The Delhi High Court on Monday issued a directive prohibiting all construction activities within the central ridge forest area of the national capital, including the construction of a boundary wall around Malcha Mahal, a historical monument dating back to the Tughlaq era. This action was prompted by a news report highlighting the ongoing construction work in the area.
Justice Jasmeet Singh, taking cognizance of the report, emphasized the importance of preserving the central ridge forest and preventing its concretization. He called for a detailed affidavit on the matter from the Delhi government and issued a clear order: “For the time being, it is directed that there shall be no construction at the central ridge, including but not restricted to the boundary wall, grille work, and toilets.”
The central ridge forest, often referred to as the lungs of the national capital, is an extension of the Aravalli hill range within Delhi. It comprises a rocky, forested expanse and has been divided into four zones—south, south-central, central, and north—for administrative purposes, covering a total area of approximately 7,784 hectares.
Lawyers Gautam Narayan and Aditya N Prasad, appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court in a contempt case related to tree plantation and green cover, brought the news report about the proposed boundary wall construction to Justice Singh’s attention. The Delhi government clarified that Malcha Mahal is a protected monument not under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), leading to the proposal to construct a protective wall around it.
While acknowledging the importance of safeguarding the monument, the court emphasized that the manner in which protection was being pursued was unacceptable. The central ridge, being a protected area, serves as a vital source of fresh air and a natural barrier against the hot and dusty summer winds from Rajasthan. The court opined that the monument’s protection should not involve the construction of a 25-meter boundary wall or toilets within the central ridge area.
The court had previously highlighted the significance of ridge areas in Delhi as the “lungs” of the national capital and expressed concern over the existence of 63 structures within the 864-hectare central ridge. It firmly stated that constructions lacking protection from coercive action would need to be removed. Furthermore, the court had expressed dissatisfaction with the construction of a concrete road within the central ridge area and had urged city authorities to take corrective measures or face contempt proceedings.
The matter will be heard next on October 9.
(With PTI inputs)