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HC bans construction work at Vaishno Devi base camp

Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Sunday put a blanket ban on constructions in and around the holy town of Katra, the base camp for the pilgrimage to the cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, after noting that illegal constructions in the area was having an adverse impact on its environment.

A division bench comprising chief justice MM Kumar and Justice Hasnain Massodi passed the above orders on a PIL seeking a ban on illegal constructions.

‘A blanket order would be warranted in order to control the situation so that (the government) may identify the illegal as well as legal construction’, the bench said.

‘Till next date of hearing, all construction activities in Municipal area, Katra, including around the Railway station, by all and sundry are stopped,’ stated the order passed on Thursday.

The Katra base camp caters to over one crore pilgrims who throng the cave shrine annually.

The court further directed senior officials of police, including the Jammu IGP and the SSP and SP, Katra, to ensure compliance with the order.

‘If any information regarding violation of this order is received then the officers shall be responsible,’ the court said. The court noted that its earlier order in the matter, issued on 30 July 2013, had not been complied with while an application was filed by the government seeking an extension of two weeks to carry out the directions.

On 30 July 2013, Division Bench issued directions to Divisional Commissioner Jammu and deputy commissioner Reasi to personally visit the spot and verify the facts regarding unauthorised constructions in... Katra.

‘They may also join the CEO of Katra Development Authority (KDA) for an on-the-spot inspection,’ the court said.

In their plea for extension, the divisional commissioner and other officers could not undertake the visit to Katra due to disturbances and curfew in Kishtwar.

The court further said that the way the issue of illegal constructions at Katra had been dealt with at the level of the KDA CEO and others had left much to be desired.

The question of illegal constructions in violation of the master plan is pending with the KDA CEO since 2011, the court noted.

Illegal construction, meanwhile, was continuing unabated, it added, saying it had been informed that illegal structures were raised during night and on holidays in connivance with ‘independent officers’.
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