No notice given, what was the urgency, question Defence Colony shop owners

Hindustan Times | ByVibha Sharma and Gulam Jeelani, New Delhi
Dec 23, 2017 12:33 AM IST

Municipal authorities shut down more than 50 shops and restaurants in south Delhi’s posh Defence Colony market and Chattarpur

The sealing of commercial establishments at the Defence Colony market threw a number of shop owners in a tizzy on Friday.

Municipal authorities shut down more than 50 shops and restaurants in south Delhi’s posh Defence Colony market and Chattarpur
Municipal authorities shut down more than 50 shops and restaurants in south Delhi’s posh Defence Colony market and Chattarpur

At first, many failed to understand the reason and urgency for the drive by municipal authorities in the five-decade old market.

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“At 11am, members of Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee, along with MCD officials and Delhi Police, swarmed to the market. First, they targeted Colonel Kababz, an eatery right at the entrance of market and directed its staff to remove all stuff on first floor as they were going to seal the building. Since the owner of the shop lives in Gurgaon, he requested us (other shopkeepers) to intervene,” said Jagdish Gupta, owner of Shop number 43, that has been rented out to a bank.

“When some shopkeepers inquired, we were told that commercial units operating out of the first and second floors had not deposited conversion charges and will be sealed as per directions of the monitoring committee,” he said.

The drive caught a lot of establishment owners by surprise, who alleged that they were not given any prior notice about the action.

“This sealing drive is trespass on private properties as the officials were not carrying any orders. Moreover, we were not informed about any such exercise,” said Tushar Dhingra of Defence Bakery.

Shivam Shahi, who runs a café shop in market, said he had obtained the health license from south civic body three days ago and got the legal rent agreement prepared.

“And today, MCD officials asked me to vacate the complex. They should have given me some advance notice,” he said.

There were contradictory versions on conversion charges, a reason municipal authorities cited for Frday’s sealing action.

“We are not liable to pay conversion tax because the land and development authority had declared this a commercial market before transferring it to the MCD in 2006. We shared the facts with the municipality commissioner and the L-G earlier. On Friday again, we tried explaining the situation to the committee but they were not ready to listen,” said Gupta.

A group of aggrieved shopkeepers later called a meeting on Friday evening to discuss legal ways of getting their shops de-sealed.

Residents questioned the silence of the civic bodies. “Where was the MCD when floors were illegally getting constructed in the market?” said a RWA member of Defence Colony Welfare Association.

“Even if some dues are pending, the MCD should have served prior notices, sharing details of pending amount, rather then sealing the complexes directly,” said Rajendra Malik, president of Defence Colony Market Association.

MCD officials, however said that they were carrying the action as per direction of the Supreme Court committee and thus not bound to carry a order’s copy. “There might be few who had paid the conversion charges, but not as per rates specified in Master Plan of Delhi-2021,” said an official.

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj blamed complicated municipality norms for Friday’s mess. “The bylaws of MCD are so complicated that the owners in most cases don’t know where they violated it,” he said.

Congress’s local councillor, Abhishek Dutt questioned the timing of the drive. “People are already losing businesses because of GST and demonetisation. Now when the festive season nearing and they can make some money, what was the urgency to seal the shops,” he said.

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