In trying times, JK’s top court came to rescue of flood victims

When Kashmir was crying for help after it was battered by the devastating floods in September last year, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court stepped in first and ordered rehabilitation of flood victims.
In trying times, JK’s top court came to rescue of flood victims
File Photo

When Kashmir was crying for help after it was battered by the devastating floods in September last year, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court stepped in first and ordered rehabilitation of flood victims.

Earlier, the Court started functioning from its Camp Office—M-5 on Gupkar here, with its former Chief Justice, M M  Kumar, writing letters to various authorities including  Chief Justice of India on the magnitude of people's miseries and the urgency for making the  Court functional.      

The High Court started to hear cases in its camp office from September 18 and passed strong directions on Public Interest Litigations seeking rehabilitation and relief to the flood victims. 

In absence of an active administration to take timely measures, the court directed the state government, the central government and various insurance companies to "act swiftly."      

On September 26, the Court directed various insurance companies to pay 50 percent of insured amount for policies above Rs 25 lakh and 95 percent for policies below Rs 25 lakh as interim relief to the people whose properties were damaged in the State, even as the companies challenged the order before the Supreme Court. The apex court however dismissed the plea by the Insurances Companies against the High Court order.

"The Chief Justice of the (J&K) High Court has seen the tragedy with his own eyes and he is justified in passing the order. We are not going to change even a word in the High Court order," an order passed by a bench headed by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court said.

Immediately after the apex court order, the insurance companies started to disburse compensation to the flood affected people in the state.

Eventually, the companies including Bajaj Alliance, National Insurance Company Ltd, United India Company Ltd, and Oriental India Insurance Ltd and New India Insurance Ltd settled claims and paid to the claimants Rs 24096 crore as relief for damaged properties.     

On the issue of providing shelter sheds to those who were rendered homeless due to floods, the Court on December 10 sought personal appearance of Chief Engineer Roads and Buildings Department along with concerned Deputy Commissioners to explain their conduct if they failed to handover shelter sheds to the affected families.

"You are sons of the soil and you shall have to put up a human heart to work overnight to complete the sheds to those who were rendered shelter-less by the flood," the court had observed.

The court was so concerned on the issue of providing the shelter sheds to the homeless that on December 18 it sought explanation from CE R&B about the compelling reasons as to why he went to Jammu a day before the Public Interest Litigation on rehabilitation of flood victims was listed before the court for hearing.

Subsequently, the Chief Engineer informed the court that 285 shelter sheds were handed over to the concerned Deputy Commissioners for the families whose houses were completely damaged in the floods.

On the issue of rentals for the homeless families, the court was satisfied when the rentals were paid to the affected families.   

Following the directions of the Court that timber should be provided to the flood victims immediately, the State Forest Corporation (SFC) set up nine temporary timber outlets in Srinagar in addition to outlets in other flood affected districts.

In the wake of its directions on removal of encroachments along river Jhelum, the Flood Control Department informed the High Court that it has demolished 130 pacca structures, 410 kacha structures and 562 boundary walls and 357127 trees from the banks of the water body. 

After seeking details of damage suffered by the schools, the court on October 30 was informed by the government that 1100 school buildings were affected by the September floods in Kashmir out of which 600 buildings were partially damaged while 500 suffered complete damage.

Subsequently, the government was directed to give priority to set up the damaged schools.  

The High Court also passed several directions on providing relief from the Prime Minister's Relief Fund to the flood victims.  

The High Court last week also issued directions to the Government of India to disclose its stand on Rs 44000-crore relief package sought by the state government for Kashmir's flood victims.

Expressing displeasure over delay in granting relief to flood victims, the court directed the Assistant Solicitor General of India to disclose the central government's stand about relief and rehabilitation of the flood victims.

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