Special tribunal dismisses appeal of BJP leader’s wife against demolition of bungalow in Jammu

JAMMU — A special tribunal in Jammu has dismissed an appeal by a senior BJP leader’s wife against the demolition of her illegally constructed palatial bungalow here and imposed Rs 10 lakh as costs on her for “serious misconduct involving criminal contempt of court and perjury”.

Former deputy chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Nirmal Singh and his family had moved into the newly constructed house near the army’s ammunition sub-depot at Ban village of Nagrota on July 23, 2020, and were subsequently served a demolition notice by Jammu Development Authority (JDA).

The house in the name of Singh’s wife Mamta was completed even though the High Court had in May 2018 directed the authorities to ensure “strict implementation” of a 2015 notification that barred the general public from undertaking constructions within 1,000 yards of defence works.

Mamta moved the special tribunal, Jammu, against the demolition order and was granted interim relief on November 12, 2021.

On April 13, 2023, after many hearings, the tribunal (bench-II) set aside the impugned demolition order and subsequently, the JDA initiated fresh proceedings for the demolition by serving a show cause notice on May 11, 2023, followed by a demolition order on July 28, 2023.

“After perusing the record, this tribunal is satisfied that the appellant has willfully suppressed the material facts and made false statements on oath… the construction of the residential house in question is a deliberate act of defiance of the rule of law.

“The appeals filed before the tribunal thereafter on false grounds tantamount to abuse of the process of the court.

“It being so, this appeal is liable to be disposed of for having been rendered infructuous on the face of the order passed by the high court. In view of the above, the instant appeal sans merit. It entails dismissal and is, accordingly, dismissed,” Member (Executive) bench-III, J&K Special Tribunal, Jammu Asif Hamid Khan said in his 27-page order.

The order, passed on May 17, said the misconduct of the appellant was far more serious, involving criminal contempt of court and perjury.

“Despite positive directions passed by the High Court on May 7, 2018, against permitting any ‘unlawful/impermissible activity in the area’, the work on the under-construction building was going on in full swing on May 13, 2018, and continued thereafter,” it said.

For serious misconduct involving criminal contempt of court and perjury, it imposed Rs 10 lakh as costs on the appellant that shall be deposited in the advocates’ welfare fund within a month.

The BJP leader had earlier claimed it was a political conspiracy against him.

The piece of 2,000 square metre land was bought in 2000 by the Himgiri Infrastructure Development Private Limited, whose shareholders included former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta and BJP MP Jugal Kishore besides Singh. Gupta, however, had claimed that he resigned from the company.

The construction work on the plot had started in 2017 prompting the Army to send a communication to Singh, who was then the deputy chief minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government, and ask him to stop the activity as it was in “violation of the Works of Defence Act (WoDA) 1903” which bars any construction activity upto 1000 yards (914 metres approx).

The construction activity falls nearly 581 yards (531 metres approx) from the boundary of the depot.

A contempt notice was moved by the central government in 2018 against Singh’s wife for allegedly violating a 2015 order of the then deputy commissioner of Jammu Simrandeep Singh in which the Army depot was notified by the state government.

The high court had on May 7, 2018, while hearing a contempt petition, asked various departments of the state to file their replies and directed Singh and others to “ensure” that the 2015 order is “strictly implemented with all provisions of law/rules and no unlawful/impermissible activity in the area is permitted”.

The 2015 order was clear that “no variation shall be made in the ground level and on building, wall, bank or other construction….erected, added to or altered otherwise than with the written approval of the General officer in Commanding…”

“No wood, earth, stone, brick, gravel and or other material shall be stacked, stored or otherwise accumulated” and the order was applicable to all those living 1000 yards of the ammunition point at village ban.

It said that any violation “shall be dealt with by the local Army commander under law and no compensation in respect of removal of such unauthorised structures shall be payable to the owners”.

The Defence Ministry filed a writ petition on May 3, 2018, when the local administration and police failed to implement the 2015 order.

Despite the high court’s directive for strict implementation of the order of the deputy commissioner, the construction work continued unabated prompting the Centre to move a contempt petition on May 16, 2018.

Officials in the Defence Ministry had said that in view of the terrorist actions, concerns regarding the security of such sensitive defence installations have always assumed importance.

Guidelines such as the Works of Defence Act are meant to deter such threats as well as cater for the safety of the civilians residing in the vicinity. However, such construction activity reduces the open area for surveillance and monitoring by the Army too. — (PTI)