SRINAGAR: The High Court has announced to consider the replies submitted by engineers to the show-cause notices, asking them as to why they should not deposit Rs 10 lakh to Rs 5 crore, depending on seniority, for preserving the river Jhelum.
“Most of them (engineers) have filed response (to the show cause notices). The issue will be considered in the first instance and orders in accordance with law will be passed,” a bench of justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey said, and accordingly directed the listing of the case in the week commencing from March 21 “for hearing the counsel for the parties on the issue”.
The court was hearing a Public Interest Litigation and the show-cause notices were issued last year by it to all the engineers who remained posted along the areas of the Jhelum’s course from 1996.
Each chief engineer, serving or retired, was asked as to why he shouldn’t deposit Rs 5 crore , superintending engineers Rs 3 crore, executive engineers Rs 2 crore, assistant executive engineers Rs 1 crore, and junior engineers Rs 10 lakh.
It has been reliably learnt that the engineers have, in their replies, denied any dereliction on their part.
The court had passed the directions with the observations that the encroachments along the course of Jhelum would not have taken place had the authorities discharged their duties in accordance with rules.
“There can be one more reason for coming up of these encroachments and that would be the active connivance of some of these officers with encroachers,” the court had said, underlining that one of the causes of the overflowing of Jhelum in September 2014 was stated to be encroachments which have badly affected the river’s capacity to retain water.
The PIL was filed by Molvi Peer Noor-ul-Haq, seeking the court’s intervention on restoring the Padshahi canal, an age-old irrigation passage which has shrunk from 27ft to a mere 3-5ft in width. While hearing the PIL, the court brought the Jhelum and other water bodies under its purview.
The court is yet to consider replies filed by engineers who were last year asked to explain why they should not deposit Rs 25 lakh each for dereliction of duty in regard to maintaining and preserving the Padshahi canal.
Meanwhile, the court granted final opportunity to all the engineers, posted along Jhelum, to file replies to the show-cause notices before the next date of hearing.
“Meanwhile, the authorities shall also comply with their statutory obligation and file compliance report before the next date,” the court added.
Among other statutory obligations, all the deputy commissioners, in whose jurisdiction the Jhelum flows, are required to remove all encroachments from river embankments.