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HP High Court strikes down retention policy after terming it illegal

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HP Government retention policy struck down by hp high court

Not only it contradicts with the object and purpose of the principal act, but was also “manifestly arbitrary, irrational, illogical, capricious and unreasonable.”

Shimla: As a huge setback for the potential beneficiaries of the retention policy, the State High Court has struck down the amendment made in the HP Town and Country Planning Act through a bill that was passed by the Congress-led government in September 2016.

 The government had sought to legalise illegally raised buildings/structures on “as is, where is” basis by imposing a trivial fee of Rs. 500 to 1,000 per square feet. 

A division bench of the high court comprising Acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan said the insertion of Section 30-C in the amended Act violates the Article 14 of the Constitution, which provides for equality before the law.

It implies that the court is directing the government to go ahead with demolition of illegal structures as there was no legal hindrance to defend the action.    

Before striking down the amendment, the bench also held that not only it contradicts with the object and purpose of the principal act, but was also “manifestly arbitrary, irrational, illogical, capricious and unreasonable.”

“The science behind planning has given way to human greed and not the need, as the Minister wanted the House to believe,” said the Court  

The government had enacted the law from July 2017. However, the amendment was challenged by some petitioners appealing the court to consider it cheating with the honest people, who have followed all the rules and regulations regarding the construction.

The Court had stayed the implementation of it after the petitions filed by Abhimanyu Rathor, Raghav Goel and Hitanshu Jishtu.

The strongest argument given by then Minister of Urban Development, Sudhir Sharma, was that illegal buildings have mushroomed to an extent where mass demolition would leave people homeless and cause possible law and order situation.

The government said the people were not aware of the laws regarding the construction and raised buildings in wake of increasing demand for residential and commercial purposes amid rapid urbanization.

However, the Court made it a point that it was the duty of the government to create awareness among its people regarding the existing construction laws, and that it cannot use this argument as an excuse for its deliberate neglect towards the trend of illegal construction, which mushroomed right under its nose.    

On Friday, the Court finally dismissed the amendment under which the government was planning to regularize over 2,500 illegal structures in Shimla only.  

The government could not provide any solid facts about its explanation for introducing a retention policy, said the bench.

The Court pointed out that excessive construction will overburden the available resources and public amenities.

It said urban Shimla is clear evidence that the city did not develop in a planned and scientific manner. During the British-era Shimla was developed for a population of less than 20,000. However, currently, it is bearing a burden of over 2.5 lakh people.

The construction around the core area is so congested that a mild-intensity temblor could reduce the city into a tomb of rubble, the Court said. 

The destruction of ecology was another factor that the Court considered while striking down the retention policy.

Further, the Court has condemned the repeated efforts of the government to protect, patronize, and encourage the violators by creating such policies instead of taking action against them.

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Foundation Stone of Shiv Dham at Mandi Laid, Will Cost Rs. 150 Crore

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Shiv Dham Mandi model

Mandi: Shiv Dham construction at Mandi would cost over Rs. 150 crores to the State. It was informed during the foundation stone laying ceremony of the Shiv Dham Phase-I to be developed at Kangnidhar. The First Phase of this project would be completed at a cost of Rs. 40 crore, the government said.

The Shiv Dham would be developed in an area of 9.5 hectares. Shiv Dham would have replicas of twelve Jyotirlingam, a statue of Lord Shiva and Ganesh, Museum, Food Court, Herbal Garden, Nakshatra Vatika, Amphi-theatre, Orientation Centre, Car Parking etc. 

Further, it was informed that the foundation stone of multi-storey parking was laid near U-Block. An estimated amount of Rs. 100 crore would be spent on Public-Private Partnership mode, the government informed.

There is also a proposal to construct Rs. 27 crore Anaj Mandi (Grain Market) in Mandi, it was informed.

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New Farm Laws May Sound Death Knell for States like Himachal: 19 Organizations Said While Expressing Solidarity with Farmers Protest

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Himachal PRadesh supports farmers protest

Shimla-More support is pouring in for the farmers protest from Himachal Pradesh. Today, about 19 social organizations, women’s organizations, and farmer groups issued a joint public statement in solidarity with the three-month long farmer’s movement in the country.

The statement demands the repeal of three new farm laws introduced by the central government and calls for strengthening minimum support prices, extending it to crops, especially fruits and vegetables grown for the market in Himachal Pradesh. The statement is critical of the non-democratic manner in which the bills were passed in the parliament in a hurry in the middle of the Covid-led lockdown.

Highlighting the issues with each of the laws the organizations condemned the fact that these are designed to benefit the large corporate houses which would ultimately break the back of the farmers.

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020 has the potential of destroying the government-led APMC mandis, the organizations said.

The second law on contract farming puts the farmers in the dock by not just opening them to risks when getting into contracts with companies but also by closing the door of the courts for redressal for farmers, the statement said.

Also Read: Supporters in Himachal Displaying Solidarity With Protesting Farmers, Term Delhi Violence a Failed Conspiracy to Discredit Movement

Further, the statement said that the third law, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, as corporates are allowed to buy, store, sell produce minus regulation and accountability of any sort. It also seeks to restrict the powers of the government with respect to the production, supply, and distribution of certain key commodities. It is now evident that this will have a direct impact on the storage and distribution of subsidized grains by the government. This can turn out to be a direct threat to the food security of the country.

“For a state like Himachal Pradesh where a large section of the population depends heavily on food grains produced by the farmers of the plains and distributed at subsidized rates through the PDS these laws could prove to be a death knell,” the groups said in the statement.

Even for those who are able to procure from the market, the rising prices of commodities would be a direct hit on their pockets. Apart from the consumers, the farmers of the state will also suffer a setback. The absence of MSPs for fruits and off-season vegetables and lack of APMC markets here have already been a cause of concern for the cash croppers of the state, the statement read.

“In fact fruit and vegetable producer unions have been demanding extension of MSPs and better markets so that apple producers for example are not exploited by ‘middlemen’ and private vendors,” the organizations said.

In the Terai region where there is a surplus of maize produce, farmers are forced to sell it at Rs 1000 to 1200 whereas Rs 1850 is the MSP – but the markets are too far for them to access, they said.

The statement has also condemned the manner in which the state and central governments have tried to defame the peaceful protests through various tactics.

“The repression of those coming out in support of the farmer’s movement, be it activists or journalists reporting on the developments is utterly shameful and against the principles of democracy,” the statement said.

The groups said that they are also going to send this statement as a submission to the President of India demanding the repeal of the three laws.

Housing in makeshift camps, tens of thousands of farmers have been protesting on Delhi borders for nearly 100 days now. Though the protests had begun last year, the movement has seen massive growth in recent weeks as it receiving support from environmental activists, opposition parties, and even Western celebrities. Now, this farmer’s movement is spreading to the country’s northern and western farm belts.

The group of organizations that issued this statement include All India Democratic Women’s Association, HP (AIDWA), Bhumiheen Bhumi Adhikar Manch, HP, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, Citizens’ Rights Forum, Kangra, Ekal Nari Shakti Sangathan, HP, Ghumantu Pashupalak Mahasabha, Chamba, Himachal Kisan Sabha, Himalaya Niti Abhiyan, Himdhara Environment Research and Action Collective, Parvatiya Mahila Adhikar Manch, Right To Education Forum, HP, Samajik Arthik Samanta ke Liye Jan Abhiyan, Save Lahaul Spiti, Spiti Civil Society, Sirmaur Van Adhikar Manch, Sambhaavnaa Institute, SUTRA, Solan,  Tower Line Soshit Jagrukta Manch, Himachal Pradesh, and Zila Van Adhikar Samiti, Kinnaur.

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Ugly Brawl at HP Vidhan Sabha on Budget Session’s Opening Day, Five Congress Legislators Suspended for Rest of Session

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HP Vidhan Sabha

Shimla- The Budget Session 2021-22 of the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha witnessed an ugly scene on the opening day of the session. The situation was so tense that it led to a scuffle between BJP MLAs, Minister, and Congress legislator including the leader of opposition Mukesh Agnihotri. Congress alleged that its legislators were manhandled. Following this incident, five legislators including Agnihotri, Harsh Vardhan, Satpal Raizada, Vinay Kumar, and Sunder Singh Thakur were reportedly suspended for the rest of the session. Later, an FIR was also filed against the legislators at the Boileauganj Police Station.

It was shocking to see the Speaker, Deputy Speaker, and Chief Minister jumping into the brawl as it raised concerns about arrangement and management of security at the Vidhan Sabha.

The motion for their suspension was introduced and passed in the absence of opposition legislators.

What Happened at Vidhan Sabha

Mukesh Agnihotri disrupted the speech of the Governor saying that it includes no mention of crucial issues like price rise of petrol, diesel cooking gas, inflation, unemployment, corruption, back-door entries etc. Agnihotri said the speech was nothing more than a bundle of lies. Agnihotri claim that Dattatreya had skipped a major portion of his speech and had chosen to stay mum on these critical issues. Governor Bandaru Dattatraya, following din, did not read the entire speech and ended his speech within 15 minutes abruptly.

Subsequently, the proceedings were adjourned till 2 pm on Monday. 

When the Governor was leaving from Vidhan Sabha, Mukesh Agnihotri, along with other Congress legislators, blocked the road and did not let the Governor’s car leave the premises. Agnihotri was seen trying to lay on the bonnet of the car. Videos clearly showed legislator pushing each other and using a hostile tone. Minister Suresh Bhardwaj was seen falling down on the ground, while Deputy Speaker Hans Raj was seen pushing Congress legislators.

“It’s the first time in the history of Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha that the Governor did not read the entire speech and allegedly fled the Vidhan Sabha,” Agnihotri said. He said that Congress legislators only wanted to speak to the Governor.

Agnihotri alleged that they were pushed, dragged, and manhandled even though they were only raising slogans and did not even touch the Governor or the Chief Minister. 

Speaking on the suspension of five Congress legislators, Vikramaditya Singh, MLA of Shimla (Rural) questioned as to why only action was taken on the Congress legislators and not the Deputy Speaker, Hans Raj. In videos, he was seen pushing Congress legislators.

The Speaker, HP Vidhan Sabha, Vipin Parmar condemned the ruckus and blamed it on the Congress legislators. He alleged Congress of manhandling the Governor. He said that the incident has brought embarrassment to the State Assembly and the constitution of India. 

Later, when the session was resumed, referring to the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly, the Chief Minister said that Rule number 30 says,

“No member shall interrupt the Governor when he is addressing the House; or display any placard; or shout any slogans; make nay protect; or raise any point of order, debate; or discussion; or otherwise willfully disrupt the proceedings, immediately preceding or during, or immediately following the Governor’s Address under Article 175 (1) of the Constitution and the Governor’s Special Address under 176(1) of the Constitutions, and the commission of any of the above lapses shall be treated as contempt of the House and dealt with as such under these rules.”

The session is scheduled to conclude on March 20.

The chief minister will present the budget for 2021-22 in the Assembly on March 6, Speaker Vipin Parmar had said on Thursday.

 

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