CALLING the killing of Assistant Town Planner Shail Bala Sharma during a court-ordered anti-encroachment drive in Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh Tuesday as “extremely serious”, the Supreme Court Wednesday took suo motu cognizance of the incident and warned that it would stop passing orders if the situation continued.
“We might stop passing any orders if you are going to kill people,” a visibly upset bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta told the counsel appearing for Himachal Pradesh when Tuesday’s developments were brought to its attention.
Sharma was allegedly chased and shot dead by Vijay Thakur, 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 across the hill resort in Himachal Pradesh.
Taking suo motu cognizance of the incident based on reports in the The Indian Express and The Tribune newspapers and issuing contempt notice, the court said: “It is quite clear that some of the appellants are acting with complete impunity and have absolutely no regard for the rule of law or the orders of this Court”.
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) May 1, 2018
Referring to the crime, it said accused Singh “has committed a brazen act of defiance of the order of this Court amounting to a challenge and has allegedly killed one officer in broad daylight who went to implement the orders of this Court”.
It directed that the matter be placed before the Chief Justice of India so that it can be assigned to the appropriate bench and requested the CJI to list the matter for hearing Thursday itself.
The bench was also told during the hearing that the accused had a warrant pending against him for threatening to commit suicide if his hotel was demolished.
As the matter was mentioned before it, the bench said it had read it in The Indian Express and The Tribune newspapers and wondered if security was inadequate.
The counsel appearing for the state tried to explain that there were teams of 40 police personnel with the demolition team and that the altercation occurred when the official, after lunch, went to the Narayani guest house where there were some illegalities. While going to Narayani, she had not informed the police team which was then in the neighbouring guest house Shivalik, he said.
The accused, subsequently, fled from the spot after opening fire and an official of the Public Works Department was also injured in the incident, he said.
This argument did not go down well with the bench. “But that is not borne out by facts. We read that one cop ran after him but he brandished his revolver and got away. Why couldn’t he be stopped?”
The bench added: “She was implementing our order”.
The counsel replied, “We are all trying to implement our order” and added that the demolition drive was on Wednesday too.
Justice Lokur countered him and asked “by killing people?”
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 entire city in danger, causing landslides, and ordered the demolition of such constructions saying life of people cannot be endangered for making money.
The deceased was heading one team and hotel owners allegedly attempted to intimidate it to stop the demolition drive, the police had said yesterday.
Shail Bala Sharma was barely six months into her new posting as Assistant Town Planner and was on deputation with the Town and Country Planning (TCP) department since March 3, 2017 from Baddi Brotiwala Nalagarh Development Authority (BBNDA).