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Wary traders to move SC against sealing

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NEW DELHI: A day after 51 units at the Defence Colony market were sealed for violating Master Plan 2021, traders are agitated that South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) has taken the step without issuing any notice to these facilities.
The traders’ association claimed on Saturday that they didn’t need to pay any conversion charge to the corporation as the land use of the market was commercial when it was handed over by the land owning agency to SDMC.

The traders are now planning to challenge the move in the Supreme Court, said Jagdish Gupta, general secretary of Defence Colony market association. “As per Master Plan 2021, it has the status of a local shopping complex. The corporation’s action has no ground,” he said.

The action was taken after a monitoring committee appointed by the Supreme Court directed the civic body to seal the commercial establishments operating on the first floor and above. The market, under the category of shopping-cum-residential complex, was given the status of a local shopping complex in Master Plan 2021. As per the plan, the establishments operating from the first floor and above in such complexes are liable to pay one-time conversion charges at the rate of Rs 89,000 per square metre.

Despite Christmas being just two days away, the market wore a deserted look on Saturday. Rahil Bindra, owner of Moets that was among the units sealed, said, “We have been operating here for a long time but there was no issue with conversion charges. The corporation should at least give a prior notice. The business is ruined for this week ahead of Christmas and New Year’s Eve.”

Satyajit Dhingra, president of Social, pointed out that the restaurant was sealed despite the owner of the building having paid conversion charges. “At least there should be proper documentation to explain the arrears, if any, and we should be given a prior notice. The traders are being harassed for no reason,” he said. Harinder Singh, owner of the building, said he had paid conversion charges three years ago after receiving a notice from the corporation.

Few owners even took to Twitter requesting chief minister Arvind Kejriwal for help. “Respected CM-ji, we are occupants of Defence Colony market where MCD guys have come in today with police force and are sealing first, second floors without any notice. We seek your urgent help and mercy (sic),” tweeted Vipul Gupta, one of the owners.

A delegation of AAP councillors and MLAs on Saturday assured traders of taking up the matter with the SDMC commissioner on Tuesday. “The traders are in shock. How will they pay crores as conversion charges?” Saurabh Bharadwaj, the AAP MLA from GK, said after the meeting.

Civic officials claim several other markets, including those at Green Park, Greater Kailash I & II, South Extension, Hauz Khas, Kamla Nagar and Model Town, also come under the same category. However, the SC committee will decide about the action, an official said.

“We were directed by the SC-appointed monitoring committee to act. In such cases, sealing is carried out with immediate effect. More action, if any, will be taken only after Christmas,” said a senior official.

The capital witnessed major sealing actions after the Supreme Court in 2006 constituted the committee to inspect misuse of land and unauthorised constructions. Recently, the court again directed the committee to keep a close watch on such activities.

However, sources said that in 2009-10, the then lieutenant governor had directed the civic agencies to issue notice at least 48 hours before a sealing drive. The action at the Defence Colony market was executed on verbal orders.

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