Officers of many deptts to face action for facilitating illegalities
Large number of hotels being categorized as ‘violators’
JAMMU, July 15: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has almost completed probe into alleged illegal/unauthorized constructions in green buffer areas of Patnitop and will shortly file charge-sheet in the competent court. Moreover, the Bureau has submitted latest report in a sealed cover to the High Court, which will examine the same in the last week of current month before passing fresh orders to the supreme investigating agency of the country.
The Bureau is also learnt to have identified several officials of the Forest and Revenue Departments and Patnitop Development Authority who either had directly facilitated the illegalities for monetary benefits or turned blind eye towards the encroachments and other violations of the relevant laws under the pressure of politicians and hoteliers.
Official sources told EXCELSIOR that CBI Counsel has submitted latest report in a sealed cover to the High Court and the same will be examined in the last week of current month when the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking demolition of the illegal/unauthorized buildings raised in green buffer areas of Patnitop will come up for hearing.
“The CBI, which was entrusted the task of conducting in-depth enquiry into the encroachments on forest and other public land on December 31, 2019, has almost completed the investigation and is likely to file charge-sheet in the competent court shortly”, they said, adding the Bureau has looked into all the cases of illegal change of land use for raising of constructions and failure of the authorities to take action against the violators.
The CBI, as per the sources, has started fixing the responsibility of the officials who were duty bound to take action but failed to proceed in accordance with law. “Not only those who remained at the helm of affairs in the Patnitop Development Authority even those who were supposed to protect the forest and revenue land from the encroachers were hand-in-glove with the hoteliers”, sources said.
It was purely the duty of the Forest Department to ensure that its land is not encroached and for that periodic inspections were supposed to be conducted but no such step was taken. Similarly, officials of Revenue Department were duty bound to protect the State land but they too acted as mute spectators, sources said, adding “it is really a matter of concern that those who were heading the Patnitop Development Authority never bothered to see the No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) from the Forest and Revenue Departments before according sanction for construction works to the hoteliers as such facilitated the violations of the Master Plan”.
According to the sources, violations and illegal constructions have been noticed in respect of 40 to 45 hotels during the detailed examination of all the record of the PDA ever since its creation. “It has come to the fore that large number of trees were removed in order to effect the encroachments and raise illegal and unauthorized constructions resulting into degradation of environment in the area under the jurisdiction of Patnitop Development Authority”, sources informed.
Even Division Bench of the High Court, while ordering CBI probe, had observed, “it cannot be denied that such extensive and illegal commercialization in the eco-sensitive area have caused irreparable damage to the ecology of the Patnitop, a very popular hill resort in the Jammu province. There can also be no dispute at all that forest and agricultural area has to be maintained and interest of the forest and agriculture cannot be compromised at all levels”.
EXCELSIOR confirmed from the sources in the Patnitop Development Authority that CBI has completed the task of examining the record relating to permissions for illegal constructions and other violations. “There are very few hotels which have not conducted any sort of violation”, they added.