NEW DELHI: With around 75 eateries in popular markets like Defence Colony, Hauz Khas and Connaught Place shut temporarily since December 22 after a Supreme Court order that they were operating illegally, Delhi foodies’ stomachs are growling. And so are the eateries’ owners.
They say South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) sealing drive was based on the Supreme Court and the National Green Tribunal’s orders over the safety of these markets has affected 70 per cent of their business.
“MCD acted on the directions of the Supreme Court monitored authority, which decided that the restaurants have not paid the conversion charges for the premise to be used as commercial in place of residential,” said a shop owner.
SDMC in a statement said that action was taken against owners who did not pay the conversion charges as per the new Master Plan 2021. Action was taken after repeated reminders by the corporation in Defence Colony.
The corporation said that Defence Colony, a shopping-cum-residential area, has the permit to run commercial units on the ground floor and residences on the first floor.
“Most of the commercial units on the first and second floors had not deposited conversion charges. Some deposited token charges. After the Master Plan 2021 came into force, the market was termed as a local shopping centre. The first and second floors were allowed to open commercial units on onetime payment of conversion charges at the rate of `89,000 per square meter,” SDMC said in a statement.
“What is the basis of this penalty? Defence Colony is a local shopping complex and we are not doing anything illegal. We are paying all the commercial charges of the services that we use, like water and electricity. So where is the question of a conversion charge?” asked Sushanta Aggarwal, who owns 4S restaurant, whose first floor has been sealed. The 50-seater restaurant is now functioning with only six staff from 18.
Rajendra Malik, president of the Defence Colony Market Association, said they have approached the Delhi High Court, which will hear their appeal on January 18.
“This drive has no basis. When the land here was auctioned on November 20, 1957, before the inception of MCD, as shops at commercial rates and not as shops-cum-residences, where is the question of paying conversion charge? This is plain harassment. We’ll approach the Supreme Court to reopen floors that have been sealed.”
A similar situation is at another popular hotspot for the youn g crowd—Hauz Khas Village. Of the 44 establishment here, 21 were sealed seven months ago.
Restaurants like Imperfecto, The Village Balcony, Elf Café and Bar, Ali Baba Caves and Welcome Point have been shut, among others.
“The business has come down to 50 per cent, but the situation is not as bad as Defence Colony,” said Devendar Chowdhary, president of Hauz Khas Village Market Association. “NDMC’s policy is not clear regarding use of rooftops. NDMC gave us permission, and then they sealed rooftops,” said Atul Bhargava of New Delhi Traders Association.
Of the 1,300 properties in Connaught Place, there are around 170 restaurants, of which 40 operating on rooftops have been sealed since February 2017 after part of a building in Inner Circle collapsed.