‘Perverse’: Delhi court sets aside MCD tribunal order penalising trust working for communal harmony

A Delhi court has set aside an order by the appellate tribunal of the municipal corporation (MCD) which ordered a trust working for communal harmony in Delhi to pay ten times the penalty amount to deseal its property and observed it was “absolutely wrong, perverse and unsustainable in law.”

The Quami Ekta Trust was empowered to sub­let any part of its property “to achieve its objects and to raise funds to promote communal harmony”. The Ministry of Urban Development allotted a plot in 1988 to the trust in New Delhi’s Institutional area.

The trust had over the years let out the first and second floors to a chartered accountant firm and the third floor to another trust, which the ministry said was a misuse of the property and in 2009 an official from the Supreme Court-appointed monitoring committee visited the premises and ordered the sealing of the whole property. In 2018, a hearing took place before the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) appellate tribunal which ordered the trust to pay 10 times the penalty of Rs 39,93,818 even though it allowed the desealing of the property.

Principal District and Sessions Judge Dharmesh Sharma said the monitoring committee was not empowered to inspect any premises meant for institutional purposes, and therefore, its direction to the respondent, the NDMC, to seal the property on September 13, 2001, was “non est in law”.

The court said the impugned demand by the NDMC levelling misuse charges amounting to 10 times the penalty is quashed and directed the NDMC to deseal the property within seven days failing which “the official(s) responsible shall be liable to pay compensation of Rs one thousand per day till such time the order is complied with, which shall be deducted from his/her salary on attachment and payable to the Appellant Trust.”

The court said when the trust took up the matter with the NDMC for the de­sealing of the property, that “it was out of the blue slapped with the impugned penalty by the NDMC towards a different kind of misuse or conversion charges in respect of the subject property w.r.t the first and second floors” and “interestingly, ATMCD, although found that respondent/NDMC had not taken action as per law, yet it deflected the issue by ordering partial de­sealing of the property except for the third floor which approach is absolutely wrong, perverse and unsustainable in law.”

The court said the “sealing action was neither done on account of violation of MPD­2021 (Master Plan for Delhi) nor based on any alleged unauthorized construction or deviations in the use or misuse of the subject property by the Appellant Trust contrary to the provisions of the NDMC”.

The lawyers appearing for the trust had argued that they had paid dues for misuse of the premises. The court said, “once the said dues for misuse of premises had been paid and misuser removed, there was no cause of action, occasion or power left with the NDMC to continue to deny the benefit of de­sealing of the property to the Appellant Trust”.


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