Illegal constructions: Proceed under anti-graft law against erring officials, HC tells govt

Illegal constructions: Proceed under anti-graft law against erring officials, HC tells govt

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed authorities to take action against all officials of Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Srinagar Development Authority, and the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA), for allowing constructions in violation of the Srinagar Master Plan and the building laws in this summer capital of the state in last two decades.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Justices Hasnain Massodi and Dhiraj Singh Thakur observed that the recently enacted Jammu and Kashmir Civic Laws (Special Provisions 2014) does not prohibit action against the erring officials of SMC, SDA and the LAWDA, who directly or indirectly facilitated raising of unauthorized and illegal constructions in contravention of the Master Plan 2000-2021.
The Advocate General, the bench said, in interim policy statement on behalf of the state government has acknowledged large scale violations of buildings laws and the Master Plan during 15-20 years in Srinagar.
In other words, the bench said, all the unauthorized, illegal constructions have been raised between 1994 and 2013.
“It, therefore, is important to identify Chief Khilafwarzi Officers and higher authorities of (SMC), (SDA), (LAWDA) responsible for enforcement of the building laws during the period 1994-2013 and proceed against such officers for dereliction of duty and criminal misconduct within meaning of Section 5 J&K Prevention of Corruption Act.”
On March 5, the J&K government formally enacted the new Act to protect for one year thousands of unauthorized constructions that have come up 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 which had been not completed on date of commencement of the Act (March 5, 2014).
The provisions of the Act will not also apply on buildings and structures constructed on public land, road or other public utility and also to constructions not complying with respect to safety, if any issued by the government.
Meanwhile, in another direction, the bench asked Commissioner SMC, Vice chairmen LAWDA and SDA to file separate affidavit, giving details about the unauthorized and illegal constructions raised in contravention of the Master Plan 2000-2021 within different ‘local areas’ of Srinagar city, commenced before March 5 but not completed on the date as well as structures and buildings currently under construction.
The details, bench said, should give all the necessary information including name of the person, date on which constructions commenced, place, nature and stage of the construction besides action taken against the violators.
The affidavits, the bench said, should also encompass details of buildings or structures raised before March 5, not complying with the safety standards or raised on public land or road.
The bench directed the SMC, SDA and LAWDA authorities to report after every four weeks, from April 1, indicating unauthorized and illegal constructions raised in contravention of Master Plan before March 5 in respect whereof the ‘local authorities’ decide to take punitive action in terms of section 4(3) of the Act and submit the matter to the Administrative Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Department or an officer authorized by him in this behalf.
“The action taken on such proposals and as a follow up to the decision taken by the Administrative Secretary Housing and Urban Development Department or the authorized officer as the case may be.”
The bench also asked authorities concerned to pass necessary orders as regarding sealing, demolition notices or orders imposing penalty in respect of the unauthorized and illegal constructions that are entitled to protection under the Act till March 31, 2015 or the time when government formulates the policy.
The court directed the authorities file affidavits and posted the PIL—Mujeeb Andrabi Vs state of J&K, filed by advocate through Firdous Ahmad Parray— for next hearing on April 24.