Srinagar: The J&K high court on Monday sought property and bank account details of all Irrigation and Flood Control Department officers, responsible for maintenance of Padshahi canal, an age old irrigation passage which takes off from nallah Sindh near Wayil bridge in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.
The directions were issued by a division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey while hearing a Public Interest Litigation, seeking restoration of the canal.
The canal has two portions. One from Wayil to Pandach, which is the main, and the other is distribution from Pandach to nallah Amir Khan.
The government has already admitted that the canals have squeezed from 17-ft to 27-ft initially to a mere 3-ft to 5-ft in width and these are mostly functioning as sewers.
As the hearing of the PIL started, the court perused the compliance report filed by Chief Engineer I&FC revealing the list of those officers who were responsible for maintaining and preserving Padshahi canal from 1990 till date.
However, the bench directed the Chief Engineer to furnish full particulars about all these officers to the court’s registry.
Subsequently, the bench directed its registry to issue notices to the officers, asking them to explain as to why action in accordance with law should not be initiated against them for alleged dereliction of duty.
“These officers shall also disclose to the Court, by filing an affidavit, as to how much movable or immovable property stands in their names or in the names of their spouse and dependent children.”
They shall also disclose, court said, as to how much money is in their Bank Accounts alongwith particulars of the Banks.
“These officers, whether in service or retired, shall file the affidavit before the next date of hearing,” the court said and posted the case for further consideration on December 15.
In its order on August 14, the court had taken prima facie view that without connivance of the officers encroachments would not take place.
“It (was) in that backdrop that we have issued notices to all those officers whose list has been provided by the Chief Engineer before the Court,” the court said.
In another direction, the court said that the Chief Engineer and other statutory authorities would be personally responsible to restore the canal to its original width along its entire course.
“In the affidavit filed by the Chief Engineer nothing is said about the restoration of Padshahi canal to its original width which, according to (his) own admission, has now shrunk to 3 to 5 feet. The silence of the Chief Engineer on this important issue needs to be understood in the backdrop that this land has been encroached upon by the land mafia,” the bench observed and directed the Chief Engineer and other authorities to remove the encroachments through the canal.
“In order to accomplish the purpose, (they) would be at liberty to seek police assistance,” the court said and directed the Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, to provide necessary police assistance to the authorities as and when they made the requests.
“The Chief Engineer (shall) file compliance report about the implementation of this direction before the next date.”
Earlier, the Chief engineer informed the court that there are 522 canals existing in the Valley and “are functional to the best satisfaction of the beneficiaries.”
However, the Chief Engineer said in isolated cases, the canals passing the suburbs of Srinagar city and main towns have been encroached upon since last few decades because of urbanisation resulting in zero command cultivation area and are presently functioning as sewers.