Srinagar: The enforcement wing of the LAWDA, tasked with checking encroachments in the Dal Lake, has remained “either dormant or seems to be in league with the violators”, two vigilance commissioners appointed by the high court have said in their report.
The commissioners—Mohammad Shafi Khan who retired last year as principal sessions judge and former SSP Abdul Hamid Bhat—pulled up both the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) and the police for failing to check illegal constructions in and around the lake.
The report, formulated after visit to various areas of the lake, specifies reasons for encroachments or illegal constructions in its prohibited areas.
“In certain areas, the illegal constructions have been demolished but many of them are untouched. FlRs have been registered against the violators but there is no progress (in the cases).”
They said that the wealth amassed by some LAWDA officials needs to be looked into through proper functionaries without distinction of rank in order to make a deterrence.
The LAWDA’s demolition squad, they said, is poorly equipped in terms of personnel and equipment, and has been overpowered by mobs shielding violators.
“The enforcement wing needs immediate strengthening. There is only one JCB available with the LAWDA which is also non-functional and for demolition JCBs from other departments have to be hired. Only two motor boats are functional. The demolition squad even lacks proper tools for demolition to be carried out in an appropriate manner.”
The commissioners have said the strength of armed personnel provided to the enforcement wing has reduced from 25 to five.
“The facts relating to inadequacy of the armed police, tools and equipment were taken up with the government as well as the director general of police. But their promise to provide the same has remained unfulfilled,” they said.
The commissioners said 84 FIRs have been lodged, 21 vehicle seized and three structures sealed after the current Enforcement Officer took over the charge.
“The conviction rates under section 188 RPC seems to be slim which is one of the reason to the violators to be back in road with same illegal task, as such, strict law similar to section 26 Forest Act which makes the seized property liable to confiscation is required to put in place,” the report said.
They said the unchecked ingress and egress of the vehicles during the night inspection shows the utter negligence and corrupt practice by the police personnel concerned.
“Most of the FIRs have been lodged at the behest of the enforcement officer and not the police,” they added.
A division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasathakumar and justice Hasnain Massodi observed that the report shows a “sorry state of affairs on the part of police and LAWDA officials”.
While taking note of the lack of seriousness on the part of the police, the court directed the presence of Inspector General of Police who appeared before it and submitted that he will provide 20 more policemen besides one more motor boat to the Enforcement Wing.
Senior advocate and Amicus curie, advocate Zaffar Ahmad Shah, submitted that the commissioners’ report was astonishing.
He said in spite of various directions issued by the court during the past 13 years, the authorities have not been taking appropriate steps to preserve the lake and, therefore, they should be directed to file action-taken report on the next date of hearing.
“The police as well as official respondents are directed to file action taken report in the matter considering the alarming report submitted by the court commissioners on or before 12 October,” the court said and put the case for further consideration on October 13.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation filed by Syed Tahir Iqbal, then a law student, in July 2002, to save the lake.
The court has already taken the Lake in its control by declaring it Custodia Legis on 23 March 2009.
‘Sorry state of affairs’
LAWDA enforcement wing’s strength of armed personnel has been reduced to 5 from 25
Demolition squad has 1 non-functional JCB, 2 functional motor boats and lacks proper equipment
Conviction rate very low. Commissioners suggest a stringent law
Cops rarely act on their own; most FIRs filed at enforcement officer’s request