Rehabilitation of stone quarry: ‘Reveal policy or appear before court’

Srinagar—The state high court on Monday directed top officers to appear before it on December 26 if they fail to file report, revealing steps taken for those persons affected by the ban on stone quarrying in Jammu and Kashmir.

As the hearing of a Public Interest Litigation began before Justices Mohammad Yaqoob Mir and Ali Mohammad Magrey, advocate Ghulam Murtaza, representing petitioner, submitted that as per the court’s 23 August directions, authorities were required to file the fresh status report, indicating as to what steps have been taken for rehabilitation of the affected persons but no report has been filed so far.

Subsequently, the court directed in case the report was not filed by next date of hearing on December 26, then all the concerned officials shall appear in person before the court. The respondents in the PIL include Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Commissioner Secretary Forest, Deputy Commissioners of all concerned districts, Financial Commissioner Industries and Commerce Department, Commissioner Secretary Revenue and others.

The PIL has been filed by one Sofi Arif Maqbool, a resident of Wahipora, Handwara in Kupwara. Among other directions, he seeks an end to stone quarrying within forest demarcated areas in the state.

Maqbool had claimed that there has been unabated stone quarrying within forest areas for a long period and that ban on the quarrying “appears to be only on the papers.”

He had also accused state authorities of lacking will to implement the orders of the court regarding the quarrying.

The court has already stayed the operation of illegal quarrying in forests including Kupwara and Baramulla districts.

During one the previous hearing, Financial Commissioner Industries and Commerce Department had informed the court that the government has formed districts level committees for Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam, Ganderbal, Kupwara and Pulwama headed by respective deputy commissioners to identify alternative sites for stone quarrying in these districts. 

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