DB passes strictures against Div Com, JDA, JMC; grants final opportunity for action

Removal of encroachments along River Tawi from Nagrota to Mandal Phallian

Restrains courts from passing orders in cases of encroachers

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU, Dec 15: Expressing anguish over lack of coordination and cooperation in implementing its repeated orders regarding removal of encroachments and illegal constructions along River Tawi from Nagrota to Mandal Phallian, Division Bench of State High Court comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Tashi Rabstan has passed strictures against the Divisional Commissioner and those at the helm of affairs in Jammu Development Authority (JDA) and Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC).
Moreover, while granting final opportunity to ensure compliance of the directions, the highest court of the State has made it clear that further failure will lead to initiation of contempt of court proceedings against these authorities. Even the courts below have been restrained from passing orders in the cases filed by the encroachers otherwise in accordance with law.
It is pertinent to mention here that EXCELSIOR had yesterday exclusively reported that all the concerned authorities responsible for removal of encroachers and illegal structures along the River Tawi are blaming each other instead of working in a coordinated manner.
After perusal of status report filed by Vice-Chairman of Jammu Development Authority Pawan Singh Rathore in the Public Interest Litigations (PILs) filed by Advocate Deewakar Sharma and Ashish Sharma, the DB observed, “it has been stated in the report that despite repeated requests to the Revenue staff of the State Government, the steps for demarcation are not being completed and large extent of the land is yet to be handed over to JDA”.
“So far as the removal of encroachments as well as stoppage of illegal constructions is concerned, the Jammu Municipal Corporation is required to undertake the same. Despite reminders and requests made by the JDA, no steps against the encroachers have been taken”, the DB regretted.
Pointing towards the order dated July 29, 2016, the DB said, “the responsibility was clearly apportioned on the Divisional Commissioner Jammu, who otherwise heads the Revenue Department. On July 20, 2018 this court had observed that failure to comply with the directions shall amount to contempt of court and the concerned officers shall be proceeded against for the same”.
“This peremptory order doesn’t appear to have moved the concerned officers, instead vague status report has been filed which don’t show compliance of the orders passed by this court”, the DB said, adding “it cannot be disputed that that in law, the responsibility of ensuring that no constructions are raised in violation of the provisions of the Jammu Municipal Corporation Act rests solely on the Jammu Municipal Corporation which is headed by the Municipal Commissioner”.
“The latest position brought by the JDA on record in its status report clearly suggests that not only the statutory responsibilities and the public law obligations are not being discharged jointly by the concerned authorities, but also the failure of these authorities to comply with the specific directions of this court borders on contempt of the court. Additionally, the failure to discharge their statutory responsibilities as well as public law obligations is extremely detrimental to public interest”, the DB remarked.
On this, Sunil Sethi, Senior Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the status report filed by the JDA is completely misleading and doesn’t inform about the extent of the land which it has demarcated and the details of the encroachers and the action taken by it.
As the DB was about to issue notice for contempt of court against the authorities keeping in view the large scale violations of the repeated directions, Senior AAG S S Nanda appearing for the Jammu Municipal Corporation prayed for grant of sometime for placing the compliance report of the directions. The DB considered the prayer and issued directions for filing compliance report by or before next date of hearing while granting one last opportunity.
Advocate Adarsh Sharma appearing for the JDA submitted that the JDA was being obstructed in its efforts on account of baseless litigation initiated by the encroachers, who obtained interim orders by misrepresentation interdicting the JDA from taking action.
On this, the DB said, “so far as the interim orders with regard to the land and the construction is concerned, it is trite that any person, who is seeking an order of stay, has to establish a legal right of ownership over the land in question or a legal right to remain in possession under a legally valid right and document”.
“Such possession could be protected in law by the order passed by the courts. The Municipal Corporation and JDA are bound to oppose efforts which are made by the encroachers for obtaining interim orders interdicting the JDA from discharging its statutory functions and public law obligations”, the DB said while restraining the courts below from passing orders permitting illegal encroachments, illegal occupation or construction otherwise in accordance with law.
The DB also directed the respondents to file full particulars of the cases which have been filed against them by encroachers seeking protection of their illegal occupation as well as illegal and unauthorized constructions and the status report within one week. However, the Division Bench headed by Chief Justice made it clear that strict action shall be taken against all the encroachers.
Granting final opportunity to all the official respondents to ensure compliance of all the directions passed so far, the DB said, “it is unfortunate that the authorities are proceeding in the matter without any coordination and certainly not cooperating with each others’ action”.
The DB directed the respondents to prepare a soft copy of the video-graphy of the action taken by them, the current status of the land which is the subject matter of these writ petitions as well as the constructions which have been raised on the land which belongs to the statutory authorities.
The DB further directed the Divisional Commissioner, Commissioner Jammu Municipal Corporation, Vice-Chairman JDA and SSP Jammu to work together so far as the issues raised in these writ petitioners are concerned and to ensure compliance of the directions.
“A joint report of the entire action which has been taken by the authorities, signed by the Divisional Commissioner shall be filed three days before the next date of hearing—February 5, 2019”, the DB said.