- Hauz Khas village has come under the scanner of the Delhi High Court for ‘unlawful existence’ and operation of restaurants without obtaining mandatory permits
- According to PILs, restaurants cramp the narrow lanes of HKV without proper security and fire safety mechanisms in place
- Licenses of 19 restaurants have been revoked by the SDMC
New Delhi, August 23, 2017: With the wave of pop-culture that has come up in Delhi in the last few years, Hauz Khas village in south Delhi has emerged as the hub of ‘alternate culture’. While the ‘village’ remains comfortably filled during the weekdays, it gets crowded beyond measure over the weekends. There are usually long queues of cars and people waiting to enter HKV (as it is popularly known) that is home to a number of state-of-the art cafes, eateries and designer boutiques.
— Hotel Ajanta (@hotelajanta_) August 12, 2017
Hauz Khas village is not only famous its enviable list of establishments, but also for the number of cases that have previously been filed against the popular hub.
Hauz Khaz vilage has previously been in news for the following reasons-
September 2013: 34 restaurants were shut down for four days upon orders from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) for violating environmental flaws, following which they were conditionally allowed to operate on promise of upholding the laws.
August 2016: A ‘minor fire’ in the urban hub killed an Indian businessman and injured a French woman, bringing to light the poor safety standards and remedial mechanisms in the place.
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February 2017: a 26-year old was allegedly sexually assaulted in the wee hours of the morning after a night of partying in HKV. A series of similar incidents have remained common to the area.
July 2017: The village came in news when the police decided to ban the Tuesday-Wednesday ladies’ night in the area to keep law and order in place and avoid possible cases of sexual assault or violence. While the ban was never imposed, security arrangements in the area were strengthened.
The cramped, neon-lit streets and cafes of this urbanized village have once again come under the radar of the Delhi High Court now for illegal constructions and encroachments.
Following the hearing of PILs alleging “unlawful existence” of eateries in the village, a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar made an oral observation saying the court is to protect and upload “the life and personal liberty of every person in the city.”
The bench’s observation came following the hearing of petitions filed by social activist Pankaj Sharma and advocate Anuja Kapur.
According to the petition filed by Sharma, the village is a host to 120 eateries and pubs, most of which have been illegally constructed in the absence of an approval of their building plans from the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC). Alternatively, the plea by advocate Anuja Kapur claims that these restaurants and bars are additionally violating the law as they continue to operate without a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the required authorities including the fire department.
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Kapur in her plea to the High Court had also raised allegations against the police claiming that no officer can be spotted in the village which gives various business owners an opportunity to indulge in ‘illegal activities’, which she believes are done with support from the local police.
Hauz Khas village is a popular commercial hub in the city and has a footfall of around 5,000 during weekdays which escalates to over 15,000 during the weekends.
Thus, the petitioners had also raised objections towards the risks to security and fire hazard in the village and asserted that the cramped location jam-packed with enormous crowd furthers the threat by making it impossible for ambulances and fire trucks to enter the area in case of emergencies.
It was revealed before the bench on August 22 that there is only one entry and exit in the village to allow the movement of fire tending vehicles.
Fire chief GC Mishra in his interview to the Indian Express in early August had asserted that the place is very congested for a city that ranks at level 4 of earthquake risk. “There is complete disregard towards the stability of the structure. Also, the access road is very narrow. How do I take my vehicles there?” he had said.
Previously, the High Court in May had issued a notice to the Centre, Delhi government, Delhi Police and SDMC to ensure strict enforcement of the law in the village and provide the court with a detailed account of the exact number of restaurants operating illegally.
Responding to the Court’s order, the Corporation revealed that they have issued notices of closure to 19 restaurant owners who do not possess the obligatory clearances. According to the report, “Nine licenses (have been revoked) for running the restaurants with more than the permitted number of seats and 10 licenses for running their trade on roads that don’t meet norms.”
The bench said during the hearing that this is a very serious issue, involving “valuable rights of the people”, according to a report by PTI.
Following the PILs the bench has asked authorities to file a status report explaining how these enterprises are running without a permit.
The SDMC has been directed to supplement the court with a detailed site-plan of the village clearly stating the location of different properties sprawled across the village along with the permissible property usage of Delhi as explained in the master plan of the city.
The bench has also asked the petitioners and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to undertake detailed inspection of the place and inform the court about the width of the only road that runs through the area.
The bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar further asserted that any decision would be taken keeping the right of owners to undertake business activities, as guaranteed in the Indian Constitution, in mind.
However, the rights shall be considered “only if one has complied with the building bye-laws and the master plan. Violators will have to go,” the bench added.
The case is scheduled to have a further hearing on September 5.
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