Shimla, October 16
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has set aside the Shimla Draft Development Plan (SDDP), 2041, approved by the state government, terming it illegal and in conflict with its earlier order of regulating haphazard construction activity in the state capital.
Blow to govt
- A major blow to govt efforts to placate those who had undertaken unauthorised construction in poll-bound state
- Order validates crusade by social organisations to save the Queen of Hills from further concretisation & degradation
The NGT, headed by Justice Adarsh Goel, in its 20-page order, dated October 14, said prima facie, the SDDP was in violation of the NGT order of November 16, 2017. The NGT had issued a notice to the state government after the SDDP was approved by the Cabinet and an interim injunction was granted against its implementation.
The quashing of the SDDP has come as a major blow to the efforts of the government to placate those who had undertaken unauthorised construction in the poll-bound state. The NGT order is a validation of the crusade launched by environmentalists and social organisations to save the Queen of Hills from further concretisation and degradation.
The SDDP had allowed construction not just in the core area but also in the no-construction 17 green belts where a ban had been imposed in December 2000. Shimla is still expanding on the basis of the 1979 Interim Development Plan (IDP) and the SDDP had taken into account the projected population of 6.25 lakh in 2041 against 2.41 lakh, to cater to the growing needs of the town. The Green Bench considered the contention of the petitioner, Yogendra Mohan Sengupta, against the validity of the draft development plan, including permitting construction of more floors, new constructions in the banned core and green areas and permitting development in sinking and sliding area in violation of the earlier NGT order.
The petitioner had contended that the SDDP was contrary to the sustainable development principle. “The NGT has an overriding effect over any other law in force. Violating such directions is a criminal punishable offence under Section 26 of the NGT Act and the state departments concerned are liable to be prosecuted,” the NGT observed on the issue of the state questioning its jurisdictional powers. There was no jurisdiction with the state to annul or ignore the NGT, the order read.
The NGT observed that there was an illegal and ill-conceived effort to violate its binding directions, having the force of binding court decree, subject to further orders of only the Supreme Court.
The NGT, in its order of 2017, had imposed a complete ban on new construction in the core and green area and had restricted buildings to two and a half floors in the rest of the Shimla planning area. The NGT had clearly stated that no unauthorised buildings, raised in violation of the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1977, be regularised.
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