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"It Appears Anybody Can Encroach On Any Part Of Land": Uttarakhand HC Directs Immediate Removal Of Encroachments Over River Beds Of Dehradun

Jyoti Prakash Dutta
3 Sep 2022 7:30 AM GMT
It Appears Anybody Can Encroach On Any Part Of Land: Uttarakhand HC Directs Immediate Removal Of Encroachments Over River Beds Of Dehradun
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The Uttarakhand High Court has expressed severe dismay over the continuous encroachments of river beds in Dehradun and tacit involvement and support of the authorities concerned. A Division Bench of Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Ramesh Chandra Khulbe, while passing order for immediate removal of encroachments, observed,

"We are dismayed to see the current state of affairs prevailing in the State with regard to the encroachment on forest land, water ways and public land. It appears that it is a free for all, and anybody can encroach on any part of the land falling within the State - even on forest lands, and get away with it."

Factual Background:

The petitioner preferred the instant writ petition in public interest raising the issue of unauthorized encroachments on water bodies and khalas/storm water drains in Rajpur Area of Doon Valley. The petitioner sought directions to the State to declare the catchment areas of Khalas of Rispana and Bindal Rivers as 'no construction zones', and a further direction to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change, Union of India to pro-actively monitor and take necessary action on the changing environmental landscape of Doon Valley which was declared as an 'Eco-Sensitive Zone' by the Government of India in the year 1989.

Mr. Abhijay Negi, counsel for the petitioner attracted the attention of the Court to the order dated 30.08.2019, by which the Court directed the District Magistrate, Dehradun to have an enquiry caused, and to submit a report to the Court furnishing details of the seasonal Nalas in existence in Doon Valley; the extent of encroachment over the said Nalas; and the steps being taken by the District Administration to remove such unauthorized constructions, and encroachments. The Court then had directed the respondents to ensure that no further encroachments take place in the seasonal streams in the Rajpur Area of the Doon Valley.

A counter-affidavit was filed on behalf of the District Magistrate, Dehradun on 13.09.2019. Alongwith this affidavit, he had placed on record the enquiry/survey conducted in terms of the order passed by the Court. In relation to Dehradun Tehsil, the Survey found that an area of 37.9305 hectares were encroached on the river bed falling in different villages. Similarly, for Vikasnagar Tehsil, as per the report, 57.4 hectares of river bed land were encroached upon. In Rishikesh Tehsil, the encroachment was to the tune of 4.8866 hectares, and for Doiwala Tehsil, the encroachment was up to 5.616 hectares.

The petitioner filed rejoinder-affidavit to the counter-affidavit of the District Magistrate. Alongwith the same, she placed on record photographs to show the ongoing construction which was on the river bed.

Court's Observations:

The Court took note of the communication of the District Magistrate, Dehradun dated 11.09.2019 addressed to the Municipal Commissioner of the Municipality and all the Sub-Divisional Magistrates concerned to take action for removal of encroachments from the river beds, which have remained unactioned for the last three years.

The Court then observed,

"We are informed that the lands falling in river beds are all classified as forest lands, except those which fall within the municipal limits. Obviously, such activities cannot happen without the tacit approval of the authorities on the ground. It is high-time that the administration wakes up to the reality, and sets its house in order."

The Court, therefore, directed the authorities to immediately start the process of removal of encroachments on river beds, which had already been identified and placed before the Court vide the counter affidavit dated 19.03.2019. The Court clarified that it shall be the responsibility of Secretary (Revenue), Secretary (Urban Development) and Secretary (Forest) to ensure strict and speedy compliance of this order.

Insofar as the areas falling within the municipal limits, the Municipal Commissioner, Nagar Nigam, Dehradun was made personally responsible to ensure that such encroachments are removed from the river beds. The Secretary (Revenue), Secretary (Urban Development), Secretary (Forest) and the Municipal Commissioner, Nagar Nigam, Dehradun were directed to hold meetings regularly to take steps to implement this order. The Court further cautioned that failure to comply with these directions shall compel it to take action against the aforesaid identified Officers.

Lastly, the Court clarified,

"We make it clear that we would not be satisfied with mere paper exercise, and the reports should relate to actual action taken on the ground for removal of the encroachments. The photographs of the action taken should also be filed alongwith each of these reports."

Case Title: Urmila Thapa v. State of Uttarakhand & Ors.

Citation :2022 LiveLaw (Utt) 27

Case No.: WPPIL No. 58 of 2019

Judgment Dated: 30th August 2022

Coram: Vipin Sanghi, CJ. & R.C. Khulbe, J.

Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr. Abhijay Negi & Ms. Snigdha Tiwari, Advocates

Counsel for the Respondents: Mr. C.S. Rawat, CSC alongwith Mr. Anil Bisht, Additional CSC and Mr. J.C. Pandey, Standinf Counsel for the State; Mr. Lalit Sharma, counsel for the Union of India; Mr. Vinay Garg with Mr. Rahul Consul, counsels for the MDDA.

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment

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