SRINAGAR: The J&K high court on Wednesday expressed unhappiness over the non-appearance of state’s Chief Secretary and commissioner secretaries of finance and Housing and Urban Development Department (H&UDD) before it to settle the matter about preservation of Dal Lake “once for all.”
As the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation filed by one Syed Tahir Iqbal in 2002 started before a division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey, senior additional advocate general N A Beigh draw court’s attention to an application filed by Chief Secretary and other officers for exemption from personal appearance.
“We are not satisfied with the grounds taken in the application for seeking exemption from their personal appearance. All these authorities are public servants. The court in this PIL is dealing with the cause of great public importance,” the bench said, recalling that on last date of hearing it had thought it proper to have a permanent mechanism for preservation of water bodies and accordingly directed these authorities to remain present before the court today.
“This PIL has taken lot of public time. As observed in the previous court order, the desired results have not been attained till date. This court cannot afford to keep this petition alive for all times to come,’ the court said, underling that its primarily duty is to resolve the dispute between the parties and between civilians and the state.
“The court would have to initiate action in accordance with law against these authorities but in view of the request by senior AAG, N A Beigh, we defer at this stage initiation of proceedings against them. All the constitutional, statutory and administrative authorities are servants of laws. All the laws are made and instituted for securing the overall benefits of the people,” the court said and adjourned the PIL till next week with a direction to registry to list the petition on week commencing from April 16.
“On next date of hearing, all the authorities shall remain present before the court,” the bench said.
Joint Secretary Ministry of Tourism and Culture, government of India, was also not present as was directed by the court.
To this, Assistant Solicitor General of India, S A Makroo submitted that could not appear because information was send to him late.
“(The Joint Secretary) shall also remain present on next date. The other officers who are present today shall also remain present,” the court added.
In 2013, senior advocate Zaffar A Shah had impressed upon the court that time has come when the state government should consider setting up of a full-fledged department for preservation and conservation of all water bodies in the state.
The department, he had said, would be better rather than creating a body which is locally assigned the work of a particular Lake, like LAWDA (Lakes and Waterways Development Authority) for Dal Lake and WUCMA (Wullar Conservation and Management Authority) for Wullar Lake.
“The full-fledged department shall comprise mostly experts so as to ensure it takes all the care water bodies entail,” Shah had said.
The high court had then directed the state government to consider the suggestion made by Shah in another PIL—Kashmir Environment Protection Vs State of J&K and others. It pertains to conservation of Wullar, one of the largest fresh water lakes in Asia. The government has created WUCMA in September, 2012, for the restoration of the lake.