Continuing with the trend of raiding and sealing buildings on weekends, a team of the UT Estate Office sealed an SCO in Sector 17, housing 17 offices, without issuing any prior notice early on Saturday. The offices were sealed despite the next hearing in their case fixed for July 16. The arbitrary manner in which the action was taken is evident from the fact that while all offices in the building were sealed, the office occupied by a government department was left untouched.
While EO officials claim that there were violations in the building, the occupants allege that they had already removed most of the violations when notices had earlier been served. The occupants further said that even though the hearing in the case was to take place on July 16, the Deputy Commissioner got the building sealed without giving them a hearing. It is only when the occupants reached their offices in the morning that they found these locked.
As per the officials there were different violations in their offices. Among these were partitions done to make cabins for which revised building plan was not approved. At some places, the balconies had been encroached upon. The occupants claim that they had removed most of the violations after the initial notices were sent. Among the violations listed by the Estate Office was using the basement of the building for office space. The occupants counter that the building has no basement. One of the sealed offices is those, for which notice had been withdrawn earlier.
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While the office of Directorate of Institutional Finance and Banking, Punjab has been left out despite the violations in what is clearly a pick and choose policy.
One of the occupants, nominated councillor Surinder Bahga says, “The offices have been sealed in an arbitrary manner. I had already removed the violations that were present in my office. In fact my name had been withdrawn from the notice. However, without any prior information my office was sealed.” The occupants allege that this was sheer harassment on part of the Estate Office and they should have been given a chance to be heard.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Mohd Shayin says, “The notice for sealing the building was issued in January this year by me. I had also chargesheeted an SDO for not complying with the order. There was no hearing in the case that was scheduled to be held. I had told the occupants earlier that I cannot hear appeal of an order issued by me and they would have to approach the Finance Secretary.”
He added that as far as the office of the Punjab government is concerned, an undertaking has been given by them that they would remove the violations.
No action against govt offices
The UT Estate Office has been turning a blind eye to government offices with no action initiated against them. The EO building is itself full of violations with additional structures set up at the entrance in name of security. The SDO building that houses several government offices has violations galore. In fact, notices for fire safety violations have been issued against the building without these being complied with. The RLA is operating from temporary sheds that have been installed. In the MC, the basement which was earmarked as a parking is being used as office space. Partitions have been made on the first floor where offices have been created.