To remove or not to remove the tag of disturbed area is the exclusive domain of the Administration,a decision which falls outside the domain of the Courts. Mincing no words,Chandigarh said this to the Punjab and Haryana High Court today during the resumed hearing of a PIL demanding removal of the tag. Senior Standing Counsel for the UT Sanjay Kaushal filed a response on its behalf. Seemingly unimpressed with the grounds taken by the UT,the High Court told it not to give mere lectures.
Referring to intelligence inputs and the protectees (politicians and bureaucrats) Chandigarh houses,the UT counsel told the High Court that the Administration cannot lower its guard. To this,a division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Jasbir Singh and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain said,Where are the terrorists now? For a handful of protectees,you will continue with the tag of disturbed area.
Seeking the list of VVIPs who need special security and are facing threat to their lives,the Bench said that the tag is a big deterrent for tourism. Why would a tourist like to come to the city beautiful if he comes to know that Chandigarh is a disturbed area? asked the acting Chief Justice.
Asked when was the last time that the powers available with the Administration under the clause of disturbed area act were put to use,the senior standing counsel said that in the recent past the said powers were never used. Kaushal averred,I even go to the extent of saying that powers were never used but no person has ever been put to inconvenience because of the disturbed area tag. As asked last time by the Bench,that whether the tag is not being removed since the babus enjoy special privileges,Kaushal vehemently denied the same. No privilege is being given to any officer because of this tag, Kaushal said. He alleged that the petitioner in the case is trying to sensationalise and politicise the issue.
Questioning the rationale behind continuing with the tag especially when the UT admittedly,has never exercised the powers the Bench remarked Punjab was affected by terrorism,when Punjab has removed the tag why are you continuing with it. The Bench further observed Mohali and Panchkula is few kilometers away from Chandigarh,they are not labelled as disturbed areas,how come Chandigarh is ?.
Adjourning the case to Wednesday,the High Court asked the UT to bring the official file and the noting under which the tag was enforced. Also,the Punjab government has been asked to apprise the Bench as to in which year it withdrew the notification.
The UT on the last date of hearing was admonished for dragging its feet on not removing the disturbed area tag from the city apparently because of vested interests of its babus. The Bench had observed that it appears that due to the benefits an official enjoys on his posting in an area labelled disturbed,the UT officials do want the label to go.
The development took place during the resumed hearing of a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Surinder Bhardwaj,president of the Janta Dal (United) in Chandigarh. Chandigarh has been carrying the tag of a disturbed area since the period of terrorism way back in 1983. Chandigarh became a disturbed area with the enactment of the Chandigarh Disturbed Area Act,1983. Tourism was hit majorly in the city as on the official websites Chandigarh was still a ‘disturbed area.
The petitioner said Punjab shed the tag after the notification was withdrawn in 1997.