In an extraordinary order, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has sought copies of all the orders passed by the Jammu and Kashmir Special Tribunal (JKST) to the Registrar Vigilance of the Court, from the date he joined as Presiding Officer of the Tribunal.
Further, the Bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar and Justice Rajesh Bindal was compelled to observe,
"The manner in which the Presiding Officer-Abdul Majid Bhat of the Tribunal is passing orders does not inspire confidence. Many orders passed by the same Officer were challenged before Jammu bench of this Court as well. Compounding has been allowed of major violations ignoring the provisions of Rules and Regulations." (emphasis supplied)
It may be noted that the Government in April 2020 had appointed Abdul Majid Bhat (the presiding officer in question) as Chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Special Tribunal (JKST).
The background of the case
It was submitted that though permission was taken for the construction of a Guest House, however, it was converted into a Hotel with no proper parking or other facilities available.
Concealing the pendency of the aforesaid proceedings, the respondent Nos. 5 and 6 filed a suit in the Court of District Judge, Srinagar, praying that they should be allowed to raise construction in terms of the sanctioned plan.
Interim order was passed therein on the date of filing of the suit itself i.e. January 20, 2020. Construction is going on at full swing.
Importantly, it was submitted that the Tribunal had decided the appeal filed by the respondent Nos. 5 and 6 on July 20, 2020, only connecting the counsel for the appellant there through Audio Call. Counsel for the Srinagar Municipal Corporation was not connected.
Even the petitioners were not informed of the date of hearing and not connected at the time of hearing though they had filed application for being impleaded as party to the appeal.
It was alleged that the officials of the Corporation were conniving with the respondent Nos. 5 and 6 to enable them to violate the provisions of law and raise illegal construction.
Court directed that notices be served to the respondents. In the meantime, the respondent Nos. 5 and 6 have been restrained from carrying out any further construction in the premises in dispute.
The respondent No. 2 has been instructed to depute a team of responsible officers to take still photographs and also a video of the present status of construction in the building.
The same has been directed to be done after intimation to the respondent Nos. 5 and 6 without any delay. The exact measurement of the construction and the status thereof in the building shall also be noted.
Further, the Court ordered that it shall be apprised of the names of the Khilafwarzi officers, who remained posted in the area during the period the construction was raised.
The report will have to be submitted to the Court on or before the next date of hearing regarding violations made in the construction as compared to the sanctioned plan irrespective of compounding allowed by the Tribunal.
Regarding the order passed by the Presiding officer of the Tribunal, the Court said,
"In the case in hand, even principles of natural of justice has not been followed as neither the counsel for Corporation was heard nor the applicants who had filed application for being impleaded in the appeal were apprised of the date of hearing."
Further, while citing the rulings of the Supreme Court in the cases of Surya Dev Rai Vs. Ram Chander Rai and other (2003) 6 SCC 675 and Ramesh Chandra Sankla etc. v Vikram Cement etc. AIR 2009 SC 713, the High Court concluded that – "while exercising supervisory jurisdiction, a High Court not only acts as a court of law but also as a court of equity. It is, therefore, power and also the duty of the Court to ensure that power of superintendence must 'advance the ends of justice and uproot injustice"
Keeping in view the aforesaid enunciations of law by Hon'ble the Supreme Court, the Court directed the Tribunal to send soft copies of all the orders passed by it to the Registrar Vigilance of this Court, from the date, he joined as Presiding Officer of the Tribunal.
At the first instance orders passed under Control of The Jammu & Kashmir Building Operations Act, 1988 have to be sent. The needful has to done within a period of one month from the date of receipt of copy of this order.
Click Here To Download Order