The Chandigarh Administration on Monday submitted before the Punjab and Haryana High Court that the onus is on Punjab and Haryana now to protect the catchment area of Sukhna Lake after the recent Supreme Court verdict. The court on Monday also questioned the need for issuance of a fresh notification by UT Chandigarh for declaring Sukhna Lake as a wetland when it had been done in 1988 too.
During the resumed hearing of a suo motu case in which the court is monitoring the maintenance of Sukhna Lake and the issue of illegal constructions in its catchment area, UT senior standing counsel Pankaj Jain submitted that following the recent Supreme Court judgment quashing the clearance for Tata Camelot project in Sukhna vicinity, “the onus is upon them (Punjab and Haryana) to protect it. The unauthorised construction should not be allowed. The Supreme Court has made it clear that the area may fall in Punjab but it has no authority to allow any constructions”.
In an affidavit, the UT Administration also informed the court that UT Wetlands Authority in July decided to issue a notification for declaring the lake as a wetland. The construction activity is part of the regulated activities in the catchment area of Sukhna Wetland, read the reply.
“You had already done it (issued notification declaring Sukhna Lake a wetland) in 1988. Now what was the requirement? Why the process?” asked a division bench.
Jain replied that it has been now issued under the Wetlands (Conservation & Management) Rules, 2017, and to prevent any “technical objections” regarding the notification issued in 1988. Jain added, “We all were in dark (regarding the notification issued in 1988).” It was in March this year that the court was apprised of the existence of a notification issued in 1988.
The court during the hearing asked Punjab whether the constructions were still being allowed in the catchment area, adding, “why is Punjab soft in the matter”. A Punjab counsel while asserting that no construction has taken place after the 2012 stay order also submitted that the constructions which have taken place are in accordance with the local master plan and do not fall within the prohibited area.
The submission was challenged by senior advocate Manmohan Lal Sarin, who is an intervener in the case, who said that a recent court commissioner’s report has revealed that huge constructions have been raised in the catchment area despite the court’s stay order. The matter on Monday was adjourned to December 2.