Taking strong objection to the ‘closure of roads’ in Cantonment areas, the Defence Ministry issued specific directions to all defence departments across the country regarding the same after nearly 72 petitions were received. Stressing on better civilian and defence liaison, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was in the city, said the directives regarding the closure of roads had been issued on Wednesday and this would make it mandatory for the defence authorities to follow. The compliance report has been sought from the ministry within 30 days from the issuance of the letter.
The Indian Express had highlighted the issue of unwarranted stoppage of traffic on Manekji Mehta road where the Pune sub area had constructed an arch for the Southern Command, following which the Army removed the barricades.
Under the directions or the standard operating procedure issued, it has been stated that it was brought to the notice of the defence minister that public roads in Cantonments were being closed by the local military authorities (LMA) without any statutory authority to do so and without following the procedure prescribed in Section 258 of the Cantonments Act 2006. Under the section, a street as defined under Section 2 of the Act can be permanently closed only by a cantonment board for security reasons, giving a public notice inviting objections and suggestions from public and obtaining prior permission of the GoC or the principal director of the command.
The defence minister said there were several petitions regarding the closure of roads in the country and this had been cleared with the notification. “The matter has been considered in the Ministry of Defence and it has been decided that no public road outside unit lines in a Cantonment will be closed by any authority other than a Cantonment board for any reasons other than security and without following the procedure laid down under Section 258 of the Cantonments Act, 2006. If in the opinion of LMA any road needs to be closed for security reasons, it will approach the local Cantonment board to set the process in motion as required under Section 258 of the Cantonments Act 2006,’’ stated the operating procedure.
The directives further stated that it would be the responsibility of the GoC in C and principal director of defence estates of the command to ensure that no road in a cantonment outside unit lines was closed arbitrarily or on grounds other than security or without following procedure as prescribed under the said section.
“It has been stated that while deciding matters pertaining to closure of roads, the competent authority shall objectively weigh the security considerations and the inconvenience caused to public. Where it becomes unavoidable to close a road, efforts should be made to provide an alternative road before enforcing the closure order,” the SOP further stated.
The minister said those roads closed without following the procedure delineated in the Cantonments Act, 2006, should be opened forthwith and closed again only if required.