HC: Sukhna lake of Chandigarh is legal entity, raze buildings in catchment area

Slaps costs of Rs 200 cr on Punjab, Haryana | SIT to fix responsibility

HC: Sukhna lake of Chandigarh is legal entity, raze buildings in catchment area

Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 2

Master plan void

  • Nayagaon Master Plan 2021, which was notified on January 2, 2009, as well as Shri Mata Mansa Devi Urban Complex development plan declared illegal/void to ‘the extent that maps/plans cover areas depicted by Survey of India map”

The Punjab and Haryana High Court today declared Sukhna Lake legal entity, ordered demolition of legal/unauthorised constructions in its catchment area within three months and slapped unprecedented costs of Rs 200 crore on Punjab and Haryana before directing its Chief Secretaries, along with UT Adviser, to constitute high-power committees to fix accountablility for “such large-scale” unauthorised construction.

The Bench minced no words to say that a Single Judge, who stayed demolition, could not have passed orders contrary to Division Bench directions against unauthorised construction activity in the catchment area as per Survey of India map.

The Bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Harinder Singh Sidhu asserted the defaulters throughout knew about the existence of Survey of India map of the catchment area. Yet, construction activity was carried out with impunity. The map makes it clear that villages of Kaimbwala and Khuda Alisher in Chandigarh, Nayagaon and parts of Kansal in Punjab and parts of Saketri in Haryana form part of the catchment area. The area over the years witnessed intense construction activity by VIPs.

Justice Sharma ruled the state functionaries could not be oblivious of the large-scale construction in the catchment and its surrounding areas in negation of law. Punjab, Haryana and UT kept on assuring the court that unauthorised construction would not be undertaken, but it remained unabated leading to a grim situation.

“The State connived with the defaulters by providing them with electricity and water connections. It is expected from the functionaries discharging sovereign/regal functions to be on the right side of law. The States cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hound. The weak administration permitted mushrooming of unauthorised constructions in a very fragile eco-sensitive areas/catchment area, causing irreparable damage to ecology”.

Extending the viewpoint to Sukhna Lake and according it the status of juristic/legal person/living entity... may go a long way in preserving the water body...

Going into the background, Justice Sharma observed the Punjab Governor was satisfied that land was required to be taken by the government at public expense for carrying out soil conservation measures in the catchment area in Kharar tehsil. As such, the State of Punjab issued a notification way back on March 15, 1963, under the Land Acquisition Act. The UT Land Acquisition Collector was asked to take possession of the waste and arable land, houses and other structures on the land as per the specifications therein. Subsequently, the catchment area was demarcated by the Surveyor General of India.

Justice Sharma said an affidavit filed in November 2011 specifically admitted large number of constructions in peripheral and adjoining areas in the towns of Mohali, Zirakpur, Panchkula, Manimajra and Nayagaon, besides Kansal, Karoran and Nada located in peripheral areas constituting Nayagaon Nagar Panchayat.

Punjab throughout was aware of the map and was party to proceedings leading to its finalisation. “The area falling in the catchment areas delineated by the Survey of India in 2004 map could not be included in the master plan of Nagar Panchayat Nayagaon.”

The Bench lays it down...

  • Punjab and Haryana to pay Rs 100 cr each as exemplary/punitive/special damages for restoration of catchment area under the doctrine of ‘Polluter Pays’
  • The amount is to be deposited with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change in 3 months
  • All commercial/residential and other structures in the catchment area falling in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh, as delineated in the map prepared by Survey of India on September 21, 2004, declared illegal/unauthorised and to be demolished within three months
  • Punjab, Haryana and UT to provide alternative sites in Chandigarh’s close proximity to owners of buildings in the catchment area with approved building maps and to pay Rs 25 lakh compensation uniformly to them
  • UT, Punjab and Haryana to issue final notification declaring Sukhna Lake Wetland within three months.
  • Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to notify at least 1 km area from lake’s boundary as eco-sensitive zone within three months, Bench says no merit in Punjab’s plea that zone should be restricted to 100 metres
  • Sukhna Lake declared legal entity/legal person/juristic person/ juridicial person/moral person/artificial person with distinct persona with corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person
  • All citizens of Chandigarh declared “loco parentis” as human face to save Sukhna Lake from extinction
  • New construction banned in catchment areas in Punjab, Haryana and Chandigarh delineated in the map, as well as in the Sukhna Wetland and Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary
  • High power committees of officers not below senior secretary rank to fix responsibility; SITs to complete task within three months. Disciplinary proceedings against serving/retired officers/officials for permitting unauthorised construction

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