In a major embarrassment to the Congress government in the state, the Himachal Pradesh High Court on Thursday set aside the move to get ‘Smart City’ status for Dharamshala and pulled up the bureaucracy for “succumbing to political pressure to ignore Shimla’s rightful claim”.
The high court also quashed proceedings of the high-powered steering committee, which had accepted the claim of Dharamshala, overiding Shimla’s self-assessment score and the Centre’s decision to go by the recommendation of the state government on Dharamshala.
Terming the move as “arbitrary, unreasonable, capricious and irrational” and “done in a hush-hush” manner, the court took strong exception to the role of the bureaucracy, which it said had failed to exercise its powers in the larger public interest.
The division bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Sureshwar Thakur gave two weeks’ time to the state government to undertake a fresh excise for evaluation of self-assessment of the urban towns, including Shimla and Dharamshala, to arrive at a “fair and just decision.”
The court gave the judgment on a petition filed by Shimla Mayor Sanjay Chauhan, who had alleged that state Urban Development Minister Sudhir Sharma, who represents Dharamshala in the assembly, had “fudged” the data to make Dharamshala declared a Smart City, instead of Shimla.