February 25, 2009 2:24:07 am
Rishi Pal was left speechless and shocked when on April 15,1999 a demolition squad of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) suddenly turned up at his premises near Tihar Jail and bulldozed his dairy shop,after declaring him an encroacher.
The demolition crew,comprising a licensing inspector,claimed that Pal had unauthorised occupation of government land. Pal,however,produced all property related documents and said he was never served a notice by the MCD. His contentions fell on deaf ears and the team pulled his shop down.
Ten years later,things are,however,set to change for him,as a city court has held the MCDs act as unlawful and directed them to pay Rs 1.5 lakh in damages for demolishing his shop. The civic body has also been ordered not to interfere with his possession.
Allowing Pals petition,Additional District Judge (ADJ) Kamini Lau also pulled up the MCD for knocking down the structure without proving on record that Pal had unlawfully encroached upon the land,whereas he produced several documents to show his legal right over the land.
It is evident that on the one hand the plaintiff has proved his established possession (also through his predecessor in interest over the property in question since 1950),whereas,on the other hand,the defendants have failed to prove that the plaintiff was an encroacher on municipal land through the property which was demolished, the court noted in a recent decision.
Criticising the manner in which the demolition was carried out,ADJ Lau also said the MCD had itself committed a wrong by not issuing a notice to Pal,seeking his explanation against their charge.
The state has a duty of care towards general citizens. The action of the defendant in demolishing the property without any prior notice as required under the law is illegal per se, the court held.
The judge also took to task the licensing inspector,who claimed to have the power to pull down an unauthorised property under the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act but failed to show any rules authorising him to do so. The defendants have also failed to prove that the licensing inspector had any power or jurisdiction to demolish the property,which according to them was an encroachment, ADJ Lau said while adding that the only power the officer had was to challan a property being run in violation of municipal bylaws.
Asking the MCD to pay Rs 1.5 lakh in compensation to Pal,the court said every individual had an interest in the security of his or her person and property and instituting demolition without any reasonable cause had to give rise to two kinds of damages,financial losses and mental and physical harassment. The civic body has also been given the liberty to recover the compensation from the erring officials.
I hereby hold that the plaintiff,who is in admitted possession of the suit property,is occupying the property in his capacity as the owner of the property, the judge said in her final order and passed a decree in Pals favour.
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