The Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo motu cognisance of the killing of an assistant town planning officer Shail Bala Sharma during a court-ordered anti-encroachment drive in Himachal Pradesh’s Kasauli.
On Tuesday, Assistant Town Planner Shail Bala Sharma was allegedly chased and shot dead by Narayani guest house owner Vijay Thakur following an altercation between the two during a Supreme Court-ordered anti-encroachment drive against unauthorised structures in 13 hotels in Kasauli.
According to the police and eyewitnesses, Vijay Thakur fired at least three bullets at Shail Bala Sharma inside the Narayani guest house in Mandudhar on the Dharampur-Kasauli road at around 2.33 pm. A number of government officials and police officers were present at the site when the incident occurred.
Sharma was brought dead to the Dharampur government hospital.
The police have formed multiple teams to nab Thakur and have also announced a reward of Rs 1 lakh for information leading to Thakur’s arrest.
Gulab Singh, a Public Works Department employee, was injured in this firing while clearing the hotel rooms earmarked for demolition and is currently undergoing treatment in Chandigarh, the police said. As per the officials,the demolition drive which was being implemented by four separate teams has been put on hold after the incident. DGP Sita Ram Mardi visited the spot in the evening, said officials.
On April 17, the Supreme Court said that unauthorised construction had put Kasauli in danger and hence ordered the demolition at several hotel and resorts in Kasauli. The Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta also observed that the life of people cannot be endangered for making money. The apex court was hearing a plea filed by owners of several hotels, resorts and guest houses challenging a National Green Tribunal (NGT) order to demolish or close down several establishments which were extended illegally without approval.
Barely six months into her new posting as Assistant Town Planner in Kasauli, Shail Bala was on deputation with the Town and Country Planning (TCP) department since March 3, 2017, from the Baddi Brotiwala Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA). She was previously posted at Parwanoo before being shifted to Solan.
In 2014, she joined the BBNDA on a “regular basis” as Assistant architect. On April 30, many hotels and guest houses in Kasauli were served notices by the TCP’s office to raze unauthorised construction by Tuesday. The owners had already started demolition on their own by Tuesday morning (May 1).
According to the police, the situation aggravated on May 1 when the demolition team led by Town and Country planner Leela Sham and Solan Sub-Divisional Magistrate Ashutosh Garg reached the site and asked the owners of Narayani guest house and Hotel Shivalik to “cooperate in the demolition drive”.
Narayani guest house owner Vijay Thakur, his mother Narayani and Hotel Shivalik owner Ved Garg reportedly had a heated argument with the officials. Both of them had employed their staff to remove unauthorised construction but started arguing over how much would be demolished, said a police officer.
Range Officer Singh said Thakur and his mother Narayani requested Shail Bala Sharma to let them remove the unauthorised construction by themselves. “Sharma inspected the hotel floors and told the hotel owner that as per court directions, three floors will have to be demolished. Thakur was heard shouting repeatedly, ‘Hamein maar hi dijiye (You just kill us)’. But Sharma cited court orders,” he said.
Singh said,“The ATP went to have lunch at a restaurant nearby. It was after she returned that Thakur opened fire.” Thakur’s mother Narayani and wife Meena said that Vijay Thakur was under mental stress for past few months and was also on medication. Both claimed they were unaware that Thakur owned a gun.
Shail Bala Sharma hailed from Mandi and was married to Dr V P Sharma, who is the director of the National Research Centre for Mushroom (NRCM) under the Indian Council of Agricultural Research in Solan. Their 24-year-old son had recently completed his MBBS from Indira Gandhi Medical College in Shimla.
Dr V P Sharma got unwell after learning about the demise of his wife and was hospitalised in the same hospital.