THE PUNJAB and Haryana High Court Monday observed that it has been found that though both Punjab and Haryana want Chandigarh as joint capital and are enjoying its benefits, they don’t want to contribute towards its development and conservation.
The observation was made by the division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Rajiv Sharma during the hearing of the case pertaining to Sukhna Lake and the issue of raising of illegal constructions in its catchment area after a counsel representing the Punjab government submitted that the Centre has notified Sukhna Lake an eco-sensitive zone only on Chandigarh side and not in the area falling under Punjab.
In 2017, the Union government had issued a notification declaring an area of 1,050 hectares, to an extent varying from 2 kilometres to 2.75 kilometres from the boundary of Sukhna Wildlife Sanctuary on the side of Chandigarh as an eco-sensitive zone for regulation of the constructions. On Monday, the division bench observed that the prohibited distance for Punjab, as per a Supreme Court verdict, is 10 kilometres and it is also recorded in the Tata Camelot Project case. The Punjab government counsel informed the court that a meeting regarding the judgment is expected on Tuesday and Wednesday.
While the Punjab counsel submitted that the issue in Tata Camelot project was whether the high-rise building can be raised or not, the court observed that high-rise had nothing to do with the case and the issue was whether the construction can be raised at all in the catchment area. When asked whether constructions have been allowed to take place, Haryana said no construction has taken place on its side and Punjab made a submission that some construction has taken place in “residential zone” in accordance with its local Master Plan which distinguishes it from the forest and agriculture zones.
When the Punjab counsel once again submitted that the notification declaring the eco-sensitive zone is only restricted to Chandigarh, the court said Punjab’s case for allowing constructions beyond 100 metres has been rejected already in Supreme Court. “Judgment is the notification…. It is binding on you,” observed the court.
During the hearing, the counsel representing Punjab also faced ire after the court apparently witnessed Kharar MLA Kanwar Sandhu, who is also a party in the case and appears in person, “whispering in his ear” of the counsel. “You are having instructions on behalf of the political class?” asked he court. Sandhu submitted he was appearing in person. During the previous hearing too, the court had declined to hear directly from Sandhu and preferred to hear from the state counsel.
UT Chandigarh in a status report on Monday informed the court that communications have been sent to both Punjab and Haryana for necessary action regarding the regulation of activities in Sukhna catchment area falling within their jurisdictions. The court also noted that Punjab, Haryana and UT Chandigarh need to sit down for resolution of the issues. The matter will be heard on December 5.
Ban on constructions in whole catchment area
Senior Advocate Sanjay Kaushal, who represented some residents of Kansal, argued that the High Court order of March 2011 restricts the ban on constructions only in forest or agriculture areas. Kaushal submitted that Kansal is a whole town with some 1,000 houses and randomly residents have been issued notices by local authorities declaring their houses are in violation of court orders. The division bench asserted that the ban order extends to the whole catchment area and observed that a clarification could have been asked regarding the order in case there was any doubt.