The Delhi High Court on Aug 07, 2018 termed as “exorbitant” the rates prescribed by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) for use of land dedicated for making Ravana effigies by artisans.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said it was “inhuman” to charge artisans exorbitant rates for temporary use of land and directed that the amounts should be “notional”.
The court also said that since the artisans require the land for just two months every year, “We see no reason why a temporary site cannot be provided.”
The observation by the bench came after the SDMC said it did not have any land as the land owning agency was the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
Not swayed by the corporation’s argument, the court said the SDMC as well as the other two municipal corporations must have land they lease out for weddings and other occasions and directed all three to hold a meeting to identify a site for making the effigies.
The bench directed the corporations to inform it on August 14 about the temporary site identified by them for the work.
The court had last week asked the SDMC and Delhi government to re-look the usage charges for the sites.
The direction was issued after the artisans had told the court that at the present rate of Rs five per square feet, they would end up paying between Rs 22,000 to Rs 30,000 each month which they could not afford it.
They sought the usage charges to be reduced to Re 1 per square feet which was affordable.
The court was hearing a PIL initiated on its own after it came across a news report saying that several Ravana effigies, built by artisans who came here from Rajasthan for Dussehra, were destroyed or confiscated by the South Delhi Municipal Corporation for allegedly encroaching on public land.
Last September, it had asked the Delhi government and the corporation to formulate a policy for allocating land to the artisans to do their work.
Thereafter, a draft policy was framed by the Delhi government after holding meetings with the corporations and other civic bodies.
The policy laid down the modalities for utilising land identified for use by the artisans.
Under the policy, there is a registration fee of Rs 500 per applicant and usage charges of Rs 5 per square feet per month.
It stated that the artisans had to register with the corporations two months before the start of the work and once a site was allotted it would be for only two months.
After expiry of period of allotment the artisans has to vacate the site. If the number of applicants exceeded the land available, then registrations would be granted on first-come-first-serve basis, the document said and added that the artisans had to ensure there was no pollution of any kind at the site allotted to them.