Evict all unauthorized occupants in Pahalgam: HC

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Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) and Revenue Department to take steps for eviction of the unauthorized occupants in Pahalgam in accordance with law and file Action Taken Report by November 19.

A division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Puneet Gupta sought the report after observing that PDA has issued public notices through print media to all the owners of the existing structures for submitting the complete site plans of their structures with photographs and allied documents within a stipulated time which has already expired. 

 “In case immediate action is not taken and the public property retrieved from the illegal and unauthorized occupants, it has to be presumed that the respondents are in collusion and complicit with the illegal acts,” the court said. 

The Court noted that such continued occupation of the public property may tantamount to criminal offences under the Indian Penal Code. 

The Court held that in case the site plan with photographs and allied documents have not been submitted to the concerned authorities, it has to be presumed that these are the persons encroaching on the Forest or Government Land. 

 “Lessees whose leases have expired and continued to occupy the Government land have no right to do so”, the court said and observed that disposition of the public property can only be effected in accordance with the law laid down by the Supreme Court. “In law even renewal of leases are not granted as a matter of right. There is no such plan for renewals in place”. 

While the court pointed out that the Lessees continue to occupy Government land without paying a penny to the Government resulting in huge loss to the public exchequer, it said Public lands are being exploited for commercial profits by those who have no right to do so.  “All of this has to stop forthwith,” it said.

The Court said in case any documents stand received from any persons, the same shall be scrutinized by the concerned authorities. 

Underling that in case after case applications are being made for building permissions, the court said; “on many occasions, we find the ruse of damage on account of snow or fire is put forth under the shield of the permission so obtained, large scale unauthorised constructions, expansions and encroachments are being effected”.  Most of these, the court said, are being sought and carried out by persons who have no right in the lands at all.

“It is absolutely imperative to check this illegal activity as the unauthorized construction in this eco-fragile area is irreversibly damaging the environment,” the court said.

In keeping with these observations, the court proposed that all applications for sanction of building, construction, renovation or repairs in any building shall be accompanied by an affidavit by the applicant that he or she is not in illegal occupation of any public or forest land in  UTs J&K as well as Ladakh.

The application, the court said, should by self authenticated copies of all documents establishing legal right of ownership over the land on which construction,  repairs  or renovation is proposed,  certificate from the DC and DFO concerned that the land is not public land and forest land, copy of original sanctioned plan with all documents of original sanction and other details. 

 “If request is favourably considered, then on completion of the work, completed site plan with colour marking of work undertaken; videography and photos of the completed work”.

While the court held that no permission be granted to persons having no right, title or interest to occupy the land in question, it said Persons in illegal occupation of the public lands must handover such lands to the Government authorities.

 “This order shall govern all lands and properties in the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir as well as Ladakh” court said.

The Court held that it would be responsibility of the Principal Secretary Law, Governments of J&K as well as Ladakh to ensure service of this order on all lands as well as development authorities  including the Pahalgam Development Authority, Gulmarg Development Authority, Sonamarg Development Authority, Patnitop Development Authority, Jammu Development Authority and Srinagar Development Authority, all municipal corporations including Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Jammu Municipal Corporation, Divisional Commissioners, Principal Chief Conservator Forests, J&K for compliance.

 “Making of a false deposition/ declaration/ disclosure in any of the applications/ affidavits/ documents or and or obstruction to the authorities in implementing this order shall be treated as contempt of the orders passed by this Court” the court said

The Court asked the Principal Secretary Law of the two UTs to take steps of informing the public at large about the directions made by this Court.