Supreme Court LAW INSIDER

Bhuvana Marni

Published on: October 4, 2022 at 18:39 IST

In an order passed last week, the Supreme Court of India observed that modern technologies for satellite mapping of lands and buildings and geo-fencing are required to detect encroachments.

A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Abhay Shreeniwas Oka observed, “It is necessary that the modern technologies for Satellite mapping of lands and buildings detect encroachments and unauthorized/illegal constructions and Geo fencing of lands/premises for prompt monitoring and control takes place.”

In 2006, the Apex Court constituted the Monitoring Committee, which was empowered to address the issue of the use of residential premises for commercial purposes. It had the right to inspect locations where illegitimate construction had taken place.

The Special Task Force, which the Court established in 2018, was given permission by the Court to remove encroachments on public roads, public streets, etc., and the Monitoring Committee was given permission to propose sites where the Force should take quick action.

The Monitoring Committee had sealed premises in 2020, according to the Court, going above and beyond what was required.

In light of this, the Court ordered that residential units in Delhi that had been sealed by the Monitoring Committee that the Court formed be unsealed.

Following analysis of the situation on September 30, The Union Territory of Delhi had previously completed satellite mapping of lands and digitization of cadastral maps as part of the Digital India Lands Records Modernization Programme (DILRMP), the Court noted, which were prerequisites for detecting land encroachment.

Next, getting High-Resolution Satellite Imagery of the region would be necessary from the Indian Remote Sensing Agency (IRSA) or other outside sources, like Google.

The Court said that a drone equipped with high-precision cameras to take aerial shots would also be an option because they are thought to be better quality than satellite imagery.

The next step, according to the court, is to geofence the digitalized cadastral maps and high-resolution satellite imagery (of all aerial photography). This is done by placing reference points along the borders of the areas chosen for mapping.

“Such reference points are fixed by using Electronic Total Station (ETS) and Differential Global Positioning System Equipment (DGPS) and the number of such points shall vary, depending on the area to be mapped and the topography”, the Court said.

On the point of unauthorized/illegal construction, the Court noted that the development plans of the area are to be mapped which are made available by the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).

“Geo reference of the area selected for mapping to detect unauthorized/illegal constructions is to take place in terms of what we have expounded aforesaid and services of drone fitted with high precision cameras to take 3D pictures of the entire area for the selected survey.”

“These aerial photography obtained from the Drone shall be superimposed on the Geo reference area development plans to detect unauthorized usage of lands for construction within the permissible zone. The aerial photography obtained from the drone needs to be verified with individually with the approved building plans by the DDA.”

The Court noted that a geo-fence is frequently used for numerous purposes, including surveillance and monitoring of certain areas and premises that require ongoing vigilance and care while dealing with the issue of unlawful possession of land premises.

To avoid different illegalities such as encroachments and unlawful mining, etc., it would be able to employ the approach in the situations of water bodies, forests, mining regions, etc.

According to the Court, geo-fencing of lands or premises is only feasible if coordinates of the chosen regions or premises are made accessible by geo-referencing.

The Bench further stated that it is aware of a government-funded programme for a 2016 presentation on the modernization of land records in digital India.

However, the States and Union Territories haven’t utilized this option in the best possible manner.

“It appears that there has been very little use effectively by the States and the UTs, for obvious reasons. By adopting the technologies and the schemes of the Government of India the scope of human intervention is decreased and consequently the monetary intervention.”

The Court subsequently mandated its execution and asked the relevant authorities to provide a progress report in four weeks.

The Amicus Curiae raised the issue of the Court’s prior ruling from September, which required the Judicial Committee of Judges to be given space within two weeks, not being carried out during the hearing.

To avoid being held in contempt of court, the Court ordered that the necessary actions be done within a week.

On November 14, the subject will be heard again.

Case Title: MC Mehta vs. Union Of India

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