Rouse Avenue party office not encroachment, allotted under L&DO rules: AAP to SC | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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Rouse Avenue party office not encroachment, allotted under L&DO rules: AAP to SC

Feb 16, 2024 02:19 PM IST

The AAP has told the Supreme Court that the Rouse Avenue premises was allotted to the party long before it was earmarked for the court complex

NEW DELHI: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has submitted in the Supreme Court that the party’s headquarters at Rouse Avenue in Delhi was not an “encroachment” of the land that was first allotted to the Delhi high court, claiming the plot was allotted to it by the Delhi government in 2015.

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“In view of this, there is no question of the applicant ‘encroaching’ on a space that was duly allotted to it in 2015 and that has been in its possession since then. The subject premises had been in the applicant’s occupation long before it was earmarked for extending the Rouse Avenue Court Complex,” AAP said.

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The party’s response filed on Thursday came two days after the top court sought a timeline “for the removal of the encroachment by a “political party”

The AAP application went on to blame the Land & Development Office (L&DO) under the Union housing and urban affairs ministry for not carrying out “due diligence” before earmarking a chunk of land, including the plot where the AAP office was situated, to the Delhi high court for the expansion of judicial infrastructure.

“To the party’s knowledge, the L&DO allotted 3.03 acres of land to GNCTD on 18.09.2020 for building additional court rooms for Rouse Avenue Court, which was stated to be adjacent to the Rouse Avenue Court. When the land was to be taken over, it was then stated by L&DO on 12.12.2023 that, not just the vacant land that is adjacent to the Rouse Avenue Court complex, but a bituminous road and the office of Aam Aadmi Party exist on the said land are also to be allotted for the construction,” said the plea.

It added: “There is no explanation forthcoming for why due diligence was not exercised by the L&DO by examining the pre-existing status of the land and its vacancy.”

AAP’s application was filed after a bench led by Chief Justice of India Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud on Tuesday expressed disapproval after being informed that AAP’s Rouse Avenue headquarters was built on “encroached land” that was originally allotted to the Delhi high court.

“No one can take law into their own hands...How can a political party sit tight on that (land)? The unencumbered possession must be given back to the high court,” the bench, also comprising justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, said on Tuesday.

The bench was on the day dealing with a case concerning judicial infrastructure across the country when advocate K Parameshwar, representing the Delhi high court, brought the matter to the court’s notice. Parameshwar submitted that though Delhi high court officials went to take possession of the land allotted to them, “a political party office was built there” and therefore, they could not take the land back.

Seeking an opportunity to be heard when the matter is taken up on February 19, AAP said the subject land, ( a bungalow) was allotted to it in accordance with the L&DO guidelines that entitled the party to be allotted two office spaces -- one for its national unit and another for its Delhi state unit.

“As of now, the party has been allotted office space (i.e. the subject premises) only for its Delhi state unit… Far from being an instance of ‘encroachment’, the subject premises were officially allotted to the applicant by the Government of NCT of Delhi on 31.12.2015 for its state unit office. This was strictly in accordance with the applicant’s entitlement as (at that time) a state party under the Office Memorandum dated 14.10.2015,” the application said.

The application clarified that the allotment of office space for official party work is an essential element of public funding of elections in India and is designed to level the electoral playing field.

AAP said “it has no qualms in agreeing to vacate the premises” while requesting the court to ensure that it is allotted an alternative space as “immediate vacation would leave AAP with zero office space, especially in light of the impending general elections and the fact that other five national parties operate out of their allotted offices in Delhi.”

In its order on February 13, the CJI-led bench directed that the chief secretary of the Delhi government, secretary in-charge of the public works department (PWD) and the finance secretary to convene a meeting before the next date of hearing with the registrar general of the high court so that all outstanding issues are settled without waiting for further orders of the court. “On the next date of listing, specific timeline shall be furnished to this court for the removal of the encroachment,” the court directed.

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