Shimla, Oct 22
The NGT, in its judgment on October 14, has not only termed the Shimla Development Plan brought by Jairam government as illegal but also an illegal attempt under section 15 of the NGT Act. The NGT has clearly held that such attempt is an offence punishable under section 26 of the Act and the officers of the departments concerned are guilty of criminal prosecution under section 28.
It may be recalled that the original judgement of the NGT came on 16-11-2017. Against this, the Himachal government filed an appeal in the Supreme Court in 2019, which was heard on 08-07-2019. But the Supreme Court did not give any stay on this. The absence of a stay from the Supreme Court meant that the compliance of the judgment is mandatory. This decision came on 16-11-2017, so the responsibility of its compliance fell on the then formed Jairam government. But this government took almost one and a half years to challenge the NGT’s decision in the Supreme Court itself. Perhaps during this time some construction took place in the residence of the Chief Minister itself. Oak Over comes in the core area of the city and NGT has put a complete ban on any kind of new construction in the core area. In this situation, when the NGT’s decision is disregarded from the Chief Minister’s residence, then it can be estimated as to how far it will affect the entire state.
At present, a petition is pending in the State High Court regarding illegal constructions during this period. In this petition, 25,000 illegal constructions have been alleged. It is believed that the government could not stop these constructions because despite the directions of the NGT, the construction work was going on till the Oakover and the Secretariat. Now that the NGT has recommended criminal proceedings against the concerned departments, it will be interesting to see whether the next oncoming government can take such action. When the NGT order has the status of a decree, it becomes clear that the government had no other option but to comply with this decision.
Then why did this situation arise in spite of such a clear position of law and the Urban Development Minister himself being a lawmaker. Could mishandling of the Shimla draft development plan be the reason, that Bhardwaj was denied ticket from Shimla, urban this time?
Moreover the NGT decision provides a clear cut advantage to the leftist candidate Tikender Panwar in Shimla Urban. The former deputy Mayor had challenged the provisions of the SDDP, through various write-ups as well as letters to the Chief Minister (https://himachalscape.com/shimla-development-plan-not-suitable-for-capital-flawed-tikender/).
“We, a group of town planners and city makers, had been following the plan’s development since it was made public,” had Panwar stated. Adding, “It has been our view that the plan is not suitable for the erstwhile summer capital of India, Shimla. Indeed, we are certain that if such a plan were allowed to be implemented, the entire city would be ruined and become like Gurgaon.” Panwar added that the plan does not understand the mountain topography, architecture, geology or history and culture of Shimla. The proposed Shimla Master Plan, which has been luckily rejected by the Green Tribunal, lacked people’s participation and was more of a top-bottom exercise.
Meanwhile the third front Congress party and their candidature probable have remained silent on the issue. Perhaps they understand that the problem swelled more during their previous regime from 2012-17.
So, now when the discussions on the work of the government will go on in this election time, then who and how will be able to justify the illegality that started from Oakover to the entire state, is a quest to be answered by the ruling front.
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