In a recent ruling, the Delhi High Court emphasized the importance of balancing the right to health, heritage, and culture with urban development initiatives. The court highlighted the critical role of green areas as the “lungs of the city” and underscored the need to prevent illegal construction on public land designated for public purposes.

The division bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora, addressed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) concerning the preservation of historical monuments and structures in Mehrauli and Sanjay Van, areas marked as green/forest zones in the city’s Master Plan.

The plea, brought forth by Himanshu Damle and another individual, sought to halt the demolition or removal of the Ashiq Allah Dargh and surrounding historical monuments. The petitioners emphasized the cultural and heritage significance of these sites, urging their protection against unauthorized construction or destruction.

Recognizing Delhi’s severe pollution levels, the court acknowledged the adverse impact on public health, particularly among young children. Referring to Delhi’s consistently high Air Quality Index (AQI), the bench reiterated the urgent need for measures to safeguard the environment and public health.

Addressing concerns about indiscriminate demolition, the court cited Supreme Court precedent, stating that religious structures can only be demolished with prior approval from the Religious Committee, chaired by the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi. This regulatory framework ensures adequate safeguards against unauthorized demolition and destruction of heritage sites.

Furthermore, the bench accepted assurances from authorities regarding the preservation of protected monuments, deemed fair and reasonable in striking a balance between competing interests. The court held the respondents accountable for upholding these commitments, providing assurance to the petitioners and the public regarding the protection of heritage sites and green spaces.

The ruling underscores the court’s commitment to upholding environmental conservation and heritage preservation amidst urban development pressures. By emphasizing the importance of green areas as essential components of urban infrastructure, the court advocates for sustainable development practices that prioritize public health and cultural heritage.

In response to the ruling, advocates for the petitioners, Mr. Satyajit Sarna and Ms. Reaa Mehta, welcomed the court’s decision to safeguard cultural heritage and green spaces. They reiterated the importance of preserving Delhi’s historical monuments and forests for future generations.

On the other hand, counsel for the respondents, Mr. Sanjay Katyal and Ms. Shobhana Takiar, representing the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), expressed their commitment to adhering to the court’s directives and ensuring compliance with regulations governing the preservation of heritage sites and green areas.

Moving forward, stakeholders, including government agencies, environmentalists, and community members, must collaborate to implement effective measures for the conservation of Delhi’s cultural heritage and green spaces. This collaborative approach is essential for mitigating environmental degradation, promoting sustainable urban development, and safeguarding the health and well-being of Delhi’s residents.

In conclusion, the Delhi High Court’s ruling serves as a clarion call for the protection of green spaces and cultural heritage in the face of urbanization pressures. By affirming the significance of environmental conservation and heritage preservation, the court sets a precedent for responsible urban development practices that prioritize the health, well-being, and cultural legacy of Delhi’s residents.

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