Chandigarh, Punjab and Haryana scramble for solutions after HC order on Sukhna catchment area

Updated on Mar 04, 2020 01:10 AM IST

Confusion, panic prevail among authorities and citizens after court orders demolition of all structures

Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By, Chandigarh

The authorities in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh on Tuesday went into tizzy and scrambled for solutions to deal with the situation arising out of the Punjab and Haryana high court order on demolition of all structures in the Sukhna catchment area.

A day after the order, while the Chandigarh administration said it would seek clarity from the high court (HC) on details available in the Survey of India (SoI) map demarcating the catchment area, as “it doesn’t have adequate resolution”, the Punjab government, too, said that it would examine the order and take “whatever decisions, legislative or judicial, needed to resolve the issue”. However, the Haryana government has announced that it would approach the Supreme Court against the order.

It was on Monday that the HC slapped a fine of 100 crore each on Punjab and Haryana for causing damage to the catchment area of Sukhna Lake and ordered demolition of all structures in its catchment area that were demarcated by the SoI in 2004. The court also ordered that owners whose building plans have already been approved be relocated and compensated with 25 lakh each.

The order came in a 2009 suo motu petition initiated amid depleting water level in the lake. Declaring the lake a living entity, the court asked chief secretaries of both the states as well as the UT adviser to constitute a high-power committee to fix the responsibilities of officers who permitted large-scale unauthorised constructions. It also quashed the master plans of Nayagaon (in Mohali) and Mansa Devi Complex (in Panchkula) to the extent of areas falling under the catchment area.

Clueless about structures

Demolition would have to be carried out in Nayagaon and Kansal in Mohali, portions of Kaimbwala in Chandigarh and portions of Saketri village and Sector 1, Mansa Devi Complex, in Panchkula. As per conservative estimates, in Kansal area alone, 2,000 families will be affected.

Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu said he would request the government to file a holistic review petition on the issue. “If still nothing happens, I will request for a special leave petition in the Supreme Court,” he said.

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh said he has asked advocate general Atul Nanda to examine the order in detail. “We stand by the people and will do everything to protect their interests,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Mohali district administration did not have a clear idea of structures to be razed. However, swinging into action, officiating deputy commissioner Aashika Jain has sought a report from the Kharar subdivisional magistrate on the number of such structures that are to be demolished after the order, and the number of buildings that have got approval.

Officials in Panchkula, too, were clueless about the exact number of structures to be affected. They have initiated the process to get clarity on the catchment area falling under their jurisdiction.

“We will go through the plan in regard with the catchment area as per the 2004 SoI map. Some of the area falls under the Haryana Shahari Vikas Pradhikaran while other is under the municipal corporation. After clarity, the department concerned would be informed to take action,” said Panchkula district town planner Surinder Sehrawat.

However, Haryana has decided to approach the Supreme Court against the order. Haryana advocate general BR Mahajan said: “We are examining the order. An appeal will be filed against the same in the Supreme Court.”

HC complex itself faces demolition

Meanwhile, officials in the UT said that the order puts a question mark over the future of new constructions in the high court complex itself.

“The initial examination of the 2004 SoI map suggests that some of the new constructions fall under the catchment area. But, we can reach a conclusion only after a detailed review of the site and the catchment area map,” said a senior UT official, requesting anonymity.

There is still confusion as to the exact catchment boundaries. There is proposal of construction of a multistorey building under the expansion plan of the Punjab and Haryana high court.

UT adviser Manoj Parida said: “We are examining the impact of the order on the HC expansion plans and multilevel parking. In case, we find these come under the catchment area, we will bring it to the notice of the HC and take directions from them.”

Senior advocate Rajiv Atma Ram, who represented farmers before the HC in this case, said if at all demolition is to start, it should start with the high court complex.

“The HC extension falls in Sukhna catchment area, as per the GSI map, including tennis court, auditorium, judges library, etc. The HC should lead by example in implementing the order,” he said .

However, UT officials said that physical features and terrain as shown on the 2004 SoI map had been done with 1:40,000 scale, data having contour interval of 20 metres. The administration wants it be done with the scale of 1:5,000. “It is to bring clarity as to which area is included or excluded to the level of a house. Currently, near the boundaries of the map, it is not clear,” said an official, not wishing to be named.

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