The Delhi High Court was on Tuesday informed that several restaurants, which also served liquor, at the Hauz Khas village here were running in a prohibited area near ancient monuments and a school. The submissions were made before a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and C Hari Shankar which made it clear that “if restaurants have to run, they have to comply with the law” and “we are concerned with safety”. The court’s observations came after it was informed by petitioners, social activist Pankaj Sharma and advocate Anuja Kapur, that they conducted an inspection at the Hauz Khas village and some restaurants having bars were serving liquor in close proximity of a school.
“There are some restaurants which are running in prohibited area, near the ancient monument and a school. The common wall on monument is with a restaurant. There is a restriction of 100 meters but it is not even one meter because of a common wall,” the petitioners told the court which asked them to file the inspection report in two days.
The court sought to know the reasons from the authorities, including Delhi Jal Board, SDMC, fire department and Delhi Police, for not filing their response on the petitions. It directed them to place their replies before it within a week and listed the matter for September 11. During the hearing, the counsel for Delhi Jal Board said they had not filed the reply as they were yet to receive copy of the petition and sought two weeks time.
To this, the bench said “you got the copy of the order of this court, so that is enough”. The court was hearing the petitions which alleged that there were 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..
The bench had earlier sent out a strong message to the eateries at the village operating without mandatory clearances, saying “we are here to protect the life and personal liberty of every person in the city”. It had also made clear that it will also consider the owners’ right to practice profession, which has been guaranteed under the Constitution. The petitioners have alleged “unlawful existence” of restaurants, pubs, fashion studios, bars serving liquor without licence, art galleries and other buildings in the village.
They 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 had 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. The corporation had said that they had issued closer notices to 19 restaurant owners who had failed to get mandatory clearances from the bodies and the government.
The Delhi Police had informed the court that there are around 5,000 footfalls on weekdays and over 15,000 on the weekends.