SRINAGAR: The J&K High court has dismissed a couple of petitions filed by a dozen shopkeepers, seeking directions to the government to construct ‘shopping line’ for them at Magarmalbagh instead of their relocation to nearby ‘Rehabilitation Complex’ at Jahangir Chowk here.
The shopkeepers were licensees of the shops located in a building belonging to the Government Estates Department situated at Magarmal Bagh here, abreast Jehangir Chowk — Indira Gandhi Airport Road.
The building, having come in the alignment of the Jehangir Chowk — Ram Bagh Expressway (Flyover) Corridor, is required to be demolished.
Funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Expressway project is executed by Jammu and Kashmir Reconstruction Agency. It’s perceived to be one of the most important projects of general importance in this summer capital of the state.
“As is seen from the facts, the sole so-called grievance projected by the petitioners (shopkeepers) is that they be not rehabilitated in the building, termed by the respondents as Rehabilitation Complex, constructed by the ERA for rehabilitation of the displaced shopkeepers; instead they demand that they be rehabilitated by constructing a shopping line at the existing site on the state land falling behind or adjacent to the building which falls within the alignment of the express corridor and is proposed to be demolishment,” a single bench of the Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey observed while dismissing their petition.
Before moving the court, the shopkeepers, in their deliberations with ERA and government authorities from time to time, had demanded that the shops they were in possession be spared as the building was not immediately required considering that the widening of the link-road from Amira Kadal to IG Road was to be taken at a later stage.
In alternative, they had demanded that a shopping line be constructed for them on the state land behind the building.
The government and the ERA authorities on the other hand submitted that the petitions have been filed to stall the project of the general importance and that relocation of the shopkeepers has been already taken care of by rehabilitating them in the ‘Rehabilitation Complex’ located at the stone’s distance from the site of the building sought to be acquired. They specifically mentioned the construction of the shopping line at the site proposed by the shopkeepers was not feasible from engineering point of view.
In fact, the ERA in its status report, filed before the court, stated that neither there is possibility of reshaping of the flyover nor could any portion of the building be saved in the demolition. The ERA categorically stated that no construction was possible in the leftover patch of the land.
“The petitioners have merely been licensees of the shops in question. It is well settled that in licence no interest passes and it can be revoked any time. In the instant case, eviction notices stand issued to the petitioners way back in March 2013, meaning thereby that their licences stand revoked. Once the licences of the petitioners were revoked by issuing eviction notice against them by the competent authority, they would not be entitled to any compensation of rehabilitation,” the court observed.
However, it said, since the project is funded by ADB and there is a scheme to rehabilitate the persons who are displaced on account of execution of the projects and, therefore, the shopkeepers are being rehabilitated by providing alternative place, that too, at a stone’s distance from the site and at a prime location and that they have no right to claim construction of shops for them at the very site the building, being demolished.
“If such a prayer is allowed, then every person who is dislocated would seek the same or a similar relief. Even otherwise, in view of the impact the construction of the project would have on the society at large and the larger public interests involved, even if the petitioners would have had any right or interest in the building, the land underneath and appurtenant thereto, or would have any genuine claim to demand contraction of a shopping line on the left over land on the spot, the public interest would override and prevail. Here, it is supported by the Expert view, too,” the court said and termed the shopkeepers demand as “untenable, grossly misconceived and without any backing of law.”
“No unconstitutionality or illegality is attributable to the act of issuance of the (eviction) notices to the (shopkeepers),” the court said and dismissed the petitions.
The petitioners were represented by advocate M Aijaz while the respondents were defended before the court by additional advocate general B A Dar.