Illegal constructions in Pahalgam: HC asks Chief Engineer I&FC to appear in person

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed personal appearance of Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) before it to explain failure in demolition of illegal structures in Pahalgam tourist resort in south Kashmir.
The direction was issued by a Division Bench of Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Hasnain Massodi after hearing Advocate General M I Qadri and Executive Engineer I&FC, who was present in the court.
While Qadri stated that authorities concerned are not responding, the Executive Engineer submitted that two of the five illegal structures, identified by the department, were removed.
Regarding the remaining three, the officer said, request for security was sent to the district administration.
However, as observed by the bench, the officer was unable to convince the court about requirement of security when the two other structures were demolished without it.
“We direct personal appearance of Chief Engineer (I&FC) on next date of hearing (May 9), who shall explain the position as to why all these five illegal constructions have not been removed/demolished,” the court ordered.
The last status report filed by the Chief Engineer (on December 7, 2013) had depicted flagrant violations by five persons—Ghulam Hassan Wani, son in law of Abdul Gaffar Wani, of Anzulla, Anantnag; Ghulam Rasool Bhat, son of Abdul Rehman Bhat, of Anzula, Anantnag; Zonal Educational Officer, Mattan through Tauseef Ahmad Dar, of Vailnagabal; Mushtaq Ahmad Sathoo, of Anantnag; and Zonal Education Officer, Mattan.
The bench also reiterated its direction to the Deputy Commissioner Anantnag to ensure no construction comes up within the radius of 200 meters of each side of river Lidder.
The court was hearing a Public Interest litigation filed in 2010 by an apolitical NGO, Pahalgam People’s Welfare Organization, seeking directions from the court to safeguard Pahalgam from illegal constructions and pollution.
The bench also asked the Deputy Commissioner to ensure that committees formed to prevent illegal constructions are directed to keep close vigil and “work with commitment.”
Earlier the Deputy Commissioner said in its status report that three Tehsildars of Anantnag, Bijbehara and Pahalgam tehsils have been informed about the court order and subordinate staff has been directed to keep a close vigil to prevent any illegal construction.
In another direction, the bench also directed the authorities to file a detailed status report regarding 1280 illegal structures identified to have come up within the 200 meters on Sheshnag Nagar nallah and Aru nallah, tributaries of Lidder from Rangward and Mondlan to Nonwan Yatra Base Camp.
Meanwhile, the bench granted eight weeks to authorities for completion of process regarding ‘Draft Revised Master Plan’ and ‘Land Use Plan’ for Pahalgam.
The direction by the bench followed submission by Chief Engineer Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) that due to forthcoming elections, the Sub-Committee constituted for scrutinizing objections and suggestions regarding the matter require some more time so as to complete the process.
The court also directed Principal District Judge Anantnag to submit report about response to the show causes notices issued to nine persons. Advocate Parvez Imroz appeared on behalf of the petitioners and Advocate General M I Qadri and Additional Advocate General S A Naik represented government.