Vigilance Commissioners appointed by the J&K High Court to monitor illegal activities in and around Dal Lake in Srinagar have submitted their first report, suggesting therein that wealth amassed by officials of Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) needs to be “looked into through proper functionaries.”
Underling that encroachments do exist in and around Dal Lake, the report indicates that the Enforcement Wing of the LAWDA has “either remained dormant in the entire affair or seems to be in league with the violators.”
As per the report, illegal constructions have been demolished in some areas while several such structures have not been even touched.
While the report says cases have been registered against violators but there is no further progress thereof, it has divulged that 84 FIRs have been lodged, 21 vehicles seized and three structures sealed after the present Enforcement Officer took the charge.
The report has revealed that the Demolition Squad is “poorly armed both with regard to manpower as well as equipment due to which certain actions were overpowered by the mob favoring the violators.”
The report says that the Enforcement Wing needs immediate strengthening as there is only one JCB available with the LAWDA which is also non-functional. “For demolition, JCBs from other departments have to be hired. Only two motorboats are functional. The demolition squad even lacks proper tools for demolition to be carried out in appropriate manner,” the report reveals.
With regard to strength of police personnel, the report says at one point of time the Enforcement Wing was provided with 25 armed police personnel which came to be reduced to five at present.
“The issues relating to inadequacy of the armed police, tools and equipment were taken up with the government as well as DGP, but have not been addressed,” the report says.
The panel has suggested a strict law similar to Section 26 of Forest Act which makes seized property liable to confiscation, saying “under the existing law (Section 188 of RPC), the conviction rate seems to be slim which and one of the reasons for the violators to be back on road with the same illegal task.”
“The unchecked ingress and egress of the vehicles during the night inspection shows the utter negligence and corrupt practice by the concerned police personnel. Most of the FIRs have been lodged at the behest of the Enforcement Officer and not the police,” the report reveals.
After perusing the report, a bench of Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi observed that the facts narrated by the Court Vigilance Commissioners indicate the sorry state of affairs on part of police and LAWDA officials.
Senior counsel and Amicus, Z A Shah submitted that the report filed by the Commissioners is astonishing, saying “in spite of various directions issued by this Court in the past 13 years, the authorities are not taking appropriate steps to preserve the Dal Lake.”
The court took on record the statement of IGP Kashmir that he will immediately provide 20 more police personnel and one more motorboat to the Enforcement Wing of LAWDA for checking and demolition of unauthorized constructions, and encroachments.”
Meanwhile the court directed the LAWDA and police to take action taken report by the next date of hearing.
Earlier the court had appointed Muhammad Shafi Khan, former Principal District and Sessions Judge, Srinagar and Abdul Hamid Bhat, former Senior Superintendent of Police as the Vigilance Commissioners.
The court directed the Commissioners to inspect the Dal Lake area possibly on daily basis and submit weekly report to its Registrar Judicial, indicating construction activity, if any, undertaken within Dal Lake and its prohibited area with necessary details like identity of the violator(s), nature of the construction and its dimensions.