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Mehrauli demolition: Govt land vacant till 2014 was encroached upon

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New Delhi: The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) told the Delhi High Court on Thursday the government land in Ladha Sarai village, which falls within Mehrauli Archaeological Park, where the authorities have started a demolition drive, has been encroached upon and Google images of 2014 show it was completely vacant.

The DDA said it is the mandatory and fundamental duty of citizens to ensure protection of the heritage as well as composite culture of the city, which obligation requires the authorities to protect all old monuments, archaeological sites and remains, and make them free from encroachments by unscrupulous people.

The DDA’s submissions were made in an affidavit filed in response to a petition by residents of Green Apartments in Mehrauli, which along with various other properties, has been identified to be demolished as part of the ‘anti-encroachment’ drive.

Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora was informed by DDA counsel Shobhana Takiar that the agency has filed a detailed counter affidavit in the lead petition along with a demarcation report of December 2021.

The counsel said short affidavits of the DDA responding to facts of each of the petitions shall be filed by February 27.

The high court, while listing the matter for March 9, said the interim order of maintaining status quo on the properties of those who have approached the court shall continue till then.

Advocate Siddhant Kumar, the counsel for one of the petitioners, has said the building of his client is situated in Khasra No. 1151/3 in Mehrauli which is not mentioned in the demolition order but the demolition action was still proposed against it.

“The petitioners have encroached on the government land of village Ladha Sarai which falls in Mehrauli Archaeological Park. It is submitted that as per the Google images of 2014, the land under reference was completely vacant,” the DDA said in the affidavit.

“The land in question falls in Mehrauli Archaeological Park which forms part of the Southern Central Ridge where a large number of historical world famous monument exists which are protected/ unprotected and maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India in order to protect Indian Heritage and Culture,” it said.

It said as per the land records maintained by DDA, the land that is the subject matter of this petition falls in Khasra number-209 and 210 of village Ladha Sarai and it was acquired and placed at the disposal of the DDA by a July 1, 1975 notification.

“This land has been earmarked as Green’ in the Master Plan of Delhi since beginning and is to be developed and maintained as Green’ and to be conserved under the Mehrauli Heritage Zone. It is submitted that the area is notified as Reserved Forest vide Notification . dated May 24, 1994 issued under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 being situated at the western side of the road going to Andheria More from Qutub,” it said.

The land owning agency said attempts were made by many people in the past to encroach upon this parcel of DDA land and it had been preventing such attempts of the land grabbers.

The DDA also referred to a July 2019 order of a division bench of the high court which had directed the authorities to take all necessary steps to ensure the Mehrauli Archaeological Park is free from encroachment.

It said in compliance with various orders of the high court the Delhi government prepared a demarcation report on December 21, 2021 for the seam-line between village Ladha Sarai and Mehrauli.

“After the demarcation report duly verified by the revenue department of Delhi government, DDA has issued notice on December 12, 2022 for removal of encroachments in Mehrauli Archaeological Park falling in village Ladha Sarai which is a government land ,” the DDA said.

Regarding the sale deeds of land submitted by the petitioners, the authorities said such sale is void and barred under the provisions of Delhi Land Restriction on Transfer Act and other documents in the nature of property tax do not confer any right, title and interest in the property.

The high court has been hearing a batch of petitions challenging the demolition action.

The counsel for the residents of Green Apartments in Mehrauli had earlier said there are 62 families residing in 62 flats in the apartments and the entire action of DDA is illegal because the authorities are going ahead with the drive without giving any opportunity to the residents to be heard.

He had said the residents of the apartments have got their title deeds registered by the registrar and DDA, along with the Delhi government, has gone ahead with the demarcation exercise without notifying those residing there which is not allowed as per law.

A large number of residents of the area have approached the high court with separate petitions against the action being taken on their individual properties.

On February 10, the high court had directed the authorities to maintain status quo on 400 jhuggis of Ghosiya Slum Colony in Mehrauli, which were also to be demolished.

The DDA, on February 10, started a demolition drive in Mehrauli amid police security. However, on February 14, Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena directed the DDA to stop the anti-encroachment drive in Mehrauli and Ladha Sarai villages till further instructions.

The drive was launched a month ahead of a proposed G20 meeting at the park in south Delhi.

According to the DDA, the old park has about 55 monuments under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India, state archeological department and the urban civic body.

The land on which the alleged encroachment was done belonged to multiple agencies including DDA, Waqf Board, and Archaeological Survey of India, it has been claimed.

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#Mehrauli #demolition #Govt #land #vacant #encroached

( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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