Updated: September 26, 2021 7:31:52 am
The palatial bungalow of Dr Nirmal Singh, former deputy chief minister of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, at village Ban was constructed illegally, according to the Union Territory administration.
Quoting the APIO/Tehsildar, Zone C/D JDA, Dr Kusum Chib, Jammu Development Authority (JDA) Collector, Land Acquisition, and Public Information Officer, said this in reply to an RTI application filed by Muzaffar Ali Shan, an advocate, seeking information about illegal constructions raised at Ban and Panjgrain villages between January 2016 and December 2020.
Messages sent to Singh, a senior BJP leader, for a comment did not elicit response.
In her reply to the RTI query, Chib stated, “Two cases of illegal constructions were reported — one by Sh. Nirmal Singh, ex-Dy CM, and second by Sh. Vijay Kumar Shrma.” The Jammu masterplan for 2032 was notified through SRO 90, dated March 3, 2017, she stated.
About the present status of these constructions, she said that the matter regarding Nirmal Singh is “under Govt of Law’’, and “work is stopped till date” in the other case.
In both cases, no action has been initiated by JDA under the Building Operation Act, 1988, Chib said, quoting information provided by the APIO/Tehsildar. Despite requests from her, the APIO/Tehsildar also did not provide information about officials who were posted in Ban and Panjgrian villages to report cases of illegal constructions to the authorities concerned, she stated in her reply.
She stated that as per APIO/Tehsildar Zone C/D JDA, various civic officials have made surprise visits to the area between 2016 and December 2020.
Singh and his family had moved into the new bungalow, near the Army’s ammunition sub-depot (ASD), on July 23 last year, even though the High Court had in May 2018 directed the authorities to ensure “strict implementation” of a 2015 notification barring general public from construction within 1,000 yards of defence works.
The May 7, 2018 HC order was in response to a writ petition filed by the Centre, challenging construction of a bungalow on the site. The petition stated that the under-construction house was only 580 yards from the perimeter boundary wall of the ASD in Nagrota. The petition was filed after civil and police officials did not stop construction activity being carried out by Mamta Singh, wife of Nirmal Singh, then Speaker of J&K Assembly, despite written requests from top Army officials at Nagrota-based 16 Corps Headquarters.
The Centre moved HC twice — on May 15, 2018, and December 20, 2018 — seeking initiation of contempt proceedings against officials of the then state government for wilfully not implementing the court’s May 7 order.
The court issued notice to then Jammu Divisional Commissioner Hemant Sharma; Jammu Deputy Commissioner Kumar Rajeev Ranjan; and then Jammu SSP Vivek Gupta and asked them to file a compliance report.
Even as the writ petition and the contempt petitions were pending disposal in High Court, Mamta Singh posted a picture of hers along with her grandson at the newly constructed house on July 25 last year on Facebook.
She later deleted the post and pictures from Facebook.
The house is built on a 2,000-square metres next to the Army’s ammunition sub depot in Nagrota. The plot is part of land measuring 12 acres, purchased by some senior BJP leaders through a company named Himgiri Infrastructure Development Limited, of which Mamta Singh was a shareholder.
The company had taken a term loan of Rs 18.50 crore along with a cash credit facility of Rs 56.83 lakh from Jammu and Kashmir Bank in 2012 to set up a power project in Himachal’s Chamba district. The Indian Express had reported on May 14, 2018, that the account was declared a non-performing asset in December 2017.
A month after construction started in the plot in October 2017, the Army informed and requested the then Deputy Commissioner, Jammu, through a letter on November 2, 2017, to order the police authority and civil administration concerned to stop the work since it was in violation of the Works of Defence Act, 1903. Two more letters followed in November, but the administration did not take any action.
Nirmal Singh was then Deputy CM of then state of J&K. He was in office until April 30, 2018.
Besides writing to the civil administration, the Army also lodged a written complaint with SHO, Nagrota police station, on November 27, 2017, and approached the Jammu SSP on December 12 the same year for registration of an FIR.
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