The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has reserved its order on the issue of opening 'Darbar Move' during the impending threat of COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this month, the High Court was sought to consider the viability of the government order notifying that the Darbar Move will commence from May 4.
It was submitted that the same will cause "unnecessary squandering" of financial resources of the Government and may also violate the requirements of social distancing. Accordingly, the court was urged to postpone the Move till COVID-19 infection issues are addressed and the matter is under full control with mobility restored after removal of lockdown.
In today's order, the High Court perused the detailed reports placed before it with respect to the financial and administrative intricacies involved in the shifting of the capital.
Taking note of the same, alongside the suggestion made by amicus curiae Monika Kohli that ideally both the Secretariats are required to be running functional in both the places around the year, the division bench of Chief Justice Gitta Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal has reserved the order.
It may be noted however that the UT Administration has already pushed the date for Darbar Move to June 15, in face of the recent hike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the UT and the need for effective control of the same.
Ms. Kohli informed the court Darbar Move was started in 1872 as an arrangement for the winter months, however, the same had continued till date, whiteout any examination of the efficiency of this arrangement.
She pointed out that in the year 2018, the Central Government had disbursed sum of Rs. 20 crores for the purposes of digitisation of the record however, till date, the government in Jammu and Kashmir is relying completely on paper files only.
She also suggested that ideally both the Secretariats are required to be running functional in both the places around the year.
Perusal of Records
The court also examined the detailed reports submitted by the UT Administration on the previous years' data vis-à-vis administrative and financial constraints involved in effecting the Darbar Move.
The bench took note that a tentative seven days salary expenditure is incurred by the Government Departments of the Annual Darbar Move, which amounts to a "whopping sum" of around Rs. 1158.723 lakhs.
It also studied the "sealed" records submitted by the IGP, Security, J&K with respect to the security arrangements for convoy movement and recorded that "surveillance and security for the Darbar Move are given from the point of laoding of the records, en-route National Highway up-to destination by deploying Police/CAPF nafri for ROP, meticulous Anti-sabotage Checks to ensure proper area domination for secured moment of Darbar Move Convoy."
Case Title: Court on its Own Motion v. Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir
Case No.: WP(C) PIL no. 5/2020
Quorum: Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal
Appearance: Advocates Faisal Qadri, Shah Faisal, Shafqat Nazir, Altaf Naik, Altaf Haqani, Ateeb Kanth, Taha Khalil, Hanan Momin (for Petitioner); Additional Advocate General Shah Amir (for UT administration); Advocate Monika Kohli (Amicus Curiae)
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