JEHLUM ENCROACHMENT: HC comes hard on officials

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday directed the Deputy Commissioners in whose areas River Jehlum flows to appear before it on next date of hearing if they fail to provide details of original width of the river and the encroachment thereupon.
JEHLUM ENCROACHMENT: HC comes hard on officials
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The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Tuesday directed the Deputy Commissioners in whose areas River Jehlum flows to appear before it on next date of hearing if they fail to provide details of original width of the river and the encroachment thereupon.

Hearing a Public Interest Litigation seeking removal of encroachments from banks of River Jehlum, a division bench of Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey and Justice BansiLalBhat directed the concerned DCs to furnish the details in compliance to its earlier directions.

Earlier, the Deputy Commissioners of Srinagar, Islamabad (Anantnag), Bandipora and Pulwama districts were directed to provide the information about the encroachments existing on the banks of the river and were asked to continue to remove the encroachments.

Seeking particulars of the persons who have made or are attempting to encroach upon the water bodies, more particularly the banks of River Jhelum, the court had directed the authorities to "ensure nobody again makes encroachments after their removal."

The DCs were directed to remove all the encroachments whether in the shape of 'pacca' and 'kucha' structures or standing trees while the concerned SSPs were asked to provide assistance, if asked for.

The court today took on record status reports filed by Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Chief Engineer Irrigation & Flood Control and the Deputy Commissioners after Additional Advocate General N H Shah made a submission for the same. It, however, termed the status report filed by Deputy Commissioner Kulgam as "deficient in details."

Observing that Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and Chief Engineer I&FC have shown a casual approach in complying with its directions, the court observed there is nothing on record to suggest that these authorities have actually made any effort towards implementation of its directions.

The two authorities were again directed to come up with the requisite compliance by or before the next date of hearing and in default they have been ordered to remain present in person before the court.

Earlier, for "dereliction" of duties, the court had directed every Chief Engineer, Superintending Engineer, Executive Engineer, Assistant Executive Engineer, Junior Engineer— who have manned river Jhelum since 1996—to show cause as to why they shall not deposit Rs five crore, Rs three crore, Rs two crore, Rs one crore and Rs 10 lakh respectively with the State treasury for spending the amount on preservation of the water body.   

In response to the Public Notice issued, many engineers were present today through their counsel and were asked by the court to file reply by or before the next date of hearing. The absent engineers were also directed to appear before the court with their stand by or before the next date of hearing.

State counsel N H Shah told the court that the list submitted by him earlier for publication of notices contains the names of some engineers who were never posted for duties on river Jehlum and some of the officers have already died. "I have been provided with some more names of engineers who were missing in the earlier list and are required to be put to notice," Shah told the court.

"It is not known as to how the names of deceased engineers have figured in the publication despite there being a very clear direction to omit such names from the list. The lapse committed warrants an explanation," the court said.

The court asked Shah to provide an updated list of engineers to the registry for publication of notice in terms of order dated 26th November, 2015.

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