SC upholds NGT order on demolition of hotel-cum-restaurant at Kangra bus stand in HP

The Supreme Court Tuesday upheld a 2016 judgement of the National Green Tribunal directing Himachal Pradesh authorities to demolish a hotel-cum-restaurant structure made at a bus stand at McLeod Ganj in Kangra district.A bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee did not agree to the submission of Himachal Pradesh Bus Stand Management and Development Authority, a state government body, that the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure in the Bus Stand Complex may be allowed to stand for their use.Based on our analysis, we uphold the directions which have been issued by the NGT in its judgment.

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 12-01-2021 22:16 IST | Created: 12-01-2021 22:05 IST
SC upholds NGT order on demolition of hotel-cum-restaurant at Kangra bus stand in HP
File Photo Image Credit: ANI

The Supreme Court Tuesday upheld a 2016 judgement of the National Green Tribunal directing Himachal Pradesh authorities to demolish a hotel-cum-restaurant structure made at a bus stand at McLeod Ganj in Kangra district.

A bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee did not agree to the submission of Himachal Pradesh Bus Stand Management and Development Authority, a state government body, that the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure in the Bus Stand Complex may be allowed to stand for their use.

"Based on our analysis, we uphold the directions which have been issued by the NGT in its judgment. The appellant has tried to argue against the demolition of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure in the Bus Stand Complex, submitting that it may be allowed to stand for their use. However, we cannot accept this submission. Doing so would legalise what is an otherwise entirely illegal construction, the reasons for which have been adduced by us in the judgment," said the bench in its 44-page judgement. The top court directed the state government that the process of demolishing the illegal structure in the bus stand complex be commenced within two weeks from today and the structure "shall be demolished by the second respondent (the private party which was awarded the tender)".

"In the event of default, the Chief Conservator of Forest along with the administration of district Dharamshala shall demolish the structure and recover the cost and expenses as arrears of land revenue from the second respondent," it said. The apex court upheld the direction of the NGT that the state government can utilise the parking space and the bus stand in the complex after the demolition of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure. "However, this has to be in accordance with orders dated 12 November 1997 and 1 March 2001 issued by the MOEF, i.e., it shall not be used for any purpose other than parking of cars and buses, as the case may be," it said. The genesis of the present case originated in 1997 when the MoEF had allowed Himachal Pradesh to divert 0.093 hectares of forest land for the construction of a parking space at McLeod Ganj.

As only one bidder came up for the project, the state body decided to alter the nature of the Bus Stand Complex in order to make it financially viable for private entities by issuing a new Request for Proposal on 13 July 2004 for the construction of the modified Bus Stand Complex.

"Apart from the construction of the bus stand itself on the lower level, the appellant envisaged further construction in the complex of (i) a multi-level commercial complex with shops at the road level; (ii) a dormitory and a budget hotel at the first, second and third levels; (iii) a dining facility/restaurant/food plaza at the top level; and (iv) a parking provision for fifty cars at the road level," the judgement said.

However, the change in the plan was found to be illegal by the NGT and the apex court which took note of the report of the Central Empowered Committee on the project. The CEC had said the construction of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure within the Bus Stand Complex was not permitted by the MOEF's orders of 1997 and 2001 and hence, the construction is in violation of the Forest Act. "The post facto permission sought by the State of Himachal Pradesh from MOEF for changing the use of the diverted forest land was rejected on 12 June 2007," it had said. "The construction of the Bus Stand Complex by the second respondent has been done without the prior approval of the TCP (the Town and Country Planning) Department. The notices issued by the Department to halt construction were ignored," it had said.

Justice Chandrachud, writing the judgement for the bench, also dealt with the concept of "Environmental rule of law". "The environmental rule of law is founded on the need to understand the consequences of our actions going beyond local, state and national boundaries. The rise in the oceans threatens not just maritime communities. The rise in temperatures, dilution of glaciers and growing desertification have consequences which go beyond the communities and creatures whose habitats are threatened. "They affect the future survival of the entire eco-system. The environmental rule of law attempts to weave an understanding of the connections in the natural environment which make the issue of survival a unified challenge which confronts human societies everywhere," the judgement said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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