The Delhi High Court on Tuesday send out a strong message to those eateries at Hauz Khas village operating without mandatory clearances, saying “we are here to protect the life and personal liberty of every person in the city”. A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar, however, made clear that it will also consider the owners’ right to practice profession, which has been guaranteed under the Constitution. “We will balance the rights of every person including the owners of the properties, but only if one has complied with the building bye-laws and the master plan. Violators will have to go,” the bench added.
The court’s oral observation were made during hearing of petitions by social activist Pankaj Sharma and advocate Anuja Kapur, who alleged that there are over 120 restaurants and pubs running in the area without any building plan approval or no objection certificate (NOC) from the authorities, including the fire department.
They alleged “unlawful existence” of restaurants, pubs, fashion studios, bars serving liquor without licence, art galleries and other buildings in the village.
The petitioners also claimed that these restaurants posed a grave security risk and fire hazard and apart from that the crowd in the area had made it impossible for emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks to gain access to the restaurants.
The court then directed the South Delhi Municipal Corporation to provide a site plan of the area indicating the width of the street, location of the properties and the village area as well as the permissible usage of the properties according to the master plan of Delhi.
Responding to the court’s direction, the corporation said that they have issued closer notices to 19 restaurant owners, who have failed to get mandatory clearances from the bodies and the government.
The Delhi Police informed the court that there are around 5,000 footfalls on weekdays and over 15,000 on weekends.
The police also said there are around 45 eateries in Hauz Khas Village, of which 26 have valid licence, eight have applied for renewal and four have fresh licence.
Seven of the restaurants were operating without any valid licence, the police told the court.
The bench, meanwhile, got annoyed over the information that there is only one entry and exit of the fire tending vehicles in the village.
It said as per the rule such vehicle should have enough space to move around.
It said, “Valuable right of the people is involved. It is very serious issue. Only 45 restaurants is playing with the life of thousands of people visiting the Hauz Khas village in south Delhi.”
The bench asked the MCD and the petitioners to conduct an inspection of the village and inform it about the width of the road in that area.
The court has now fixed the matter for further hearing on September 5.