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Supreme Court: Monitoring Committee can act within the four corners of powers conferred upon it, holds sealing action against purely residential premises was illegal & unauthorised

The SC on August 14, 2020 {M.C. MEHTA vs. UNION OF INDIA & ORS.} held that no doubt that matter of encroachment is a matter of concern, but the Monitoring Committee can act within the four corners of powers conferred upon it and purpose for which the court appointed the Monitoring Committee. It was held that it cannot exceed its powers and take any action beyond its authorization by the court.

The SC Bench, comprising of Justice Arun Mishra, Justice B.R. Gavai & Justice Krishna Murari further held that it is apparent from the various orders passed by the Court from time to time and from the various reports of the Monitoring Committee that it was never  authorized   by   the  Court   to   take   action   against   the   residential premises   that   were   not   being   used   for   commercial   purposes.     It was held that it   was appointed   only   to   check   the   misuser   of   the   residential   properties   for commercial purposes. It was also held that after that, the Court directed that the Monitoring Committee should also look into the matter of “encroachment on the public land” and “unauthorized colonies” that have come up on the public land and were wholly unauthorized without sanction. It was held that at no point in time, this Court had empowered the Monitoring Committee to act vis­à­vis to the purely residential premises.

The SC in present order only dealt with the authority of the “Monitoring Committee to seal the residential premises on the private land” particularly when they are not being used for the “commercial purpose”. Whether the Monitoring Committee could have sealed these residential premises was the only question which was examined in this order by the SC.

The Court held that power of sealing of property carries civil consequences. A person can be deprived of the property by following a procedure in accordance with law. It was held that the Monitoring Committee is not authorized to take action concerning the residential premises situated on the private land. It was held that if there is unauthorized construction or in case of deviation, the requisite provisions are under the DMC Act, such as sections 343, 345, 347(A), 347(B).   The mode of action and adjudication under the Act is provided including appellate provisions and that of the Tribunal.   It was held that it would not be appropriate to the Monitoring Committee to usurp statutory powers and act beyond authority conferred upon it by the Court. It was held that the Monitoring Committee could not have sealed the residential premises, which were not misused for the commercial purpose as done vide Report No.149, nor it could have directed the demolition of those residential properties.

The SC also held that Article 300A of the Constitution provides that nobody can be deprived of the property and right of residence otherwise in the manner prescribed by law. It was held that when the statute prescribes a mode, the property's deprivation cannot be done in other modes since the Court did not authorize the Committee to take action in the matter.  It was held that an action could have been taken in no other manner except in accordance with the procedure prescribed by law as laid down in the decisions of the Court.

It was held that it is quite apparent that particularly when the Monitoring Committee is   not  empowered   to   take   action,   the   incumbents   could   not   have   been deprived of the due process of protection in accordance with law. It was held that as against the action of the Monitoring Committee, no appeal lies elsewhere. It was held that even High Court is not authorized to entertain any matter and scrutinize its action, such   is the drastic step taken by the Court   by   way of an exceptional measure in public interest, and it is confined to the misuse of residential property   for   commercial   purpose  and   encroachments   and   unauthorized construction on the public land, roads.

It was held that the report of the Monitoring Committee and findings recorded by it are of no use as it had no such authority to go into the various questions. It was held that the Court did not appoint the Monitoring Committee concerning each and every residential building on private land not misused for commercial purposes and to deal with the same. It was held that in the present matter, the Court itself is monitoring the matter for a limited public purpose. It was held that it has not taken away the powers of statutory authorities under the Act concerning other matters except specified in the order. 

Accordingly, the SC quashed Report No.149 and other reports submitted subsequently in connection with Report No.149 and entire action of sealing pursuant thereto. The Court also quashed notices issued directing demolition and held that the Monitoring Committee had no power to look into the matter and to take any action. It was directed that the property sealed as per Report   No.149   be   de­sealed,  and   possession   be   restored   to   the   owners forthwith, i.e. within three days. 

However, the SC clarified that this order does not at all mean to belittle the yeomen service done by the Monitoring Committee for protection of Delhi.

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