Seepage of water in court room, chambers, retiring and record rooms during rain, no whitewash or renovation since years, trees intruding through the walls, shows the dilapidated condition of the 159-year-old ‘Nahan Kothi’ that continues to ‘illegally’ house the district consumer court at Sector 12-A in Panchkula.
The issue has come to the fore once again with the Punjab and Haryana high court on Thursday issuing notice to Haryana government, the cultural affairs department and Panchkula deputy commissioner, on a public interest litigation seeking eviction of the consumer forum from the heritage building.
Since its launch in Panchkula on November 20, 1997, the consumer court has been functioning from Nahan Kothi. Before that, SDM court was running from the kothi.
Struggle to find an alternative place has been going on since 2004. In this regard, the forum had contacted the DC, but was informed that there was no space in the mini-secretariat, Sector 1. The consumer forums in Haryana come under the food and supply department.
In 2006, the building committee, under the chairmanship of Justice JS Khehar, had opined that labour courts, fast-track courts and quasi-judicial courts should run from the judicial courts complexes. The district consumer forum had then applied for space at the district courts complex in Sector 1, which was denied.
The same year the Central government decided in principle to release a grant-in-aid of Rs 30 lakh each for the construction of district consumer forums with a pre-condition that the land will be provided free-of-cost by the state government, but still nothing materialised.
In 2007, Panchkula DC Rajinder Kataria decided that the forum will be shifted to the upcoming new building of the district courts complex. The new building of the district courts was inaugurated on May 21, 2012, but the consumer forum was not shifted as the district and sessions judge and DC cited the reason, replying to a consumer forum’s letter, that no decision was taken in this regard by the HC’s building committee.
Meanwhile, a judgment came from the HC in 2008, in Munshi Ram Vs State of Punjab, which called for removing encroachments from all ancient and protected structures, failing which, the collector could be held liable for contempt. In view of the judgment, archaeology and museums asked the consumer forum in 2009 to vacate the building, but the forum’s presiding officer wrote to the director, archaeology and museums, that it was already in correspondence with the Panchkula DC to get a building allotted for the purpose, but no building has been earmarked by him to date.
In 2013, director, archaeology and museums, again sent a notice to the consumer forum to vacate the building.
In 2014, the district and sessions judge sent minutes of the meeting of the building committee, where demand of the consumer forum was rejected on the ground that space was needed for present and future requirements of the district courts, Panchkula.
“We will make all efforts to protect Nahan Kothi. We will do our best to save it,” said DC Garima Mittal.
“The consumer court that gives justice to people is in danger of losing roof. I will approach the HC for obtaining space at the district courts complex for it,” said president of the consumer courts bar association Pankaj Chandgothia.