Srinagar: As moratorium on sealing of illegal buildings in Srinagar ended last year, the high court on Monday asked the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to file a status report indicating steps taken by it against the unregulated constructions in the city.
“The moratorium has expired, what steps have you taken,” a division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Dhiraj Singh Thakur asked SMC’s counsel, who requested for more time and was asked to file the status report within a week.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by advocate Mujeeb Andrabi through his counsel Firdous Ahmad Parray, seeking among other directions to clear Srinagar city of illegal constructions.
The court also ordered its registry to club the plea with another PIL—Kashmir Consumer Wel fare Forum and others Vs Commissioner Transport –which is already posted for a hearing on February 8.
On March 5, the J&K government headed by National Conference formally enacted the new Act to protect, for one year, thousands of unauthorized constructions that exist in twin capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu besides Katra, a small town in Udhampur district of the state.
However, the provisions of the Act will not protect under-construction or the buildings and structures whose construction had not been completed on the date the Act came into force (March 5, 2014). The Act will not also apply on the buildings and structures constructed on public land, road or other public utility and also to constructions not complying safety measures, if any issued by the government.
As noted by the court then, there are approximately 3000 illegal constructions in Srinagar alone and subsequently on September 30, 2013 it directed the SMC to seal all unauthorized buildings identified by it. Subsequently, 42 buildings were identified and sealed by the SMC as the structures had been constructed in violation of the Master Plan.
Later, the court asked government to divulge preliminary stand regarding the policy to be framed by it about the Master Plan violations which have taken place in Srinagar over the past few decades.
However, the government came up with the plea that the decision would be taken on the recommendations by the experts but the court observed that it would be a time consuming process.
The government then came up with the legislation, J&K Civic Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2014, whereby moratorium was imposed against the sealing. The Act was enacted so that a comprehensive policy could be formulated to tackle the issue of the violations by the end of March 2015.
A high-level committee was later formed and it had reportedly recommended hefty penalty against the violators in lieu for regularization of the construction with minor deviation. In case of major violations, it had proposed that there should be no leniency.