Jammu: The Jammu Development Authority (JDA) has served a notice on senior BJP leader and former deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh asking him to demolish his illegally constructed house on the outskirts of the city within five days.
Singh and his family moved into the palatial bungalow near the Army's ammunition sub-depot at Ban village of Nagrota on July 23 last year, even though the high court had in May 2018 directed the authorities to ensure "strict implementation" of a 2015 notification barring general public from carrying out any construction within 1,000 yards of defence works.
"The matter is sub-judice and I will be consulting my lawyers for future course of action, the BJP leader told PTI, confirming the receipt of the notice issued by the JDA on November 8.
In its order of demolition, the JDA said the building was constructed without attaining the valid permission from the competent authority.
"...you are hereby directed to remove the illegal construction on your own level within five days from the date of issuance of the order. If you fail to remove the illegal construction within the stipulated period of time, the same shall be demolished by the enforcement wing of JDA and cost of removal shall be recovered from you as arrears of land revenue," the JDA said.
The high court on May 7, 2018 had asked all parties concerned to maintain status quo until final disposition of an Army plea which claimed that the building was in violation of laid down norms.
Raising security and safety concerns in view of the building's proximity to an ammunition depot, the Centre had filed two petitions before the high court.
Singh had earlier claimed it was a political conspiracy against him.
The piece of 2,000 square metre land was brought in 2000 by Himgiri Infrastructure Development Private Limited whose shareholders included former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta and BJP MP Jugal Kishore and Singh.
Gupta, however, had claimed that he resigned from the company.
The construction work on the plot had started in 2017 prompting the Army to send a communication to Singh, who was then deputy chief minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government, asking him to stop the activity as it was in violation of the Works of Defence Act (WoDA), 1903 which bars any construction activity up to 1000 yards (914 metres approximately).
The construction activity falls nearly 581 yards from the boundary of the depot.
A contempt notice was moved by the central government in 2018 against Nirmal Singh's wife Mamta Singh for allegedly violating a 2015 order of the then deputy commissioner of Jammu in which the Army depot was notified by the state government.
The high court had on May 7, 2018, while hearing a contempt petition, asked various departments of the state to file their replies and directed Singh and others to "ensure" that the 2015 order is "strictly implemented with all provisions of law/rules and no unlawful/impermissible activity in the area is permitted".
The 2015 order was clear that "no variation shall be made in the ground level and on building, wall, bank or other construction....erected, added to or altered otherwise that with the written approval of the General Officer Commanding (of the Army)..."
"No wood, earth, stone, brick, gravel and or other material shall be stacked, stored or otherwise accumulated" and the order was applicable to all those living within 1,000 yards of the ammunition point at Ban village.
It said that any violation "shall be dealt with by the local Army commander under law and no compensation in respect of removal of such unauthorised structures shall be payable to the owners."
The Defence Ministry had filed a writ petition on May 3, 2018 when the local administration and police failed to implement the 2015 order.
Despite the high court's order for strict implementation of the order of the deputy commissioner, the construction work continued unabated prompting the Centre to move a contempt petition on May 16, 2018.
Officials in the Defence Ministry said that in view of militant activities, concerns regarding security of such sensitive defence installations have always assumed importance.
Guidelines such as the Works of Defence Act are meant to deter such threats as well as cater for the safety of the civilians residing in the vicinity. However, such construction activity reduces the open area for surveillance and monitoring by the Army too.
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.