High Court miffed over delay in houseboat shifting

Greater Kashmir

'Matter is serious, requires strict action and compliance'

Srinagar, Aug 25: Expressing its displeasure over the inaction to shift houseboats to Doldum area of Dal lake, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday directed the government to underline the reasons for defying its direction of May 19, 2013.  
“We are unable to appreciate the stance of the state government for closing their eyes completely and shelving the court direction. The matter is serious and it requires strict action and compliance,” a division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar said in its order on a Public Interest Litigation on preservation of Dal lake.
Pulling up the Lakes and Water-ways Development Authority (LAWDA), the bench observed that the failure of the authority to shift the houseboats to Doldum area has strengthened the impression that the authority is hand in glove with houseboat people.      Disapproving the latest status report by terming it out of sync with the court order of May 19, the bench said, “After more than one year, the status report states that the matter has been discussed with Secretary Housing Urban Development Department who has directed the Authority to start the project in anticipation of funds and assured that funds under the state plan”.
The Secretary Housing and Urban Development Department (HUDD) who has to remain present on next date of hearing to assist the court and has also been directed to file an affidavit along with the statement by LAWDA VC, Irfan Yasin as to why delay has been caused in implementation of order.
The bench also asked Advocate General, M I Qadri to file the status report with regard to delay from May 19, 2013 till date as to why the order has not been implemented.
“The needful shall be done by September 4,” the court said.
 Reiterating its earlier direction of May 19, the division bench, however, directed that the process of shifting houseboats to Doldum area must start immediately.
Expressing its dissatisfaction over the status report by vice-chairman LAWDA, the bench made it clear that in its order of May 9, 2013 a detailed direction was passed touching the issues from 2012-2013.
It said the stand of the Houseboat Owners Association was not only rejected but it was found that there was no effort made to come forward with any alternative so the promise to relocate the houseboats in terms of the proposal made by houseboat owners was to commence from January  5,  to November 9, 2012.
 The court said though a status report was to be submitted on 15-12-2012, no progress was made in this direction. The bench pointed out that the order has recorded the statement of Advocate General after his consultation with LAWDA VC that the houseboats were to be shifted to the Doldum area in a phased manner.
“ The LAWDA was asked to proceed with the implementation of the proposal and the houseboats were to be shifted as early as possible,” the bench said, adding, a status report leading to the shifting of the houseboats was to be filed by LAWDA before the next date of hearing of  the PIL.
On Oct 29, 2012, the High Court had also directed the houseboat owners to complete the process of shifting of the houseboats 300 feet away from the parapet wall of the water body from November 5 to November 9.
Meanwhile, after going through a status report by VC LAWDA disclosing that de-weeding process has been undertaken by the authorities from July to August 19, 2014, the court observed that the work does not seem to have been completed.
 “A fresh status report has to be filed before next date of hearing,” the bench said.