- Seeks LAWDA’s compliance report by Oct 27, directs police to extend cooperation
Srinagar: The J&K High Court (HC) has directed the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) to attach seven “illegal” structures – which includes a double-storied building of the Directorate of Indian Medicine – on the banks of the Dachigam stream, in the outskirts of Srinagar, by October 27.
The structures were identified by two Vigilance Commissioners appointed by the HC in August this year, and a division bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi also ordered LAWDA to initiate action on the issue as warranted under rules, after the structures are attached.
“The latest report submitted by the Court Vigilance Commissioners is shocking, to say the least. The report identifies the constructions unauthorisedly raised in recent past in violation of the Master Plan, permission granted by BOCA as also directions passed by this Court from time to time,” the division bench observed after perusal of the report by the Commissioners —Mohammad Shafi Khan, a retired principal sessions judge, and a former SSP, Abdul Hamid Bhat.
The Court also directed the Superintendent of Police (Srinagar East) and SHOs of all concerned police stations to extend cooperation to LAWDA in ensuring the “forthwith” implementation of the Court’s directions.
Besides the government building, the Commissioners have identified a hut constructed at Bahrar, along the Nigeen Lake, by Rouf Ahmad Shangoo, owner of a houseboat “New Malvis”; a concrete double-storied guest house comprising 8 rooms, kitchen and a bathroom on the banks of the Nigeen lake; a restaurant on an island in the lake called “Mac’s Island and Nigeen View Resort”; a wooden structure meant to serve as a dining hall adjacent to a houseboat, ‘Floating Heaven’, belonging to Abdul Rashid Doonu; a tin shed and a concrete structure on the upper compound of a shrine near Nehru Park and a concrete commercial complex built by Mohammad Tariq Reshi, of Isber Nishat, in violation of permission for construction of a residential house.
The Commissioners have also reported that a Ghat at Nawa Bagh along the banks of Nigeen lake has been unauthorisedly converted into parking place by filling it with earth and that a houseboat, ‘New Jaaklin’, was illegally moored at the site. “Let LAWDA take necessary steps to restore the Ghat to its original position and remove the houseboat so that the Ghat is used by the general public without any hindrance,” the bench said.
Before passing the order, the Court also provided the copies of the report filed by the Commissioners to senior advocate and amicus curiae ZA Shah as well as Advocate General Jahangir Iqbal Ganie for their response. Both confirmed the violations, and ZA Shah in fact submitted 14 photographs of the violations as reported in the report.
The Court also directed LAWDA to take steps for identifying 200 meters around the lake area (Dal as well as Nigeen) by installing markers like signboards, cement or iron poles so that the general public is made aware of the extent of a “No Construction Zone” around the lake area.
In another direction, the Court directed the government to provide vehicles to the Court Commissioners to enable them to discharge their duties. This came after submissions by ZA Shah, who pointed out that the Commissioners were not being provided transport facility.
The Commissioners have also made suggestions to prevent encroachments and unauthorised constructions. “We accordingly direct the Authority, empowered to grant permission for carriage of building material to the Lake area, to specify the nature and quality of building material proposed to be transported and, as far as possible, avoid granting such permission for a period exceeding one day,” the court said.
“The permission should indicate the point from which entry is proposed to be made to Lake area, the destination of the building material proposed to be transported and particulars of permission granted by Building Operations Controlling Authority (LAWDA),” the court said. It also directed the SSP authorised to grant permission for carriage of building material to the Lake area to provide copies of permission orders to the Commissioners.
Besides a compliance report by LAWDA, the Court also directed the Commissioners to file a fresh report by October 27.
The Court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation on saving the Lake area, filed by Syed Tahir Iqbal – then a law student – in July 2002. The Court has already taken the Lake under its control by declaring it Custodia Legis (in the custody of the law) on 23 March, 2009.