Srinagar: The J&K High Court has expressed anguish over ‘insensitive’ approach of authorities in removal of encroachments along with river Jhelum, the lifeline of Kashmir Valley.
Hearing a public interest litigation, a division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey directed that five deputy commissioners will held personally responsible henceforth for non implementation of its orders.
“We are pained by the insensitive approach exhibited by the authorities, most of whom are sons of the soil, in preserving their own water bodies,” the bench said after perusal of the compliance reports filed by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control Department.
“The authorities, who are otherwise under statutory and administrative obligation to perform their duties, are not showing the requisite response in implementing the statutory provisions and directions issued by the Court from time to time,” the court said, observing that its directions especially on February 24 have not been complied with.
“The authorities are required to show utmost sense of urgency in protecting the Jehlum and other water bodies. The compliance report would show that the actual width, about which record is now available with the authorities, has not been identified by completing demarcation till date,” it said, observing that the pace with which the authorities are proceedings in the matter would take decades to remove the encroachments and for restoration to Jhelum to its original width.
The court said that it was contemplating to initiate stringent action against the authorities for non-compliance its directions but for the passionate submissions made by additional Advocate General M A Chashoo.
While “deferring the action”, the bench expressed hope that the authorities will perform their statutory obligation and will implement its orders without any fail.
“The lost glory of river Jehlum has to be restored to it. Besides this, all other water bodies, including Padshahi Bagh Canal has to be restored to its original position,” the court said, and granted two weeks time to the authorities for implementing its directions. In case of failure, the court said that the appropriate action will be initiated against them.
“Development Commissioner (of Anantnag, Pulwama, Srinagar, Bandipora and Baramulla) shall be personally responsible to the Court henceforth for implementation of the Court orders,” the bench said.
“All those engineers, who were posted In the Irrigation and Flood Control Ganderbal and were responsible to remove the encroachments and to protect the Padshahi Bagh Canal have not complied with the Court directions,” the bench said and granted ‘last opportunity’ of two weeks to them for complying with its directions. The court posted the PIL, in the week commencing from 27 April.
The court was hearing a PIL filed by one Molvi Peer Noor-ul-Haq, seeking directions to remove encroachments in order to restore Padshahi canal, an age old irrigation passage which takes off from nallah Sindh near Wayil Bridge in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, to its original position.
In compliance report, the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, said that it held a meeting on March 5 and it was attended by the Deputy Commissioners, Chief Engineer l&FC Kmr and SSP’s of Srinagar, Pulwama, Baramulla, Bandipora and Anantnag.
The meeting decided that the Deputy Commissioners and the SSP shall be held responsible for ensuring that all encroachments are removed from the banks of Jhelum.
“In order to assist the DCs, SSPs in the above task, Deputy Commissioners would constitute a subcommittee or team of four officers including Revenue officer not below the rank of AC,Police officer not below the rank of Dy. SP, An officer from l&FC Department not below the rank of AEE, and,
an officer from Municipality or Municipal counsel of suitable Seniority.”
The sub-Committee, Divisional Commissioner said, shall start the removal of encroachments on war footing basis.
“The drive shall be carried out systematically from the bank from one and of the district to avoid any pick and choose or favouritism. The members shall be fair in removal of encroachments without any compromise whatsoever, wherever demarcation has been done, the team will ensure the same on top priority.”