The Supreme Court (SC) ordered the closure and relocation of polluting industrial units in Delhi in 1996 (Down To Earth, Vol 7, No 16). That was part one of the order,which was implemented on time. However, part two of the order which pertains to taking over the vacated factory land by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) and its conversion into "lung spaces" has been delayed. The delay is being ascribed to the "grey area" in the order. DDA and the industries are trying to interpret the order to their advantage. The Court had said in the order: "The land which is surrendered and dedicated to the community by the owners/occupiers of the relocated/shifted industries should be used for the development of green belts and open spaces."
While the purpose was spelt out clearly, the modalities were not. For instance there was no mention of whether DDA would pay compensation for acquiring the land. It was also not clear which part of the land would be surrendered to DDA as industry owners are permitted to develop part of their land.
On February 9, 1999, SC issued notices to the Union government, Delhi government and others seeking explanation on the question of surrender of land by polluting industries. Justice Saghir Ahmed and Justice Jagannadha Rao were hearing the petition filed by the Birla Textiles Mills challenging the SC order directing it to surrender 65 per cent of the land in its possession. The petition argued that the order of surrender of land was contrary to the statutory provisions. SC also issued notices to the Attorney General of India, seeking his views on the maintainability of the writ petition as the order to shut polluting industries were issued under Article 21 of the Constitution. The Article guarantees fundamental right to life. However, SC has refused to entertain the plea of the company to modify the compensation package.
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