Madras HC directs govt to remove solar fences in reserve forest area

Chennai: The Madras High Court directed the PWD and Forest department for allowing encroachers to put up solar fences in reserved forest and water spread area in Tamil Nadu’s Erode and Coimbatore districts and directed the forest department to take immediate steps to remove them.
A division bench comprising Justice M Sathyanarayanan and Justice G K Ilanthiraiyan passed the order on a public interest litigation filed by T Murugavel, seeking a direction to the authorities to clear encroachments and prevent encroachments in future in the reserved forest areas.

The matter relates to the lease of lands in the water spread area of the Bhavanisagar dam in Erode and Coimbatore districts to landless and poor farmers of the region by virtue of an order of the state Agriculture department dated October 18, 1967.

However, after the Forest Conservation Act came into force in 1980, forest lands could no longer be legally leased out as farming and cultivation area for non-forestry activities, the petitioner submitted.

He also alleged that the practise of farming on forest lands continued and agricultural activities in the said forest lands are carried out till date by encroachers, which is unlawful and illegal.The petitioner further submitted though the lands were leased out to poor farmers, later cultivation was carried out by wealthy farmers and mafias.He also alleged farmers had erected solar fences to restrict movement of animals.

The judges, after going through the status report filed by the Forest department, said, “It prima facie appears from the status report that both the Forest department as well as PWD are totally insensitive to the environment and ecological disaster happening right under their eyes and it is high time, it should be set right by effective monitoring and proper follow-up action.”

The bench directed both the Forest and public works departments to take immediate steps to remove the solar fence and said if the officials needed police help they can approach the superintendent of police, Erode.
The bench also suo motu impleaded the collector, superintendent of police and revenue officer of Erode district as respondents for effective implementation and follow-up action and posted the case to July 25 for further hearing.

It also directed the public works department to file a status report.

PWD Scam: Delhi HC granted bail to Kejriwal’s relative

New Delhi: A Delhi court today granted bail to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s relative Vinay Bansal in a case related to an alleged scam in the Public Works Department (PWD).

Additional Sessions Judge Kamini Lau granted relief to Bansal, a nephew of Kejriwal, on a personal bond of Rs two lakh with one surety of like amount, advocate B S Joon, appearing for the accused, said.

Bansal, the son of Kejriwal’s late brother-in-law Surender Bansal, was arrested on May 10 by the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB). Three FIRs, including one against a company run by the chief minister’s brother-in-law Surender Bansal, were registered by the ACB in this case on May 9 last year.

Three companies, including Renu Constructions (owned by Bansal, Kamal Singh and Pawan Kumar), were also named in the FIRs.

In a complaint, Rahul Sharma, founder of NGO Roads Anti-Corruption Organisation (RACO), had alleged financial irregularities in building a drain in north-west Delhi and accused Kejriwal and PWD Minister Satyendra Jain of misusing their office to grant the contracts to Bansal. However, they were not named in the FIR.

HC directed AAP to repair potholes after removal of speed breakers

New Delhi: the Delhi High Court has noted removal of speed breakers from roads often leaves behind potholes and sharp objects hazardous to vehicle tyres and directed the AAP government and the local bodies to coordinate and ensure necessary repairs are carried out.

The directions by a bench of justices S Ravindra Bhat and A.K Chawla came during the hearing of two PILs claiming existence of unauthorised speed breakers on Delhi roads and seeking their removal.

The Delhi government was also directed to display on its Public Works Department’s (PWD) site the certificates approving the “authorised” speed breakers which number 589 according to the government portal.

The court asked the secretary, PWD, to file an affidavit indicating the action taken by the department to remove unauthorised speed breakers in the national capital and warned that contempt proceedings would be initiated in case of failure to file the details.

With the directions, the bench listed the matter for further hearing on August 8.

The Delhi government, meanwhile, has told the court that if members of the general public come across a speed breaker which is likely to be hazardous or dangerous, they can give its details on the Facebook or WhatsApp account of the Delhi Police.

The police, in turn, will inform the PWD or the municipal corporation concerned which shall take action within two weeks of getting the information.

The PILs, filed by advocate Rajiv Singh and NGO, Guru Hanuman Society of India, have alleged that the city’s civic agencies have allowed construction of speed breakers without complying with the guidelines of the Indian Road Congress and the Unified Traffic and Transportation Infrastructure Centre.

Construction scam: No anticipatory bail to 4 PWD engineers

A Delhi court has denied anticipatory bail to four PWD officials, accused of conspiring with a contractor in an alleged construction scam involving over Rs 3 crore, saying the allegations against them are serious.

Special Judge Sanjay Khanagwal, who last week rejected the bail of contractor Vinay Bansal in the matter and sent him to jail, rejected the plea of the four Public Works Department engineers and said they did not deserve protection of the court.

The four PWD officials – executive engineer Praveen Kumar Kathureea, assistant engineer Suresh Pal and junior engineers Baljeet Singh and Ashutosh Singh — are named along with Bansal, son of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s late brother-in-law Surender Bansal, in an FIR lodged by the Delhi Police’s Anti-Corruption Branch.

“It is true being public servants, any arrest by the investigating officer may not only affect their personal but social life as well but the offence alleged against the applicants is of serious nature where money has been paid from the public exchequer without properly checking the bills and monitoring the quality of construction work,” the judge said in his order yesterday.

Being public servants, he added, they may not flee from justice but the nature and gravity of accusation does not entitle them to protection of the court.

“Therefore, the present applications for grant of anticipatory bail are dismissed,” the judge said.

The FIR was lodged in May last year on a complaint by Rahul Sharma, the founder of Roads Anti-Corruption Organisation (RACO), for offences under sections 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery), 471 (Using as genuine a forged document) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC and section 13 (1) (d) () of the Prevention of Corruption Act against all of them.

The complaint alleged that the four PWD engineers were supervising the construction work of a drain by Renu Constructions Company, owned by Bansal in partnership with his late father, and cleared the bills produced by the firm without proper verification.

It was alleged that the internal quality assurance team of PWD did not inspect the work despite the tender given to the contractor being 46 per cent below the estimated cost.

The accused officials, in their anticipatory bail plea, said they did not have any role in the awarding of tender and asserted that it was done through e-tendering in a fair manner.

They also claimed to have provided all necessary documents to the investigating officer since the lodging of the FIR last year.

The prosecutor, however, alleged that the accused PWD officials conspired with Renu Constructions and released a payment of Rs 3.10 crore without proper verification of the work done at the site and deliberately supported the contractor for undue pecuniary gains.

He also alleged that the accused did not provide correct information regarding Bansal’s association with the construction firm, of which he was a partner, because of which the investigation was delayed.

On May 17, the court refused to grant bail to Bansal, who was arrested by the Anti Corruption Branch, and sent him to judicial custody of 14 days.

The court had noted that the offences alleged against the accused were not only of cheating but also of preparation of forged and fabricated bill for the purpose of release of contract amount from the PWD.

Bansal has now approached the Delhi High Court for bail, which is pending.
RACO, an organisation which claims to monitor construction projects in the national capital, had alleged that a firm linked to Bansals was involved in financial irregularities in building a drainage system in north-west Delhi.

High Court seeks ACB response of contractor’s bail plea

The Delhi High Court today sought the response of Delhi’s Anti Corruption Branch (ACB) on the bail plea of a contractor, arrested in connection with a construction scam.

Justice S P Garg asked the probe agency, ACB, to file its response on the bail application of Vinay Bansal, who was arrested on May 10, and listed the matter for further hearing on May 31.

Bansal, the son of the late brother-in-law of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, is currently in judicial custody.

Bansal moved the high court after a trial court dismissed his bail application on May 17 on the ground that the allegations levelled against him were grave.

Senior advocate N Hariharan, appearing for Bansal, sought the relief claiming that his client was not responsible for the alleged offence and no offence was made out against him under the provision of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

He said the contract work was already complete and there was no complaint on the quality of work and added that the payment was made for the work done and no extra money was paid to the accused.

The counsel asked why the police wanted to keep Bansal in custody as the evidence was documentary in nature and have already been collected.

The trial court, while rejecting the bail plea, had accepted the submissions of the investigating officer that despite the registration of the FIR almost a year ago, the accused has not joined the investigation and not cooperated during custodial interrogation.

It had also noted that the offences alleged against the accused were not only of cheating but also of preparation of forged and fabricated bill for the purpose of release of contract amount from the Delhi government’s Public Works Department (PWD).

The court had noted that the PWD officials who were allegedly involved in the case were still being interrogated and investigation was still at a very crucial juncture.

According to an FIR lodged in May last year, Bansal and his father were working on a project of over Rs four crore. After receiving a payment of Rs three crore, they showed fake bills of Rs one crore for the procurement of steel from a company that was “non-existent”.

On being produced before the trial court on May 10, Bansal had fainted and collapsed in the courtroom that day and the magistrate had not remanded him to police custody as he was not medically fit.

Three FIRs, including one against a company run by Bansal, were registered by the ACB in this case on May 9 last year.

Three companies, including Renu Constructions (owned by the Bansals, Kamal Singh and Pawan Kumar), were named in the FIRs.

In a complaint, Rahul Sharma, the founder of Roads Anti-Corruption Organisation (RACO), had alleged that Kejriwal and PWD minister Satyendra Jain had misused their office for grant of contracts to Bansal. However, they were not named in the FIR.

RACO had alleged that a firm linked to Bansal was involved in financial irregularities in building a drainage system in north-west Delhi.

High Court: Make North Campus pavements disabled friendly in 4 weeks

The Delhi High Court today directed the AAP government, police and municipal corporation of north Delhi to take immediate action to make pavements in Delhi University’s North Campus disabled friendly within four weeks.

The high court issued the direction after noting that pavements on the campus were “clearly inaccessible” to people with disabilities, especially those who were visually impaired, because of obstacles such as traffic lights, police posts, trees and shops in the middle of footpaths.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar made the observation after examining photographs and a report filed by a non-profit organisation which works on health and education facilities for people with disabilities and the underprivileged.

The organisation had inspected 40 sites on the campus on the orders of the court to ascertain whether pavements were accessible to the disabled, especially the visually impaired.

After going through the photographs and the report, the court noted that a majority of the obstructions were “bang in the middle” of the tactile paths meant for the visually impaired, which could lead to injuries, and at some places hand rails were installed “randomly and aimlessly”.

The court said the obstructions showed the “disinterested attitude” of the authorities who were not bothered about matters such as tactile markings because these benefited only a small section of the population.

In its order, the bench directed the Delhi government’s Public Works Department (PWD), the corporation and the police to interact with the Chief Architect (Roads) of the New Delhi Municipal Council and come out with a plan to ensure the streets and pavements of North Campus were made disabled-friendly within four weeks.

It asked the non-profit organisation, Nipman Foundation, to re-inspect the sites after four weeks.

On payment to the Foundation for its work, the corporation cited reservations in disbursing Rs 10,000 to each of the eight member of the team which had carried out the inspection.

This led the court to remark that the corporation was “cribbing over Rs 80,000”.

The bench then directed the PWD, corporation and DU to pay Rs 30,000 each to the Foundation for its services, saying it was the responsibility of the three authorities to ensure the streets and pavements of North Campus were disabled friendly.

The directions and observations by the court came while hearing a PIL alleging that the tactile markings on pavements on the campus, especially outside prominent colleges such as the Hindu College, were obstructed by police posts, bus stops, trees, poles, holes, hoardings and signboards.

The petition sought that the campus be made more disabled friendly.

Delhi HC pulls up PWD for delay in its office building construction

Delhi HC pulls up PWD for delay in its office building construction
Delhi HC pulls up PWD for delay in its office building construction

Delhi High Court has rapped the public works department (PWD) of the city government for the “lack of progress” in construction of a new office building for the court, even three years after its foundation stone was laid.

Maintaining that the delay has led to increase in the cost of construction, the high court said that despite repeated adjournments granted by it, the timeline promised by PWD has not been followed in constructing the office building, to be known as S-Block, whose foundation was laid in May 2013.

The civic body has assured the court that the tender for the block would be completed by this month end and the bid finalisation process July 20, while the work would be allotted in the next seven days.

“We are pained to note that despite repeated adjournments, the time line promised by the PWD has not been followed…. Let the time line be placed on record on an affidavit by a responsible person.

“Any violation of the time line shall be viewed strictly as we may notice that foundation of this building was laid as far back as on May 2, 2013 and since then hardly any progress has been made. Cost of construction is increasing, besides the public is suffering on account of paucity of space and lack of infrastructure,” the court said in its order and listed the matter in July to monitor the progress in the work.

The order came on a plea filed in December last year seeking directions to Delhi government to provide sufficient funds for completion of construction of the new office building which is to be built on a 2.27 acres of land at Bapa Nagar area on the Zakir Hussain Marg here.

In January this year, Delhi government had told the court that 70 per cent of the construction amount has been sanctioned.

With regard to the remaining amount, the Centre on February 9 had informed the court that the normal assistance to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi has been enhanced to Rs 49.90 crores so that the same could be utilised for construction of the new building.

( Source – PTI )

Stop making mockery of courts: NGT warns authorities

The National Green Tribunal today took strong exception to the delay by some authorities in submitting their suggestions for construction of a multi-level parking facility in Lajpat Nagar here saying “you cannot play around with our orders”.

A bench headed by Justice Swatanter Kumar while hearing a petition related to vehicular pollution in Delhi said, “Air quality in Delhi is very bad. Do you even have the idea that deteriorating air quality will have an adverse impact on the health of foetuses, newborn babies in the next five years.

“Stop making mockery of the courts. We don’t pass any order on our whims. We have experts members with us. We have not passed any random judgement. We have taken three months time to pass this order. You cannot play around with our orders.”

The observations came after the authorities concerned informed the tribunal that were yet to convene a meeting of stakeholders in order to identify a site for construction of the multi-level parking in Lajpat Nagar.

“Have you seen the CPCB report which indicates the ambient air quality of Delhi. We still have to initiate action to curb air pollution while other countries like China have already started it. They have time to hold meetings but you don’t have. Your difficulties will never be solved because you don’t have the intention to do it,” the bench said.

The tribunal also came down heavily on Delhi government Municipal Corporation, Delhi Development Authority and Public Works Department (PWD) for failing to submit their recommendations on charging higher parking, registration fee and congestion charges in the capital besides a methodology for introducing pool car and providing incentives in this regard.

It also pulled up the Municipal Corporation for “sitting over” Rs 120 crore given to it by Lajpat Nagar shopkeepers in 2006 for construction of parking areas.

The tribunal issued notice to PWD Secretary and other authorities concerned to show cause why contempt proceedings shall not be initiated against them for not complying to its orders.

Delhi High Court: Woman hit by court signboard awarded Rs 19 lakh

A woman who became mentally disabled after a signboard at the Rohini district court fell on her head has been awarded a compensation of Rs 19 lakh by the Delhi High Court, which brushed aside claims of the defendants that the incident was an “act of God”.

 The victim, Harinder Kaur, was in the court premises pursuing a dispute against her estranged husband when the ‘District Court Rohini’ board fell on her from the rooftop, where it was loosely tied.

 Justice Vipin Sanghi, in an order released earlier this week, asked the Rohini district court, PWD and MCD to compensate Kaur for their negligence that left her with permanent, 70% mental disability.

 The Delhi high court also rapped the court administration and other civic agencies for ignoring municipal bylaws in putting up the board. “Facts speak for themselves and tell their own story of negligence, so as to establish a prima facie case against the respondents… The respondents have shifted liability from one to another,” Justice Sanghi noted, holding the authorities responsible for the injury.

 Kaur’s 65-year-old mother had approached Delhi High Court  for compensation through advocate Pankaj Batra, who first argued that the placement of the signboard violated laws. He also placed on record RTI replies that revealed that PWD had failed to take mandatory permission from the MCD commissioner before putting up the board. The petition said the board was installed above a passage in the complex and it fell on Kaur as she was walking into the complex.

 Citing Kaur’s medical reports, Batra alleged that the injuries had resulted in her being unable to sleep and left her totally disoriented with no possibility of being employed.

 After initially passing the blame amongst each other, the Rohini court administration, the PWD and the MCD attributed Kaur’s injury to an “act of God” in view of the inclement weather on the day of the incident. They argued that the board fell due to strong winds and rains, and not because of negligence on their part.

 But HC brushed aside the explanation saying squalls, duststorms and rain were a regular feature in Delhi. “Negligence is writ large on the part of the respondents. They can’t in the garb of inclement weather shirk from their responsibility of complying with provisions of law and taking reasonable precautions so as to keep away all persons from harm,” the court added.