The Allahabad High Court has directed the Varanasi Development Authority (VDA) to complete proceedings and pass final orders in all pending matters pertaining to the demolition of unauthorised structures along ghats on river Ganga in the district by January 30.
The court has also appointed two advocate commissioners, who along with the amicus curiae in the matter, to inspect the sites and verify the authenticity of the demolition carried out by VDA.
The court passed the order after the petitioner said that fresh constructions on many of these areas have come up.
It has also directed the principal secretary (Culture) to get heritage bylaws notified by January 15, 2016 — when the court will hear the matter next — or be prepared to face coercive measure.
A division bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice Dilip Gupta passed the order on December 3, while hearing a PIL filed by Kautilya Society.
Earlier, the court had passed a slew of orders with regard to abatement of pollution in Ganga, while hearing this PIL.
One of the main issues was demolition of unauthorised structures that have come up on the ghats. Following court’s directions, the VDA had identified 57 such structures. While 39 structures are said to have been demolished, legal proceedings are going in other cases.
The petitioner has also alleged that while such structures are yet to be demolished, new structures have come up on these areas.
The court said: “We are not satisfied with the manner in which the VDA is labouring over the disposal of the cases… though the remand orders were passed in July 2015, it appears that no further steps have been taken save and except to grant adjournments in those cases…”
Earlier, the court had directed that heritage bylaws of the state government be notified so that confusion over at least 579 structures, out of which 452 have been found to be “too old or not illegal” is cleared and proper action is taken. However, the state is yet to do so.
“We place the principal secretary in the Department of Culture on notice that should the order of the court not be complied with by the next date of listing, the court would be constrained to secure his personal presence and to take coercive steps for non-compliance,” it said.