In a setback to the state government, the Himachal Pradesh high court on Thursday quashed Dharamshala’s inclusion under the Smart City Mission.
Passing the order on a petition filed by Shimla mayor Sanjay Chauhan against Dharamshala’s selection over state capital Shimla, the division bench comprising justice Rajeev Sharma and justice Sureshwar Thakur gave the state government two weeks to review cities on the basis of the required criteria before making a fresh recommendation.
The bench ruled: “Proceedings dated July 15 and 29 are arbitrary, unreasonable, capricious and irrational. The powers vested in the bureaucracy must be exercised in larger public interest and not to serve the private interest of any individual in the hierarchy. There must be fairness and reasonableness while forming the opinion.”
The court also ruled, “There is sufficient material to reflect that there is malice in the proceedings. The state mission director has abdicated/surrendered his powers by not at all evaluating the self-appraisal sent by the urban local bodies, as if he was being dictated by some other agency.”
After the Union urban development ministry had on August 27 declared Dharamsala as one of the 98 cities selected to be developed under the Smart City project, a political war of words began over Shimla’s omission.
In his petition before the court, Chauhan alleged that the Centre approved the Dharamsala municipal council’s claim without adopting the legal procedure.
The petitioner had also stated that office-bearers of the Shimla municipal corporation had made representations against the move before the Union and state governments, but in vain.