Reprieve!

SC drops contempt charges against Delhi officials in relocation case

 
Published: Friday 15 June 2001

the Supreme Court ( sc ) of India has dropped contempt charges against P S Bhatnagar, the chief secretary of Delhi, and S P Agarwal, commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi ( mcd ). They were charged by the court for not adhering to its orders to close down polluting industrial units in the residential areas of Delhi. The charges were dropped on May 10, 2001, after the court was convinced that work is being carried out.

The sc in 1996 had instructed the Delhi government to relocate all polluting industrial units from residential and non-conforming areas. After the government failed to take any effective measures, the sc set a deadline in September 1999. However, with no action taken, the court issued show cause notices to the government and contempt notices to the chief secretary and the mcd commissioner in November 2000.

To get out of the mess, the Delhi government took knee-jerk measures such as shutting down all the industries. Chaos followed and the capital came to a standstill because of large-scale protests. Meanwhile, the issue of the amendment of the Delhi masterplan came up, which says that all polluting units must be closed down. While the Union ministry of urban development, under Jagmohan, was made the nodal agency for the implementation of the court order, the Delhi government played its own games. On December 7, 2000, the sc gave a one-month deadline for closing all polluting units. Meanwhile, as units were being closed, the government failed to come up with an adequate plan for relocation.

According to J R Jindal, president of the Delhi Factory Owners Association, out of the 21,000 units surveyed by the government, around 4,500 units have been closed. He says that since the units are being closed down, it was expected that Bhatnagar would be let off. However, the relocation process is far from complete. "The situation has not changed. Work for relocation has not been geared up to accommodate the closed units," he says.

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