In what is being described as an unprecendented step, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court Thursday summoned Uttar Pradesh Chief Secretary Anoop Misra to make personal appearance in a PIL alleging large-scale grabbing of land earmarked and used as the Indian Army firing range in Lucknow.
Besides the chief secretary, a bench headed by senior judge Justice Pradeep Kant has directed the state principal housing secretary Ravindra Singh, housing commissioner P.V. Jagmohan, Lucknow Development Authority (LDA) vice chairman Rajiv Agrawal as well as senior local military officials to appear before the court on Dec 14 and explain how a private developer was allowed to blatantly carry on with acquisition and occupation of land belonging to the firing range (in Arjunganj village) for nearly a century.
The court also took serious note of the mushrooming illegal construction on the said land, right under the nose of the administration, when it was widely known that the entire area was notified as a firing range and any human habitation would be exposed to life threatening perils there.
What irked the court even more was that its earlier interim order to stay the construction activity way back in July last was being openly flouted.
Significantly, the housing and town planning authorities turned a blind eye to the construction even after the local district magistrate had submitted a formal report confirming that the construction was grossly unlawful.
A powerful ruling party politician and a now ousted minister in the Mayawati cabinet were alleged to be backing the whole project.
Union government counsel Alok Mathur compared the illegal constructrion to threat to national security as the firing range was used not only by the Indian Army but also by other para-military forces for training purposes.
Counsel Prashant Chandra appearing for the respondents failed to put up any strong defence. He simply sought to plead that even as government agencies had been going ahead with their construction in the area, his client, a private developer, was being targetted.
As state standing counsel Shobhit Shukla informed the court that all construction activity had been brought to a standstill, the senior judge ordered personal appearance of the chief secretary and other top officials on Dec 14.