The Supreme Court on Thursday termed "irreversible" the situation prevailing in Delhi, saying the authorities would have to make all out efforts to deal with myriad problems like pollution, water crisis, traffic congestion in the national capital.
The top court was hearing a matter relating to the sealing of unauthorised constructions in Delhi.
Perhaps, it was "too late" to improve the situation but the authorities, including the Delhi government, would have to take all steps in a positive manner, the court observed.
"Perhaps, the situation has become irreversible. Pollution, water, Yamuna water level and traffic congestion, we are having problems. Perhaps it is too late. Maybe it is irreversible. If efforts are made, things will improve. It cannot be done at the speed of light but at least you can start," a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
"The Delhi government also has to take steps in a positive manner. Everybody has to move forward, otherwise where are we going," the bench observed.
The court asked the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to consider these aspects in a positive manner.
"For whom is this all happening? It is for the people of Delhi and if things are going like this, nothing will happen. You see river Yamuna. There is no water. We would be wasting our time unless you will not do it," the bench said.
The court then questioned the DDA whether it made any 'plan B' in case the apex court strikes down the laws protecting unauthorised constructions from being sealed.
It said the amendments in the Master Plan of Delhi-2021 could become meaningless if these are struck down by the apex court.
The bench, which had earlier stayed any further progress in amending the Master Plan 2021, also said that the proposed amendments relating to the floor area ratio (FAR) for shop-cum-residential plots and complexes might lead to further constructions.
FAR is the ratio of a building's total floor area (gross floor area) to the size of the piece of land on which it is built.
"You (DDA) have to keep in mind the fact that the amendments that are under challenge from 2006, all that can be struck down. There is a possibility. You cannot say that you will deal with it when court will strike it down. You must have a plan B ready," the court said.
The court said if FAR was increased, the number of constructions in Delhi would rise and the DDA cannot "wish it away".
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) ANS Nadkarni, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that the special task force (STF) to oversee enforcement of laws to deal with unauthorised constructions and encroachments in Delhi has been set up and it has started taking action against encroachments on public land.
The bench, however, observed that STF’s action was targeted at small vendors on pavements but not against the rich.
"There are huge rooms for security guards outside the big bungalows on the pavements. Why are you not taking action against them," the bench asked Nadkarni, who said "this is just the beginning".
The bench also took exception to DDA’s dateline of only three days for inviting objections from the public before the proposed amendments to the Master Plan.
"You are saying that three days is reasonable. We accept it but you seek four to six weeks to file an affidavit. When it comes to the citizens, you say three days are enough but when it comes to the government, you say six weeks is not enough," the bench said and referred to the rules which stipulate 90 days’ time for inviting objections.
The top court also questioned the proposed amendment regarding FAR and asked why there cannot be a status quo on it.
Senior advocate Ranjit Kumar, assisting the court as an amicus curia, raised the issue of lack of environment impact assessment before proposing to amend the master plan.
The bench asked the DDA to file a tabular chart giving details as to what the rules were and what was the amendment proposed and posted the matter for hearing on May 8.
The top court had earlier ordered restoration of its 2006 monitoring committee to identify and seal such offending structures.
The monitoring committee, comprising K J Rao, former advisor to the Election Commissioner, Bhure Lal, chairman of Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority, and Major General (Retd) Som Jhingan, was set up on March 24, 2006, by the court.
The apex court is also hearing arguments on validity of the Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2006 and subsequent legislations which protect unauthorised construction from being sealed.