Supreme Court tells AAP to vacate its headquarters in New Delhi citing encroachment

Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) office at Rouse Avenue in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Observing that the Aam Aadmi Party has no lawful right to continue on the land, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the party to vacate its offices at Rouse Avenue in the national capital by June 15, 2024, after noting that the plot was allotted to the Delhi High Court for expanding judicial infrastructure.

Taking note of the fact that Lok Sabha elections are around the corner, a bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra asked AAP to approach Land And Development Office under the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry for allotment of land for its offices.

"In view of the impending general elections, we grant time until June 15, 2024, to vacate the premises so that land allotted to expand the district judiciary's footprint can be utilised on an expeditious basis.

"We would request the L&DO to process the application and communicate its decision within a period of four weeks," the bench said.

Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the city's ruling party, submitted that AAP is one of the six national parties in the country and it is entitled to land in New Delhi municipal area in accordance with its status.

"They are telling us as a national party we get nothing. I'm given (land in) Badarpur, while everyone else is in better places. A particular government does not want me to be flourishing and working," Singhvi said.

Calling AAP an "encroacher", Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the top court that the land allotment to the party was revoked in June 2017.

Advocate K Parameshwar, appointed as amicus curiae to assist the apex court in the matter, informed the bench that by a communication dated June 13, 2017, the Public Works Department of the Delhi government apprised the National Secretary of the AAP that the allotment of Bungalow no.206 at Rouse Avenue stood revoked as per the directions of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had earlier denied that its offices at Rouse Avenue are an encroachment on land allotted to the Delhi High Court for judicial infrastructure and told the top court that it was officially allotted to it by the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi.

"Far from being an instance of encroachment', the subject premises were officially allotted to the applicant by the Government of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) on December 31, 2015 for its state unit office and this was strictly in accordance with the party's 'entitlement' as a state party under the office memorandum dated October 14, 2015", the party said.

While hearing a matter related to judicial infrastructure, the apex court was told on February 13 by the amicus curiae that a political party office had encroached on land allotted to the HC.

AAP said a subsequent notice of cancellation of allotment was set aside by the High Court on August 23, 2017 and added that "such allotment of office space for official party work is an essential element of public funding of elections in India and is designed to level the electoral playing field".

"In view of this, there is no question of the applicant encroaching' on a space that was duly allotted to it in 2015 and that has been in its possession since then. The subject premises had been in the applicant's occupation long before it was earmarked for extending the Rouse Avenue Court Complex," the party said.

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