Nirmal Gets Relief, Tribunal Stays Demolition Order

Jammu- In a major relief to former deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh, the Jammu and Kashmir Special Tribunal has kept in abeyance an order issued by the Jammu Development Authority for demolition of his house on the outskirts of the city within five days.

The tribunal, headed by judicial member Rajesh Sekri, ordered that the impugned order dated November 8 shall remain in abeyance and the parties were directed to maintain status quo till December 7.

The Jammu Development Authority (JDA) had served a notice to the BJP leader, asking him to demolish his palatial bungalow near the Army’s ammunition sub-depot in Ban village of Nagrota.

Singh and his family had moved into the building 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 work.

The special tribunal granted relief to Singh on Friday after his wife Mamta Singh moved an application through her lawyers and submitted that she is the owner in possession of the residential plot measuring four Kanals, which was purchased on May 20, 2014 and the area where the land is situated, being outside the jurisdiction of any development authority.

The counsel said the appellant raised the construction of the house and the structure was completed in all respects in the beginning of the year 2017.

Some internal finishing work was subsequently completed and the appellant along with his family have since being living in the house peacefully. During the entire period of construction and thereafter, there was no complaint by any development authority regarding the construction of the house and rightly so as the same had already been constructed prior to the coming into force of Jammu Master Plan, 2032 notified on March 3, 2017, whereby as many as 103 villagers (including Ban) were included and the jurisdiction of JDA, he said, challenging the demolition notice.

In its order of demolition, the JDA had 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 had on May 7, 2018 asked all parties concerned to maintain status quo until final disposition of an Army plea which has 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 bought in 2000 by Himgiri Infrastructure Development Private Limited, the shareholders of which 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 Nirmal 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 1,000 yards (914 metres approximately).

The construction activity falls nearly 581 yards from the boundary of the depot.

A contempt notice was also moved by the central government in 2018 against Mamta Singh for allegedly violating a 2015 order of the then deputy commissioner of Jammu in which the Army depot was notified by the then state government.

The Ministry of Defence had also filed a writ petition on May 3, 2018 when the local administration and police failed to implement the 2015 order.

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