The Punjab and Haryana High Court Monday pulled up the Punjab government, Zirakpur Municipal Council and Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) for passing the buck over issues connected to the Chandigarh International Airport, and said it will not hesitate to record that the “government machinery has totally failed because it is totally incompetent”.
A division bench of Chief Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Arun Palli was hearing a public interest litigation seeking directions for making available appropriate infrastructure at the international airport. The hearing earlier began over the issue of the installation of CAT IIIB lighting system at the airport for which the Airports Authority of India and CHIAL Board have already given permission to hand over the work to TATA SED but, the court was told, certain permissions are now required to be given by the Indian Air Force Headquarters.
However, the hearing soon shifted towards issues like removal of unauthorised constructions around the Air Force Station, construction of a drainage system in the vicinity of the airport to prevent flow of rainwater inside the airfield and development of the approach road — to be used as safety vehicle road in case of an emergency from Jagatpura and High Ground Access. A slew of strictures began as soon as the counsel representing the Zirakpur MC over an instance of illegal construction — pointed out by the Air Force — submitted the same does not fall within the municipality jurisdiction but GMADA’s. However, the counsel representing GMADA negated the submission.
“You are wings of the same government. Don’t say it is not my concern. Things cannot function like this,” observed the division bench, adding that it will make the Chief Secretary appear before the court again. The court said the government agencies instead of bringing their differences to the court need to resolve them outside.
The major issue arose over the question of laying of drainage system outside the airport when the court was told that a conflict has risen between the drainage department and Zirakpur MC related to some technical aspects and map of the drainage work. In February, an undertaking had been given that the drainage system will be laid within four months but the court had asked the authorities concerned to complete it within next three months.
The court in response said, “What is going on? State is the biggest hurdle. Now the problem is being created by the State and its instrumentalities. What is this habit of throwing ball in other’s court?”
As soon as a counsel suggested that the court may pass an order for the agencies to resolve their disputes, the division bench refused to do so and observed, “Everybody wants to get orders from the court. Everybody wants to do (things) on the shoulders of court….” The court added ‘A’ is saying ‘B’ is responsible and ‘B’ is saying ‘C’ is responsible, and warned that the only order which will be passed by the court will be of contempt proceedings for non-compliance.
“How will this work? There is total non-cooperation qua government agencies. Why didn’t we experience this with the Air Force or TATA SED which is a private agency. (On next date) if we don’t get a satisfactory response, your officials are getting fired,” observed the court.
While addressing an official of Zirakpur MC, the court also said, “You want to go to the jail? We can send you to the jail from here after framing the charges also…We want a concrete solution.” On the question of conflict between the Zirakpur MC and drainage department, the court while addressing the government counsel said, “The only difficulty is you asking your department to get in touch with the MC? Why don’t you sack the Executive Officer. You have the powers. If you don’t, we will do it from here.”
The court during the hearing was also told that Mohali DC regarding the approach road has said that it was in a zigzag shape and certain land was required to be acquired for its development and expansion. However, the Central government counsel submitted that the Air Force at least wants the removal of encroachment from the road at present.
“Why are you bothered it is zigzag when they are not? You are hiding behind the land (acquisition process) so that it (issue) goes on and on. What is the duty of DC? If encroachment is on the road, it has to be removed,” observed the court, as it directed the Mohali DC to remain present on the next date of hearing.
The court reminded the government that in case some of the officials were being insensitive towards the issues involved, then suitable action needs to be taken against them. As the government counsel submitted that they will find “some” solution to the issues by next date of hearing, the court retorted, “What some? There has to be an absolute solution.”
The division bench in the order passed Monday directed the Advocate General to intervene in the matter and ensure the issues among the government agencies are resolved by next date of hearing and a concrete solution is found.
The court has also asked the Punjab’s Civil Aviation Secretary to remain present on May 21, the next date of hearing, for assistance related to some issues concerning the airport.