Protecting "unauthorised development" with law, aka Delhi style
September 21, 2009
'Unauthorised development' in Delhi was given official protection instead of punitive action by the Delhi Government through Section 3(2) and (3) of the National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2009, says Shailesh Gandhi, a central information commissioner (CIC) under the Right to Information (RTI) act.
"I had heard about mafia protection for illegal activities, but am surprised that protection is offered by the Government under the garb of a law," he says relating the following story.
Such official protection has been revealed through RTI queries. For instance, one citizen asked for proof of whether a mobile tower erected on top of an existing building had been given permission as required under the law by the MCD. Only after some coaxing it was revealed that no permission was given. Despite a complaint to the municipal commissioner and police commissioner and a promise of action by the public information officer (PIO) there was no action for several days to bring down the tower which could pose a hazard, endangering the lives of people staying in those buildings.
The additional commissioner (engineering), says Gandhi, has revealed the fact that out of 4,532 mobile towers in Delhi only 2,015 have the requisite permissions and 2,517 are without MCD permission! Thus large corporates are putting up the mobile towers on the terraces of existing buildings without legal permission.
The additional deputy commissioner of police undertook an inquiry and came to the conclusion that the police cannot take any action since all 'unauthorised development' in Delhi has been given official protection by the Delhi Government under Section 3(2) and (3) of the NCT of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2009.
What’s more stunning, he says is the grave potential misuse of the process. To install a mobile tower, MCD has specified that stability certificate will be accepted only if it is issued by one of the five agencies approved by it to ensure that the building is not likely to be endangered by putting additional load on top. One of the approved agencies is IIT Delhi.
In one such hearing at the information commission, this is what was recorded: "The Appellant had pointed out there are two certificates issued for the same address. The PIO has stated that the faculty members in IIT issue a stability certificate based on the drawings provided by the client in which the address is mentioned. The PIO also states that no records are maintained by the IIT of the drawings.
The stability certificate provided by IIT states, ‘This building is safe and capable of resisting the forces and moments which may be increased or altered by reason of the additional structures for 15 meter three-legged tower with GSM and MW antenna.’
The wording of this certificate appears to indicate that it is certifying the stability as existing whereas the PIO described that it is a certificate based on a drawing with an address which is not verified at all. Given the fact that the IIT does not maintain any copy of the drawing with itself, this process appears to have great potential for misuse.
Statutory bodies which permit these towers and IITs would do well to take a look at these practices which may have the potential of endangering safety. Alternately people may discover that there is no need for such certification in which case it would be done away with."
Although this is just an example, it gives an indication of some fundamental reasons for the steady decline in the rule of law and decadent governance. Some key elements for this decline are flouting of the laws by major corporates, who operate without permission in over 50% of cases. MCD will not take action against these corporates while the Delhi government offers legal protection to unauthorised activity by major corporates and a premier academic institution issues safety certificates in a manner which is completely flawed, says Gandhi.
The CIC further says this is a potent combination whereby conscious collusion and inactive passivity leads to a society where the rule of law is effectively subverted by the powerful, leading to a decadent governance structure and institutions and citizens need to find ways to correct this.