Shimla, May 31
In a major relief to the Central Government and the Army, the High Court has restrained the Himachal Pradesh Power Corporation Limited (HPPCL) from carrying out any construction activity of the Shongtong-Karcham Hydroelectric Power Project beyond 1,200 yards of the periphery of ammunition point at Powari in Kinnaur district.
The court further restrained it from digging and blasting work beyond the area.
A division Bench, comprising Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan, passed these orders on a petition filed by the Central Government and the Western Command authorities against the state government.
The Centre had stated in its petition that the 36 Sector Ordinance Maintenance Platoon was a static unit of the Army located at Shongtong Powari in Kinnaur district.
This Unit is responsible for the provision, receipt, stocking, maintenance and issuance of all types of ordinance stores to the unit of 36 Sectors.
A huge quantum of ammunition and explosive has been stored at the aforesaid unit for either sending it to the troops located in the border areas as per the requirement or same may be used at the time of war.
The quantum of ammunition and explosive held in the ammunition point is sensitive in nature and in case of any negligence it can cause great havoc, taking this seriously the Central Government had issued a notification in 2005 restricting construction activities in the clearance zone i.e. 1,200 yards area around the Ammunition Point.
It further alleged that the Army authorities wrote to the Deputy Commissioner, Kinnaur, in September 2007 to advise the HPPCL not to acquire the land for the project as no construction was permitted in the area.
It was further alleged that in February 2011, the Army authorities requested the Chief Secretary to issue suitable directions to change the route of the tunnel of the project, so that it does not pass through the clearance zone and to relocate part of the project outside the notified area, but despite several objections of the Army, the construction work is already going on and substantial work has already been carried out.
It was further alleged that the HPPCL went ahead with the tendering process and allotted the project to a company, which commenced work on the same, despite several objections raised by the Army between 2007 and 2013.
While allowing the petition filed by the Central Government, the Bench further directed the state to facilitate the Army authorities in taking possession of the area as notified by the Central Government in 2005, namely, Ammunition Point, 36 Sector Ordnance Maintenance Platoon (OMP), Kinnaur district.
It also directed that no construction except at the behest of the Army authorities will be carried out by any authority or individual in the notified area.
All the individuals and authorities will ensure that the possession of the land is handed over to the petitioners without any obstruction or hindrance.
It further cautioned that non-compliance will be treated as contempt. It further directed the competent authority under the Works of Defence Act to remove and demolish all the illegal construction that has been raised after the issuance of the aforesaid notification within a period of three months and file the compliance report before the court within three months.
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