Manju Rawat
School of Environmental Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi-110067,

The National Capital Territory (NCT), Delhi has 1,26,218 industries in all conformed and non-conformed areas and accounts for the highest cluster of small-scale industries (SSI) in the country. The number of industries at the time of independence was only 8000 and in the last fifty years there has been a sixteen times rise. Most of this rise took place in last two decades with the deregulation of industrial licensing process and liberalization of the Indian economy.

Vide a Supreme Court order of April 1996 nearly 39,000 industries falling under Group F (hazardous polluting industries) are ordered to be relocated/closed from non-conforming or residential areas. The Court was of the view that the industries operating from residential premises are affecting the health and livelihood of the people residing there and hence the order for relocation of industries is in greater public interest.

This review summarises the petition, some important Court orders and subsequent administrative actions taken regarding closure/relocation of industries from non-conforming industrial areas of Delhi.


In re shifting of Industries from residential areas of Delhi (M.C. Mehta v. Union of India)

1985: Writ petition filed in Supreme Court of India by famous Environmental Lawyer M.C. Mehta alleging that the large number of industries functioning in residential areas of Delhi were causing land, water and air pollution. This pollution was threatening the free enjoyment of Right to Life-a constitutionally guaranteed fundamental right under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, he sought an order/direction from the Court regarding closure/shifting of these industries from residential areas of Delhi. {Scale, Vol. 8 (2000), p. 361}

April 1996: The Court directed that an exercise be carried out in order to ascertain, which of the industries which were operating in residential areas of Delhi were entitled to continue there in as per the terms of the Master Plan. The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) was required to investigate in the matter and was to give its consent as to which of the said industry could continue to operate after obtaining necessary licensing from DPCC. The said order further directed that no industry in non-conforming/residential area would be allowed to operate after 31st December 1996. {Scale, Vol. 8 (2000), p. 361}

24 October 1996: The DPCC by that date scrutinizes 43,045 applications and finds that 39,166 applicants did not qualify for grant of necessary permission to operate in residential areas of Delhi. These industries, therefore, in its opinion had to be relocated. The Court took notice of the fact that despite its earlier order of April, 1996, no steps had been taken by the Government of NCT of Delhi towards relocation of such industries. {Scale, Vol. 8 (2000), p. 362}

3 December 1996: Court expressed its satisfaction on the progress made by the Government of NCT of Delhi. This was apparently on the basis that the Court was informed that large tracts (102 acres and 1300 acres) of land were being acquired and infact Rs. 100 crore had been released for this purpose. {Scale, Vol. 8 (2000), p. 362}

18 December 1996: Court was informed by the Government of NCT of Delhi that possession of 1300 acres of the land notified under the Land Acquisition Act shall be taken over by the Delhi Administration. Applications for allotment of plots were being issued. Being of the opinion that the Government was now taking the matter seriously, the Court left the implementation of the orders to the Government of NCT of Delhi with the requirement that progress report would be filed every three months in this Court. {Scale, Vol. 8 (2000), p. 362}

21 September 1998: On the basis of quarterly Progress Reports filed by the Government of NCT of Delhi, the Court notices that out of 51, 851 applications for allotment for relocating industries, only 32, 679 had been found to be eligible for relocation. {Scale, Vol. 8 (2000), p. 362}

8 September 1999: Government of NCT of Delhi seeks time from Court till March 2004 for shifting of the industries and also asks that the industrial units functioning in the residential areas where the concentration of industry is 70 % they should be permitted to continue to operate.

The Court took notice of the fact that despite orders passed by it since April 1996, the Progress Reports indicated that the industries were continuing to operate in the residential zones even though they had been found to be hazardous for human health. The Court, therefore, directed that the entire process of re-location of industries situated in the residential areas be completed by 31st December 1999, failing which the Court will be compelled to issue directions for closing down all these industries which were now operating in the residential areas. The Court further directed that if the industries in the residential areas could not be re-shifted and re-located for any reason, whatsoever, by 31st December 1999 then these industries should be closed down. {Scale, Vol. 8 (2000), p. 362}

30 August 2000: The Court issues notices to the Ministry of Urban Development, Vice Chairman, Delhi Development Authroity (DDA), Commisioner, Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) and Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi to show cause why appropriate orders be not passed for directing compliance of the earlier orders of this Court including Order dated 8 September 1999. {Scale, Vol. 8 (2000), p. 363}

12 September 2000: Frustrated by the inaction of NCT Delhi and MCD, the Court constituted a nodal agency in the Ministry of Urban Development. The Ministry was directed to set up a cell to see the implementation of the orders passed by the court. {Scale, Vol. 7 (2000), p. 618}

14 November 2000: The Court noted that ultimately the Government of NCT Delhi was the authority which had to implement its orders as well as the directions which may be issued by the Nodal Agency. Mere allotment of land was no answer to the closure of the units, which were polluting. The Court also said that that "How, and, in what manner, and if at all, the violators of the law are to be rehabilitated is not the concern of this Court. We are only concerned with the implementation of the Orders, which orders only imply that the Rule of Law should be enforced by the Government itself. By enacting a law and framing a Master Plan and then knowingly allowing the same to be violated only encourages lawlessness."

The Court issued Contempt notices to the Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi and Commissioner MCD. {Scale, Vol. 7 (2000), p. 618}

7 December 2000: The Court directed that under the supervision of the Nodal Agency, the Government of NCT of Delhi, MCD and DDA will close all the polluting units functioning in non-conforming/residential areas or zones within a period of four weeks. The Chief Secretary, Government of NCT of Delhi, the Commissioner, MCD Vice Chairman, DDA, as well as the Commissioner of Police, Delhi were directed to render all assistance to and comply with the directions issued by the Nodal Agency in compliance of Courts order regarding closure and/or re-location. {Scale, Vol. 8 (2000), p. 386}

17 December 2000: In accordance with the direction issued by the Nodal Agency, the Ministry of Urban Development to Delhi Government, the NCT Government in first phase takes action for the closure of 27 industries falling in F category in the Master Plan from non-conforming areas in Delhi from December 18, 2000.

7 January 2001: The Nodal Agency, directs that in the second phase, 42 industries in group F in the Master Plan should be closed from non-conforming areas in Delhi.

24 January 2001: The Court clarifies that irrespective of the fact whether an industry had put an Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP) or any other device but as long as such an industry was in non-conforming or residential area it had to be closed down. {Scale, Vol. 1 (2001), p. 420}

8 February 2001: Court constitutes a Review Committee to hear the complaints regarding sealing of industries in non-conforming/residential areas. The Review Committee was directed to decide within one week. Further, the Court directed that the sealing operation to be completed within a period of four weeks and progress made be reported to Court in six weeks. {Scale, Vol. 2 (2001) p. 309}.

39,000 industries were identified by DPCC for relocation. During the sealing operations carried out in the month of December 2000, 17600 industries were visited by the Sealing Committee. It sealed 3700 industries, 7900 units were found vacant and 6000 units were found located in approved industrial areas meant for light industries. 21,400 units were not visited by the Sealing Committee therefore, the Court granted further six weeks time to the Sealing Committee to carry out its remaining task. In the second phase, DPCC took action only against 33 types of industries of a list of 42 types fit for sealing in non-conforming areas.

1 March, 2001: De-sealing/opening of nearly 10,000 industries sealed/ found vacant in first phase were ordered, as they were prepared to give an undertaking that they would not carry out any industrial activity or illegal trade in their premises.

Mean while sealing operations under Phase II is in progress. It is hoped that the relocation/closure of polluting industries will go a long way in curbing the menace of environmental pollution in Delhi.

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