Terming it a blot,the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday removed the tag of disturbed area from the City Beautiful,which it had been carrying since 1986.
Describing the decision to continue with the tag as wholly unjustified,the High Court today held there is no ground to give draconian powers to forces to take life of any individual under the garb of the provisions of the Disturbed Area tag.
Observing that worse conditions prevailed in other states,which have not been declared as disturbed areas,the High Court held that though there may not be a direct impact on the state exchequer by continuing with the tag,it would be a deterrent for tourists visiting the city.
The two notifications passed by the Chandigarh Administration declaring Chandigarh a disturbed area and continuing with the label were quashed today. Now,it is City Beautiful, remarked the division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Jasbir Singh and Justice Rakesh Kumar Jain after setting aside both the notifications.
The first notification was issued on December 2,1986,during the tenure of the then UT Administrator Siddhartha Shankar Ray. The second was issued on December 5,1991,by the Administration,taking a conscious decision to continue with the tag. Om Prakash Malhotra was then the UT Administrator.
As ordered,the Punjab government today told the High Court that the last time it (Punjab) had issued a notification declaring a district as disturbed area was in 1996. The said notification was revoked in May 1997. However,Amritsar,Gurdaspur and Ferozepur were declared disturbed areas under a separate notification,which was withdrawn on July 28,2008.
The tag was given to the city during the time of terrorism and Punjab was given special powers. It may not be a financial burden,but itself is a blot on the city,as Chandigarh is one of the most well planned cities, the division bench stated.
The directions were passed today on a petition filed by Surinder Bhardwaj,president of the Janta Dal (United) in Chandigarh. The petitioner had contended that the Act should be abolished since it was hampering the tourism prospects of the city.
Self contradictory affidavit by UT
Referring to the reply filed by the Chandigarh Administration,the High Court pointed out the self contradictory stand taken by the Administration. It was of the opinion that the decision to remove or to continue with the tag lies in the exclusive domain of the Administration. It was submitted that though the powers enshrined under the Act were never used by the officers,the Administration cannot lower its guard.
Powers under the Act to go
The power to fire upon persons contravening certain orders will now no longer be available. A magistrate or police officer of the rank of sub-inspector or havildar in case of the armed branch of the police could,after giving due warning,fire upon or use force,even to cause death,against any person acting in contravention of any law or order in force in the disturbed area.
Post of Administrator illegal: petitioner
Counsel for the petitioner today furnished a few notifications to allege that the post of Administrator for the Chandigarh Administration was illegal,and that the Adviser held the charge of the Administrator. To corroborate this,the petitioner produced four notifications vide which Administrators were appointed. He said the last notification which gave independent charge of Chandigarh to the former UT Adviser was on August 2,1984.
K Banerji was made the Administrator of Chandigarh through the notification. The petitioner said prior to this notification,the Centre had given the Punjab Governor charge of the Administrator of Chandigarh. Bhardwaj said a separate petition would be filed challenging the post of Administrator.
Security a concern,says governor
Punjab Governor-cum-UT Administrator Shivraj Patil said,The court has quashed the disturbed area tag of Chandigarh and we have to follow the same. However,in future if an untoward incident happens,we cannot say anything about it. The tag has been removed by the court and not the UT Administration. The tag was retained for some reason,including reports from the intelligence agencies regarding infiltration from bordering areas and there were security concerns for the city.