Need parking policy to entitle every citizen to dignified life, says Supreme Court

The apex court upholds parking rules as a clean air strategy and asks for its implementation  

By Anumita Roychowdhury
Published: Tuesday 03 September 2019

The Supreme Court ruling on parking policy on September 2, 2019 is a momentous milestone in the clean air battle. This ruling has provided definitive legal and constitutional backing to parking strategy as a clean air action.

A bench of Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Deepak Gupta monitored the implementation of a comprehensive clean air action plan of Delhi, which requires a parking policy as a vehicle-restraint measure to reduce congestion and pollution.

The bench directed the Delhi government to notify the much-awaited Draft Rules of the Delhi Maintenance and Management of Parking Places 2019 at the earliest before September 30. It also upheld the principle that proper parking policy would lead to less pollution, fewer crimes and a better and more dignified life — which every citizen is entitled to under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. 

Once the draft rules are notified, a parking area management plan — the requirement of the parking rules — will become legally enforceable. The government will have to file a compliance report by October 4.

The judgment is categorical in demanding that the parking policy must not be compromised and the draft parking policy must be followed in letter and spirit. It has acknowledged how the social fabric of neighbourhoods is “being torn asunder because of fights over this most petty issue of parking of vehicles.”

The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority’s [EPCA] reports to the court underscored the importance of parking rules and a policy. Based on them, the apex court directed that it would need to prepare and implement pilot parking-area management projects in Lajpat Nagar, Kamla Nagar and Krishna Nagar. It would respect key aspects of the parking rules and enable implementation.

The court will review the results of the pilot projects and draw the roadmap to take it forward to other areas.

Once the area management plans begin to roll according to the parking rules there will be far reaching impact on the liveability and air quality of the city. Towards this end, the new ruling has highlighted the key aspects and elements of rules that will become a game changer.

According to the rules, the new area plans will have to:

  • Accord priority to pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transport in the parking area management plans
  • Earmark one lane on each residential street for emergency vehicle movement and protect it from encroachment
  • Protect green areas and parks from parking
  • Prohibit parking on footpaths
  • Enable pick-up and drop-off facilities for differently abled persons
  • Consult with resident welfare association for preparation of area parking plans among others

The ruling has highlighted how the rules will allow augmentation of legal parking through a strategy of shared use of public parking facilities that are not used during nights and also judicious use of vacant spaces in neighbourhoods, etc.

Parking pricing

The judgment has taken on board the EPCA’s suggestion that parking permits and stickers may be issued to the residents based on monthly charges. However, the court has not issued orders on this yet in view of opposition from the Delhi government. It did state categorically though that “it would not be unreasonable to expect the residents to at least share the burden of administrative costs for stickers, hiring security guards, etc.”

But at the same time it stated that parking requires a lot of space, planning and infrastructure and lot of money. The tendency of individuals is to save as much money as possible and not pay anything for parking. The state will have to decide whether it would bear the cost or it wants the users to pay for the parking area. 

Method in madness

The ruling referred to a EPCA report case study on parking area plan for Lajpat Nagar II to demonstrate how innovative ways can meet local demand and plan for the spillover while respecting ‘no-go’ areas.

In the area there are 448 housing plots with 1,680 total floors and 3,510 cars. After applying the draft parking rules (including no parking on footpaths, green areas, parks, near intersection and keeping one lane free from encroachment), about 1,830 could be accommodated. The plan then identified alternative sites outside the colony for the remaining 1,680. This also helped establish the principles of shared public parking.

The parking area plan will enable such reorganisation while reducing demand. Though the ruling has stated that the new developments should assess parking needs for next 25 years before any project approval, proper implementation of the rules can contain demand. 

‘Footpaths for pedestrians’ 

This landmark judgment sets a significant precedent to reaffirm the right of the pedestrians to the footpath by taking a very strong view of encroachment on pavements and declares – “footpaths are for pedestrians”.

It has strongly criticised the way houses have encroached upon footpaths for gardening and installing cabins for security guards. It has asked for strict action against owners and encroachers.

They will be given 15 days to remove encroachment. If they fail, municipal authorities will remove the encroachment and recover the cost from the encroachers as arrears of land revenue.

If the offence is repeated, the authorities may frame rules to withdraw municipal services such as water supply, electricity, sewage connection, etc from them.

New Delhi Municipal Corporation, North Delhi Municipal Corporation, South Delhi Municipal Corporation, East Delhi Municipal Corporation and Delhi Cantonment Board have been directed to ensure that all pavements in residential areas be cleared from all encroachment to make pavements usable by pedestrians.

This can have a far-reaching impact on speeding up sustainable mobility pathways.  

Hi-tech solution

The Supreme Court also asked the EPCA to consider the viability and effectiveness of introducing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and parking guidance and information systems and last-mile connectivity from parking spaces to commercial areas.

The ruling stated that modern technology must be used to ensure that parking spaces are utilised to the maximum and have RFID tags for all vehicles, coupled with parking guidance and information system in transport hubs, institutions and commercial areas.

This will enable electronic payment and reduce corruption.

Just do it

This ruling has finally set aside all objections and removed all barriers and opposition to effective implementation of the draft parking rules. This is a big opportunity for the city as the rules are designed to reduce parking demand and the need for driving personal vehicles to cut emissions.

This vehicle-restraint measure is a critical strategy to reduce vehicular emissions that is already 40 per cent of the total particulate load and poses serious health exposure risk in the city. 

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