official explained.