THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court on Thursday directed the authorities in Punjab to demolish within four months about 98 illegal constructions falling within 100 metres of Chandigarh International Airport at Bhabat village while deferring the decision over the procedure to be adopted for demolition of some 216 constructions falling within the same area.
A division bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli, however, made it clear that the 216 constructions also are to be demolished as they interfere in the functioning of the airport, including landing at the runway.
“It is not to be forgotten that this (Chandigarh International Airport) is also a defence airport used by the Air Force,” said the bench, as it allowed a short adjournment to allow the parties to address arguments over the procedure to be adopted for demolition of the 216 structures and the compensation to be paid to the affected under the Works of Defence Act.
To allay the fears of the owners of 98 structures, the court also said the process of demolition of the 98 structures will take place in accordance with the law and observed that it has no reason to believe that “immediate steps” will not be taken with respect to those structures. Sources said that a public notice will soon be issued by the authorities in Mohali to allow people to submit their proof to clear whether their construction was made prior to the 2011 public notice or not.
Punjab Advocate General Atul Nanda earlier told the court that a declaration was published first in March 2007 under which it was declared that no building or structure will be constructed within the limits of 100 metres of the outer parapet of Air Force Station, Chandigarh. A public notice in pursuance to that was issued in August 2008 for the Bhabat village, which is also called Pabhat. However, Nanda added that the procedure under the law was not followed after the issuance of the notification and the question arises whether the 2008 notification has lapsed. A notification for the same purpose was issued in January 2010 followed by a public notice in March 2011.
While Nanda’s opinion is that since the notification of August 2008 was allowed to lapse, the owners would be deemed to have a notice of the prohibition on constructions only from the date of issuance of public notice issued in March 2011, adding that the owners of constructions prior to that date would have to be compensated in accordance with the Works of Defence Act — the liability under the Act is of the Central government. The Indian Air Force during a meeting has disagreed with Nanda’s view and said the August 2008 notification has to be taken into consideration for the purpose of compensation — practically, it means there is a dispute over the fate of 20 constructions.
The 98 constructions directed to be demolished within four months’ time are said to have been built after the issuance of notification in 2011, meaning they would not be liable for any compensation even if they claim to have an approved building plan. Around 196 constructions are said to have been built prior to August 2008, the month the first notification was issued. Twenty structures are said to have come into being between August 2008 and March 2011. All the constructions are at Bhabat village. At Jagtarpura village, there are some 10 structures which are said to have come up before the March 2011 public notice. The court was told they will be demolished in accordance with the procedure.
The court on Thursday was also informed that the IAF and the district administration have also decided that the former will designate an officer for regular sharing of information with the Mohali DC regarding any future construction activity within the 100 metre area. Ordering that a monthly meeting be held in future for the purpose of review of the possibility of any illegal constructions within the prohibited area, the court said that all possible measures be taken to avoid any such situation.
With regard to the installation of CAT III facilities at the airport runway and construction of a parallel taxi track, the court on Thursday also directed the Defence Secretary to convene a meeting in this regard at the earliest by September 23 for a decision.
Following amicus and Senior Advocate Manmohan Lal Sarin’s submissions regarding steps being taken to start more international flights from Chandigarh, Assistant Solicitor General of India Chetan Mittal on Thursday submitted before the court that he will seek instructions with regard to demand for inclusion of Chandigarh under India’s Open Sky Policy to enable operation of flights to and from ASEAN countries. The court observed that a decision be taken in this regard as early as possible. Earlier, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in February had written to the Union Civil Aviation Minister in the regard.