Srinagar choked, plan new townships, High Court tells state government

Court responds to PIL on ‘misuse’ of agrarian land
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, December 18
Keeping in view the population explosion and the exploitation of prime agriculture lands for construction purposes, particularly in Srinagar, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed the state government to bring out some plans to accommodate the increasing demand for residential places in the city.

These directions have been issued by a division bench of the High Court while hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by an NGO calling for a ban on the conversion of agrarian land into residential land this week.

The PIL had also prayed for court directions to stop the creation and expansion of residential and housing colonies on the agriculture land in Srinagar and other areas of the state.

As per the J&K Economic Survey 2011-12, the operated area under agriculture in the state has shrunk from 9.26 lakh hectares in 2000-01 to 9.23 lakh hectares in 2010-11, thus registering a decrease of 0.041 per cent. As pointed out in the survey, one of the prime reasons for decrease in agriculture land holdings has been attributed to its conversion for construction and other purposes.

“Keeping in view the population explosion and the limited area available within the jurisdiction of Srinagar Development Authority (SDA), as allocated in the Master Plan, some suggestions have been made by both sides (respondents as well as the petitioners),” the division bench comprising Chief Justice MM Kumar and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar observed in its orders. The state government and its officials are the respondents in the case.

The bench further observed that the area “allocated to Residential Zone has already been consumed.”

“It has been pointed out that some area in the adjoining vicinity of the city of Srinagar be developed for accommodating the ever-increasing demands for residential places. A new town should be sufficient to accommodate the demand (for residential areas) which has been repeatedly raised”, the bench observed in its detailed orders while accepting the fact that residential spaces in the Srinagar city have choked.

The bench also observed that the limited available space for residential purpose many a time results in illegal activities like conversion of agriculture lands.

“Such demands sometimes find expression in the illegal activities of the nature indicated in the present PIL,” the bench observed.

Keeping in view the ever-increasing demand for residential space in urban areas, including Srinagar city, the J-K High Court has told the state government to come up with plans of townships in adjoining areas of Srinagar.

“In the days to come, the official respondents shall explore the possibility by bringing out some plans in the adjoining areas of Srinagar city to accommodate the increasing demand for residential places,” the high court said in its orders, adding that these plans should be placed before the court by or before the first week of March, when the PIL will come up for hearing again.

It added that such a course had been necessitated in order to avoid the illegal activities of colonisers and also to provide planned development with all the facilities which may be in accordance with the rule of law as well as in the interest of the revenue development.

The court, however, added that the earlier court stay on any illegal construction on agriculture land shall continue to be effective in and around Suzait, Goripora and Narbal villages in Budgam and Srinagar districts.

Court directive

In the days to come, the official respondents shall explore the possibility by bringing out some plans in the adjoining areas of Srinagar city to accommodate the increasing demand for residential places
A course has been necessitated in order to avoid the illegal activities of colonisers and also to provide planned development with all facilities which may be in accordance with the rule of law
The plans (of the government) should be placed before the court by or before the first week of March, when the PIL will come up for hearing again

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