HC permits Army to construct transit camp in Sonamarg

The High Court on Thursday permitted the Army to construct a transit camp at health resort Sonamarg.   

“Without prejudice to the rights and contentions of both sides, the petitioner (Army) is permitted to raise construction of the Transit Camp at Sonamarg as has been proposed in the submission made to Building Operation Controlling Authority (BOCA) on 12 December 2018,” a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rashid Ali Dar said in its order. 

The direction came after Assistant Solicitor General of India Tahir Shamsi on behalf of Army submitted that BOCA of Sonamarg “has not moved at all” for the past six months since the Army applied for building permission.

Shamsi said weather conditions in the area are such that Army has only two months to carry out constructions.

The court, however, allowed BOCA of Sonamarg and the Chief Town Planner Kashmir to inspect the constructions and to point out any rectifications required to be undertaken by the Army.

“The construction in terms of the present order shall be subject to further orders of this court,” the bench said. 

In its petition, the Union of India through Commanding Officer 254 Transit Camp Sonamarg, said that since 1998 the camp in Sonamarg remains functional from mid-April to mid-December and has to be relocate during winter. 

The Army submitted that its existing infrastructure is inadequate to house the staff in transits and it is for this reason that Army has proposed to reconstruct and improve the existing infrastructure by raising the necessary permanent housing structure at Sonamarg.  

“The endeavour is to keep the transit camp functional all throughout the year. This necessitates creation of permanent assets at the transient camp,” the Army had said.

Pointing out the revenue authorities have no objection to the construction, the army said that various other departments have displayed “lackadaisical attitude” over the issuance of requisite No Objection Certificates (NOCs).   

The Army had sought directions to the concerned authorities to issue the requisite NOCs and grant permission to construct buildings at the transit camp.

In its order dated 4 June 2019, the court had directed that the matter be brought to the notice of the Chief Secretary to consider the same.    

In its status report dated 2 July 2019, the government said the matter was placed before the Chief Secretary on 28 June 2019 wherein a decision was taken for converting and declaring an area as a “Strategic Area” for direct operational and training requirements of Armed Forces.

“The decision dated 28th June 2019 though makes a reference to the instant writ petition in the heading, however, the matter of raising the construction of the Transit Camp on the site which is in the possession of the army and is being utilized as a Transit Camp has not been considered,” the court said.   

The court observed that the petitioner (Army) has placed on record the progress of the matter for raising the construction of the Transit Camp and several “no objection certificates” already received for the construction.

While the army referred to a letter dated 29 October 2018 issued by the Sonamarg Development Authority, which required it to seek permission of the court for constructing buildings, the court in its order dated 4 June 2019 said the constructions shall be subject to inspections by the competent authority of the Sonamarg Development Authority.

“The objections which may be pointed out would be addressed by the petitioner,” the court had said.