Encroachment of public land by religious structures across UT
*Seeks personal appearance of Comm/Secy Revenue
JAMMU, Nov 21: Taking serious note of inordinate delay in filing of Action Taken Report (ATR) regarding the religious structures which have encroached upon public land across the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Division Bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sindhu Sharma has sought the personal appearance of the Commissioner Secretary to the Government, Revenue Department on next date of hearing.
The issue relating to encroachment of public land in the nature of various religious structures was the subject matter of consideration before the Supreme Court in SLP titled “Union of India Versus State of Gujarat and Others”.
Several affidavits/replies came to be filed before the Apex Court by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and thereafter the Supreme Court issued directions that no unauthorized construction shall take place in the name of temple, church, mosque and Gurdwara etc on public streets, public parks or other public places.
About the unauthorized constructions of religious nature which have already taken place on public streets, public parks and other public places, the Governments of State and Union Territories were directed to review the same on case to case basis and take appropriate steps as expeditiously as possible.
Moreover, all the States and UTs were under direction to formulate comprehensive policy regarding the removal/relocation and regularization of such unauthorized constructions.
On January 31, 2018, the Supreme Court remitted the matter to the respective High Courts to ensure implementation of directions and finally the matter was registered as writ petition titled “Union of India Versus UT of J&K and Others before the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir.
On February 10, 2020, the Senior Additional Advocate General H A Siddiqui sought time to place the status of the steps taken after the filing of the last affidavit before the Supreme Court and Action Taken Report regarding the religious structures, which have encroached public land.
While considering the request, the Division Bench comprising of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal issued directions on February 10, 2020 for filing of Action Taken Report within six weeks positively.
As there was no compliance to the directions, the Division Bench vide order dated August 14, 2020 directed that the copy of order dated February 10, 2020 be placed before the Chief Secretary of Government of J&K Union Territory for taking appropriate steps and ensuring that the status report in terms thereof was positively filed before September 18, 2020.
When the writ petition again came up for hearing on September 18, 2020, the Senior Additional Advocate General again sought time to file status report in terms of order dated February 10, 2020. “This is an urgent matter and needs immediate attention of the respondents”, the DB of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul had observed on September 18, 2020 while granting time till November 20, 2020.
However, despite numerous directions of the High Court since February this year, there is no compliance at all and when the writ petition came up for hearing yesterday the Government again made prayer for grant of more time.
Taking serious note of dilly-dallying approach in respect of matter which has already been dealt by the Supreme Court of the country, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Sindhu Sharma observed, “this petition was registered in the public interest pursuant to the directions made by the Supreme Court on January 31, 2018 and almost eight months have lapsed since we issued first direction to the Government but till date there is no compliance”.
“On several dates time had been sought to place the status of the steps taken after the filing of the last affidavit dated August 2, 2014 before the Supreme Court and action taken report regarding the religious structures which have encroached public land but till date affidavit has not been filed”, the DB headed by Chief Justice said.
Accordingly, DB directed that Commissioner Secretary to the Government, Revenue Department shall remain present before the court on next date of hearing. “Let copy of order dated February 10, 2020 and this order be sent to the Commissioner Secretary Revenue for compliance”, the DB further said.
Now, the writ petition will come up for hearing on December 22, 2020.