With around 700 people rendered jobless and 21 businesses shut down, Delhi's Hauz Khas Village has been dubbed as a 'ticking time bomb' by the Delhi High Court. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee sealed 21 restaurants on September 23 for not having the proper environmental clearances to operate. The repeated queries about the quantum of solid waste and sewage generated by these restaurants elicited no response from the authorities and restaurant owners.
The High Court was hearing a PIL which alleged that more than 120 restaurants and public were running in the area without any approved building plans or No Objection Certificates. The Court had previously warned the Association of restaurants owners that they will not be able to escape civil and criminal liability if any incident happens, as there was no space for emergency vehicles to enter the area.
In its order, the Delhi HC said that most of the restaurants don’t have a Consent to Establish or Consent to Operate Certificate, a mandatory certificate required to run hotels and restaurants in Delhi. These certificates are required to ensure that the establishment does not cause water and air pollution.
The sewage system was also not sturdy to take the load from kitchen and bathrooms of many of these restaurants and pubs. The businesses are also accused violating laws with regard to licensing of commercial activity, jeopardising public safety, severe impact on the environment and infringing the constitutional rights of the citizens of Delhi under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.
The petitions filed in the court also alleged that the owners of these commercial properties were illegally running restaurants and pub businesses in Hauz Khas Village. They were violating multiple provisions of the following laws:
The Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957
The Master Plan of Delhi, 2021
The Delhi Fire Safety Act, 2007
The Delhi Police Act, 1978
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation said that a 15 day period was given to the business owners, however, no reply was received in regard to the show cause notices and they did not compile with the directions given. As per reports, the sealing of these businesses was conducted as the restaurants were found guilty of releasing untreated effluents under Section 33A of the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and emitting smoke in violation of Section 31A of the Air (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
The eateries will remain sealed till they make the necessitated changes in compliance with these laws and re-apply for the requisite licenses to legally operate.
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