Jhelum encroachments: HC pulls up DC Anantnag

Srinagar: The high court has asked the Anantnag deputy commissioner to explain why action under law should not be initiated against him for violating its orders on removal of encroachments along the Jhelum.
A division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey asked the DC to file his reply within a week.
The court had on June 12 directed the officer and other authorities to file fortnightly status reports about the removal of the encroachments after going through DC Anantnag’s status report on measures taken to de-clutter the river, including felling of trees and demolition of illegal constructions along the banks of and rivers and canals in the district.
The DC had also given the area-wise details about the recorded width of Jhelum, which originates from Verinag area of the district, and takes the shape of the river at the confluence of three nallahs—Aripath, Sandan and Brinnghi.
He had given an undertaking that within four months all the encroachments will be removed from the Jhelum and other water bodies.
Subsequent to the submissions by the DC, the court granted him three months to remove all the encroachments. “He shall file status and action taken report fortnightly before the registry, giving all the details about the area where the encroachments have been removed and the officers who headed the teams (removing them),” the court had said.
Meanwhile, the division bench granted time to those engineers who have not filed a response to the notice issued to them by the court, seeking their response why they shall not deposit Rs 25 lakh each for dereliction of duty with regard to maintaining and preserving of Padshahi canal.
Padshahi canal is an age-old irrigation passage which takes off from nallah Sindh near Wayil bridge in Ganderbal district. In the past two decades, it has shrunk from 27 feet to 3-5 feet in width.
“Time is extended by one week for filing response to the show cause notices issued. Registry shall check from the record whether all the engineers, whose particulars are available on the file, have filed response to the show cause notices within one week from today,” the court said and asked the Registry to issue non-bailable warrants thereafter in respect of those engineers who may have not filed response to the show cause notices.
On last date of hearing, the court had prima facie found “absolute dereliction of duty and connivance of the concerned engineers with the encroachers”, resulting in near extinction of the canal.
Subsequently, the court said its efforts to preserve the canal would not bear fruits “until such time, the officers, who are in position at the moment, learn to respect the laws.”
The amount of Rs 25 lakh each, the court had said, would be spent on “preserving and protecting the water bodies and for restoring them to their original width”
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by one Molvi Peer Noor-ul-Haq, seeking court’s intervention to restore the canal to its original width.