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Uttarakhand high court bans group housing projects on agriculture land, wants a law

State asked to constitute SIT, register FIRs against SADA officials responsible for unauthorised constructions, felling of trees in Dehradun.

dehradun Updated: Jun 28, 2018 22:14 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
Neeraj Santoshi
Hindustan Times, Nainital
HC pointed out that the state government had not taken action to check mushrooming of unregulated societies in Uttarakhand. (HT File Photo/Representative image )

The Uttarakhand high court has directed the state’s chief secretary to constitute a special investigation team (SIT) to register FIRs against officers of the Special Area Development Authority (SADA) during whose tenure large-scale unauthorised constructions were made and trees felled in Dehradun district.

HC ordered that SIT be headed by a person not below the rank of an inspector general of police or a senior superintendent of police, adding that the probe team, while registering FIRs, will “ensure that the axe will not fall on the lowest employee.”

Recommending that a law be put in place to regulate construction of group housing complexes within three months, HC directed the state government not to permit conversion of agricultural land for such projects. The court has taken into consideration shortage of farmland in Uttarakhand.

The order will not apply to a farmer who wants to build a house for himself, as per the UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Regulation Act, till a legislation is brought in.

“In other words, there shall be a ban on conversion of agricultural land/orchard land for construction of group housing projects/complexes, including by the societies, till the enactment of the law.”

A division bench of justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh gave the directions while hearing a petition interest litigation (PIL) filed by Anuj Kansal of Dehradun in 2013. The order was issued on June 19, but its copy was made available on Wednesday.

The petitioner had alleged large-scale carving out of commercial plots from agricultural/orchard land, and felling of trees in violation of the UP Protection of Trees in Rural and Hill Areas Act, 1976. The violations, he said, took place in areas falling under the “Doon Valley Special Area Development Authority”, particularly near Herbertpur, Vikas Nagar and in proximity to Dehradun town.

The petitioner had sought action against persons responsible for illegal constructions, stressing that SADA was constituted to regulate such activities.

“It has come on record that various unscrupulous persons have raised unauthorised construction without getting their building plans approved,” the HC order said.

“No construction could be raised without the connivance/collusion of the officers of SADA. The officers of SADA were remiss to discharge their statutory duties. ..It was not expected from the authorities to keep on issuing the notices only.”

‘Civil courts exceeded jurisdiction’

HC said according to SADA’s counsel, demolition orders could not be issued since the persons who have gone ahead with constructions have obtained injunctions from civil courts.

“It was expected from SADA to contest all the suits by taking a preliminary objection that the suits per se were not maintainable before the civil court,” the HC order said.

“The orders passed by the civil court granting an injunction to the persons, who have raised unauthorised construction, are without authority of law. The civil courts have exceeded their jurisdiction by granting stays against the demolition orders.”

The bench directed the HC registrar general to place a copy of the order, passed by civil Judge Vikas Nagar, Dehradun, on October 22, 2013, before the Chief Justice for taking suitable action against the judicial officer.

HC pointed out that the state government had not taken action to check mushrooming of unregulated societies in Uttarakhand.

“The colonisers and societies have flouted every norm while raising construction. The valuable agricultural land has been permitted to be carved out as plots. In the state of Uttarakhand, the agricultural land is very limited,” the order said.

“The menace of unauthorised construction has attained alarming proportions. It is required to be checked at the earliest. The officers/officials, who are privy to the unauthorised construction/felling of trees are required to be brought to justice.”

First Published: Jun 28, 2018 22:14 IST