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Tell us what have you done for demarcation, protection of Shah Kol, HC asks authorities

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Directs them to turn in relevant records by next hearing on May 8

Srinagar: The High Court of J&K & Ladakh has asked the authorities to apprise it of the actions taken for the demarcation of Shah Kol, a canal passing through the city, and evicting encroachments on it.

Chief Justice N. Kotiswar Singh and Justice Moksha Khajuria Kazmi passed the direction after the counsel for the petitioner in the public interest petition attracted attention of the court to the official orders regarding this Mugal-era canal.

A communication from the Director of Land Records/Settlement Officer, Kashmir, under No. 2701-03/DIR-50/2003, had ordered that a demarcation, and evictions be conducted by a team of experienced officials. The executing agents according to the order included the staff from Srinagar Municipality and Srinagar Development Authority.

The bench directed “this court desires to know the actions taken or processes undertaken pursuant to the said direction, for which the relevant records shall be produced by the next date of hearing scheduled for May 8, 2024”.

The court noted that there was no appearance on behalf of the respondent No. 19 (a private party alleged encroachments on the canal). Consequently, the court noted that as there was no one to appear for the respondent, accordingly he was set ex parte.

The bench made it clear in line with its observations “any illegal construction undertaken without following the due process of law will be at the risk of involved parties and will be dealt with in accordance with law, including demolition of the same”.

The High Court had earlier put on notice the J&K Lake Conservation and Management Authority, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Director, Land Records Settlement office, Commissioner Srinagar Municipality, DG Archaeological Survey of India , Director Gardens and Parks, SSP CBI Srinagar and SSP Srinagar. Besides, private persons from Deewan Colony Ishber Nishat were also asked to file their response to the PIL initiated by one Mir Mohammad Shafi.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the respondent Nos.18 and 19 (private persons) were engaged in illegal construction by raising the concrete walls on the land belonging to the canal. Mir, the petitioner, sought the court’s intervention for removal of all illegal encroachments and restoration of the original status of the canal with persisting economic and other benefits.

He also sought directions for the restoration of adjoining roads encroached upon by the two private persons. Apart from it, he seeks directions for constituting a high-level committee comprising officers of Anti-Corruption Bureau and other investigation agencies to investigate the “gross mismanagement by the official respondents (authorities)”.

He also seeks direction to refer the investigation to the CBI to inquire the conduct of the officials in the matter.

The petitioner also referred to a communication by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir to Directorate Land Records in 2004 that Shah Kol, having national monumental value and being main source of supplying water to Nishat Gardens since the time of Emperor Jahangir, has been encroached upon, resulting in the loss of lakhs of rupees.

“The water required for Nishat Garden is now being lifted through mechanical pumps,” said his petition. The Divisional Kashmir had sought removal of all types of encroachments on Shah Kol and also for ensuring appropriate action against the culprits. However, the petitioner said no action has been taken on ground.

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