Srinagar: The high court on Tuesday said deterrent action would have to be taken against all those persons involved in illegal constructions in and around the prohibited area of Dal Lake.
“The court, in order to save the Dal Lake from further encroachment and to have workable plans of removing the existing encroachments, would require to have holistic and comprehensive plans,” a division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey said while hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed in 2002 by a filed by a civilian, Syed Tahir Iqbal, on saving the lake.
It said steps have to be taken for not only removing the encroachments but to prevent “further shrinking of the Lake.”
“Deterrent action would have to be taken against the officials and all those persons involved in raising illegal constructions which would include the owner of the structure as well,” it said and urged Zaffar A Shah, senior counsel and amicus curie in the PIL, to come up with concrete suggestions “for dealing with such a situation.”
The direction followed statement by Sohail Ahmad, enforcement officer on deputation to Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, that one new construction around Ashai Bagh Bridge has come up during his seven month tenure with the LAWDA.
“The admission of the enforcement officer of LAWDA is prima facie sufficient to indict him. He has allowed the structure to come up and no steps were taken to stop the raising of structure,” the court said.
Suhail’s statement was in response to division bench’s specific query about the number of illegal constructions during his tenure with LAWDA and steps taken by him to prevent them in the first place.
The bench actually raised the query in the backdrop of an incident involving self-immolation bid by a 14-year-old boy against LAWDA’s demolition drive against illegal constructions at Saida Kadal on Monday.
“The court cannot remain oblivious to such happenings. Had the authorities stopped the constructions 14 years ago, the boy would not have attempted self immolation and he did it because he has nothing to fall back upon now,” the court said, observing that a case should have been registered against the authorities who allowed the illegal construction.
“We will seal your house (referring to Sohail) and only then you will feel the pinch of the boy,” the court added.
LAWDA’s vice-chairman Sarmad Hafeez, who was also present before the court, said that boy had been instigated by the vested interests in the area.
“Can you identify the mafia in the area? The protest may have been engineered by LAWDA officials in active connivance with the mafia…police, LAWDA and mafia are in a nexus,” the bench responded.
“How construction material reaches the area when there is ban and this speaks for itself how the police and officials of LAWDA are performing their duties. Deterrent action is required,” the court added.
Additional advocate general Shahbaz Sikandar stepped in and urged the court to defer action against the enforcement officer.
“We extend time for filing fresh compliance report, and for the time being defer any action to be taken against Sohail Ahmad. The court direction shall be complied with and compliance filed before next date,” the court said and posted the PIL for further consideration in the week commencing February 15.
In another direction, the court accepted Inspector General of Police’s reply about a query regarding a hut constructed illegally at the Police Golf Course. Even as the police had demolished the structure, the court had asked the IGP to explain circumstances in which the hut had been constructed.
“The Lake View Environment Park (Police Golf Course) remains open for sports activities throughout the year…At the commencement of the autumn season yearly maintenance is being carried out, in which 20 to 30 labourers are engaged. As the labourers were seen raising hut for making tea and having their lunch, the hut was immediately dismantled by the police of its own,” the IGP has said.
The IGP also filed a separate report regarding the installation of four CCTV cameras around the Dal Lake to prevent entry of construction material into the lake areas and to check illegal constructions.
“Two CCTV cameras have been installed in Hazratbal Zone i.e. Ashai Bagh Bridge and Habak Crossing while two have been installed along Badyari Crossing and Lower T Crossing. All four CCTV cameras are functional,” he said.