Srinagar, Oct 17: Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed the Pahalgam Development Authority and the Revenue Department to “forthwith” initiate steps for eviction of the unauthorized occupants in Pahalgam.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Puneet Gupta said that in case “immediate action” was not taken and the public property retrieved from the illegal and unauthorized occupants, “it has to be presumed that the (officials) are in collusion and complicit with the illegal acts.”
“It may be noted that such continued occupation of the public property may tantamount to criminal offences under the Indian Penal Code,” the court said and directed the PDA and Revenue Department to take action in accordance with law and file action taken report before the next date of hearing in the PIL after six weeks.
The directions by the court followed perusal of a report by the Deputy Commissioner Anantnag , informing that he has constituted a Committee which is carrying out the physical verification for pinpointing the encroachments and identifying the particulars of the encroachers over State and Forest Land.
“It is reported that the directions have been issued to the Wildlife Warden, South Kashmir Division, Bijbehara, to submit the list of encroachments on the Wildlife Land. The exercise shall be positively undertaken before the next date of hearing and action taken report shall be filed in this regard.”
The court said that it is further reported that the Pahalgam Development Authority has issued public notices through print media to all the owners of the existing structures to submit the complete site plans of their structures with photographs and allied documents within a stipulated period of ten days vide on September 7.
“The stipulated period of ten days has expired now. Notices have been issued through print media. Therefore, the matter would have been brought within the notice of all persons occupying land in the Pahalgam,” the court said , adding, “In case the site plan with photographs and allied documents which would include lease deed / permission / sanction, has not been submitted to the concerned authorities, it has to be presumed that these are the persons encroaching on the Forest / Government Land.”
The PDA and the Revenue Department, the court said, shall forthwith shall take steps for completion of the exercise and initiate steps for eviction of the unauthorized occupants in accordance with law and action taken report shall be filed before the next date of hearing.
“Lessees whose leases have expired and continued to occupy the Government land have no right to do so. Disposition of the public property can only be effected in accordance with the law laid down by the Supreme Court by a public and transparent methodology,” the court said, underlining that in law even renewal of leases are not granted as a matter of right. “There is no such plan for renewals in place”.
The court said that the Lessees continue to occupy Government land without paying a penny to the Government, resulting in huge loss to the public exchequer. “Public lands are being exploited for commercial profits by those who have no right to do so. All of this has to stop forthwith,” the court said, adding, “ 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. It may be noted that such continued occupation of the public property may tantamount to criminal offences under the Indian Penal Code.”