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Feb 01, 2008 at 10:10pm IST

Delhi de-sealed: Centre reverses demolition drive

New Delhi: In a big relief for thousands of Delhi traders and citizens, the Union Ministry for Urban Development on Friday issued a notification to legalise all encroachments in Delhi done till January 2006.

This practically puts demolition of all illegal structures in Delhi on hold till the end of 2008. This also effectively means that there will be no more sealing in Delhi. All illegal buildings sealed under the Supreme Court's orders last year will now be de-sealed.

The Government order supersedes all court action against demolitions in Delhi and adds that no fresh action will be initiated till December 2008.

The MCD itself had a list of over 18,000 buildings listed as illegal encroachments and had carried out a massive demolition drive in the capital city last year.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit expressed relief over the Government order. Talking to CNN-IBN, she said the order would be welcomed by the city's traders and the citizenry in general.

"It's a big relief for the government and an even bigger relief for the people. This will now facilitate regularisation of these structures. There will be no need to demolish these structures now. It has taken 8-9 months for the Government to finalise this notification," she said.

Dikshit said all this while the sword of sealing was hanging on the heads of these traders. "We hope now we will have a practical Master Plan which will accommodate all of these. The laws will come out soon and we will be able to regularise these structures soon," she said.

The direction by the Union Urban Development Ministry came in the wake of the action by the MCD and the DDA against encroachment and unauthorised construction following court orders.

The notice sent to MCD and the Delhi Government on Friday asks the Government to stop the demolition of all illegal structures and encroachments till December 31, 2008 and unseal all properties that were sealed as a part of the drive.

Indira Jaisingh, Counsel for Government of India, says the notification is consistent with the government's stand.

"I think the Government of India has had a very consistent stand. They passed a law and they have been saying for a very long time that sealing and demolition is not the solution to unauthorised user," Jaisingh says.

"The notification," she adds, "is very much consistent with the Government of India's stand over the last two years. In my personal opinion, it is a welcome notification. It will prevent homelessness and unemployment in the vast majority of the people in the city and it is much needed."

The relief will result in the suspension of the ongoing demolition of illegal fourth and fifth floors of residential buildings. The moratorium saves even those areas of lal dora and unauthorised colonies that could not be covered in the changes made in the Master Plan.

The decision was taken earlier, but has been ratified only now.

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The BJP-dominated MCD has termed the Centre's decision to suspend sealing and demolition drives in Delhi till December 31 as a 'political stunt' and demanded a one-time amnesty scheme for regularising illegal structures.

"The Centre's notification was a clear cut political stunt done with an eye on the Delhi Assembly elections," MCD Leader of the House Subhash Arya said.

He alleged the Congress Government was adopting delaying tactics to come up with an amnesty scheme. The Centre issued directions to the concerned local authorities in the capital to suspend sealing and demolition of structures that came up before December, 2005.

(With agency inputs)

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