The Supreme Court on Thursday said that incidents like the murder of Assistant Town Planning Officer Shail Bala Sharma, allegedly shot dead by a hotel owner in Kasauli during a demolition drive, are the outcome of encouragement given to those who break the law. The court sought a report from the Himachal Pradesh government on steps taken to prevent unauthorised constructions in the state.
“This death is result of non-implementation of the law,” a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta observed while hearing a matter pertaining to Sharma’s murder. The court had taken suo motu cognizance of the incident following reports in The Indian Express and The Tribune newspapers. Regularisation of unauthorised constructions amounts to encouraging those who violate the law, Justice Gupta said, adding that the situation will not improve “unless we take these incidents seriously if we believe in the rule of law”.
“We can’t encourage people to break the law… encouraging people to break the law will come to the point of violence,” Justice Gupta remarked when the state’s Advocate General said that police protection had been given to Sharma who was leading the drive to demolish unauthorised construction in 13 hotels in Kasauli as per orders of the Supreme Court. The counsel said the drive continues despite the “unfortunate” incident.
The bench asked the state to file a report explaining the status of investigation, the present state of implementation of the court’s order, steps taken to ensure there are no unauthorised constructions in others parts of the state, and steps proposed and taken against those violating the law. Sharma was allegedly chased and shot dead by Vijay Singh, the owner of Narayani guest house in Kasauli following an altercation during the demolition drive ordered by the apex court against unauthorised structures in 13 hotels.
The Advocate General said the state had taken all precautions, and formed four teams accompanied by sufficient security personnel for the demolition. He said the incident had occured when Sharma went to the guest house without the accompanying police team. Justice Lokur said he had read in the papers that the accused Vijay Singh worked in the electricity department and wondered where he got the money to build such a big guest house. The court said that perhaps a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act should also be initiated against the absconding accused.
The court also asked the Advocate General if any compensation had been given to the family of the deceased, to which he replied that Rs 5 lakh had been announced and more will be given if needed. The state was looking after the treatment expenses of a person injured in the incident, the counsel said, adding that he will also be compensated.
The Supreme Court had on April 17 directed the state government to demolish unauthorised structures in 13 hotels in Kasauli and Dharampur areas of Solan, and four teams were constituted for this purpose. The court had said that illegal constructions had put the city in danger, causing landslides.