Retrieve all public property or face criminal charges, officals warned
Srinagar: “Public lands are being exploited for commercial profits by those who have no right to do so. All of this has to stop forthwith,” said the J&K High Court on Saturday while hearing a matter related to protection and preservation of Pahalgam.
A division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Puneet Gupta noted that lessees whose leases have long expired are continuing to occupy the sate land in Pahalgam.
“The Pahalgam Development Authority appears to have no record of the leases. Encroachers are also continuing with impunity on the encroached Government / Forest land,” the Division Bench recorded.
The Bench noted that so far as Government land is concerned, the Supreme Court has repeatedly enjoined upon the state machinery to protect the land from encroachers and illegal occupants.
“Disposal of the State Land can only be by a fair, transparent and open process,” the Bench said.
The court directed the Pahalgam Development Authority and Revenue department to initiate steps for eviction of unauthorised occupants and warned that in case immediate action is not taken, it has to be presumed that the respondents are in collusion and complicit with the illegal acts.
“It may be noted that such continued occupation of public property may be tantamount to criminal offences under the Indian Penal Code,” the court said.
The court recorded that it is absolutely imperative to check this illegal activity as the unauthorized construction in the eco-fragile area is irreversibly damaging the environment.
“The damage is such that it cannot be compensated monetarily. Not only will the present populace, but the generations to come have to pay the price,” the Division Bench remarked.
In addition to the requirements made in the applicable law, all applications for sanction of building/ construction/ renovation/ repairs in any building shall be accompanied by the following: an affidavit by the applicant that he / she is not in illegal occupation / possession of any public land/ forest land in the entire Jammu & Kashmir as well as Ladakh, Self authenticated copies of all documents establishing legal right of ownership over the land on which construction/ repairs / renovation is proposed, the court directed.
It should also include Certificate from the Deputy Commissioner and DFO concerned that the land is not public land and forest land, Copy of original sanctioned plan with all documents of original sanction, previous permissions for additions / repairs / renovation, Videography and photographs of the land, existing building (full exterior and interior), Complete details (including exact location) of what is proposed to be undertaken which shall also be plotted on a site plan, the court directed.
“The concerned authorities shall at all times have full access to the property to undertake its inspection. In no case will permission(s) be granted to persons having no right, title or interest to occupy the land in question,” the court said while directing that persons in illegal occupation of the public lands must hand over such lands to the Government authorities.
“The respondents must take immediate steps to retrieve the public lands from the unauthorised occupants. Action taken reports shall be filed by the revenue and forest authorities every six weeks,” the court directed.
The court also directed that this order shall govern all lands and properties in the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir as well as Ladakh.
“It shall be responsibility of the Principal Secretary (Law), Governments of the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir as well as Ladakh to ensure service of this order on all land as well as development authorities (including the Pahalgam Development Authority, Gulmarg Development Authority, Sonamarg Development Authority, Patnitop Development Authority, Jammu Development Authority and Srinagar Development Authority etc.), all municipal corporations (including Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Jammu Municipal Corporation, etc.), Divisional Commissioners, Principal Chief Conservator Forests, J&K for compliance.
“Making of a false deposition/ declaration/ disclosure in any of the applications/ affidavits/ documents or and or obstruction to the authorities in implementing this order shall be treated as contempt of the orders passed by this Court,” the court noted.
“Let the Principal Secretary Law of the Union Territories take steps of informing the public at large about the directions made by this Court,” the Bench directed.
The court will again hear the matter on November 19.