Rashid Paul

HC halts construction of multistory building on Jhelum bank near Rajbagh

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Srinagar: J&K High Court on Tuesday said categorical ‘no’ to any construction, renovation and completion work on a multistory building “illegally” raised at Rajbagh area of Srinagar, barely 10 to 15 feet from the banks of River Jhelum.

“We direct that till this court considers the matter and passes appropriate orders, no construction/renovation/completion etc. at all of any kind shall be carried out on the building in question,” ordered Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Puneet Gupta.

The bench directed the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir to ensure compliance of the court direction.

Hearing a public interest litigation on encroachments on the River Jhelum, the court directed the Divisional Commissioner to file an affidavit on record with regard to the ownership of the land with effect from 1947 — on which the controversial construction is coming up.

It also directed filing of the status of this land after the flooding of River Jhelum in September 2014, detailing therein what happened to the land and extent to which it was flooded in the occurrence.”

The officer has been directed to inform about the constructions which have been permitted to come up on the land since 1947; including the complete details of permissions so granted in chronological order.

The Divisional Commissioner has further been directed to conduct an inquiry and place before court the permission sought from Inland Waterway Authority of India before the next date of hearing.

The court directed the J&K State Pollution Control Board to file an affidavit with regard to the permission granted by it to the owner of the structure in question regarding discharge of sewage/treated effluents from any STP into the River Jhelum.

The bench directed the Inspector General of Police, Traffic, Kashmir to  inform the court as to the permission granted by it to raise a commercial structure at the spot in question and the plan in place for management of the burden on the traffic which will result due to coming up and operationalisation of this commercial structure at the site in question.

The Srinagar Municipal Corporation, the Revenue department and the Irrigation and Flood Control department have also been directed to file affidavits before the court with regard to the permission(s) granted to it for construction of a multi-storeyed commercial building which is barely about between 10 to 15 feet from the banks of the River Jhelum.

All these authorities have been directed to place before the court, details of the permissions which have been granted by them to construction of similar structures along the banks of the River Jhelum.

The respondents are supposed to file a latest action taken report with regard to measures — immediate, short-term measures and long-term measures for restoration of the water-body.

Advocate Syed Musaib, counsel for the applicant in the PIL told the court that the permissions for the controversial building have been obtained by the owner in complete violation of the law, environmental concerns, public interest and building by-laws.

He said the building was certainly not in existence in the 2014 when Kashmir was hit by the floods.

“We have no manner or doubt that the land in question was completely submerged,” he said.

He submitted that River Jhelum includes not only the water channel (called the floodway) but its bed and banks. The floodway is part of the floodplain which provides valuable ecosystem service benefits to society and has to be preserved.

“Clearly permissions appear to have been granted in complete disregard of the law, binding orders of this court and sensitive location of the property/land as well as the serious consequences it would have on the flow of water if the River Jhelum was to flooded again. If the River Jhelum was to overflow again, the obstruction caused by the building in question to the flow of the water would result in immediate serious flooding of the surrounding areas. Construction at the spot is clearly opposed to the public interest,” observed the court.

“This court is Custodia Legis and in seisen of the subject matter including the River Jhelum, it is not conceivable as to how the permissions have been granted by authorities without even intimation to this court,” it observed.

It viewed that the authorities and the owner of the contentious building owe an explanation to the court as to under what circumstances the permissions have been granted.

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