State "sleeping" over need to check encroachment of public land by religious bodies: HC ob

Gangtok, 10 Apr:

The High Court of Sikkim has pulled up the State Government for not complying with the court's orders on framing a policy regarding unauthorized construction of religious nature in the State. Further, the court has imposed costs of Rs.25,000 recoverable from the officers who have failed to take any initiative in the matter.

This observation was made by the court after the state government sought more time to file its response.

The bench comprising of Chief Justice SK Agnihotri and Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai said that the court had issued notices to the state government in February directing it to respond and take initiative to examine the illegal encroachment on public areas and to frame a policy in respect of existing unauthorized construction of religious nature.

The bench observed that, "…without taking any initiative, the instant application has been filed seeking for time” furtheradding that the Counsel appearing for the State is not in a position to communicate as to what steps have been taken, whether a nodal agency has been appointed or whether the Chief Secretary conveyed a meeting of the concerned authorities or whether circulars/notices have been issued to the concerned authorities to verify and submit a report.

While imposing the fine, the bench said that, "…the State is still sleeping over the issue without taking any action. In order to awaken the authorities, we grant further two weeks’ time to file return, subject to deposit of a sum of Rs.25,000 as costs recoverable from the officers, who have failed to take any initiative in the matter."

The Supreme Court in January earlier this year while remitting the PIL back to the respective High Courts for taking necessary action had directed all the Chief Secretaries to frame the policy in respect of existing unauthorized construction of religious nature and had also observed that the Chief Secretaries have not issued circulars to all the District Collectors despite the Apex court directions.

In compliance of the Order of the Apex Court, the Sikkim High Court had registered suo-motu PIL and issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Government ofSikkim, the Secretary, Buildings & Housing Department, the Secretary,Roads & Bridges Department and the Secretary, Ecclesiastical Affairs Department, Government of Sikkim on 28 Feb directing to file response to the orders of the Apex Court.