Himachal Pradesh High Court: Taking suo motu cognizance of the news item in the Hindi daily ‘Amar Ujala’ in its edition dated 30.10. 2014 which highlighted an incident where a fire brigade took more than 1 hour 15 minutes to cover the distance from one corner of the Lower Bazar to the other corner due to the illegal encroachments by unscrupulous encroachers, the division bench of Rajiv Sharma and Tarlok Singh Chauhan, JJ issued stringent directions to be applied to the entire Municipal area of Shimla.

The Court also stressed on the fact that majority of Himachal Pradesh falls in Seismic Zone-V and the remaining in region-IV and yet this fact has failed to shake the authorities in Shimla out of their slumber and if any such calamity occurs, the quake-prone area cannot avert a Himalayan tragedy of the kind that has killed thousands and caused massive destruction in Nepal and asked the authorities to keep a check on illegal constructions. The Court drew further attention to the fact that after years of haphazard development and environmental degradation-destroying activities, both by the Municipal Corporation and the residents, there is a ray of hope in the prospects of Shimla getting the “UNESCO World Heritage Site Tag” but can the city get the status in the current scenario where the encroachers are encroaching without any impunity.

Expressing concern and disappointment over the fact that even after repeated directions passed by this Court more than three decades back in Yoginder Lal Sharma v. Municipal Corporation, Shimla 1983 (12) ILR 457 and thereafter in Neelam Sharma’s case, the same has not had the desired effect upon the encroachers, the Court directed that (i) no shopkeeper/hawker throughout Shimla irrespective of its locality would be permitted to display his goods on the drains and the sides of the streets, (ii) no shop will be permitted to have overhanging projections including collapseable tarpaulin, (iii) no unauthorized hawkers shall be permitted to sit outside a shop by encroaching upon the public drain or sell their goods in any bazaar in Municipal area of Shimla (iv) the Municipal Corporation shall strictly implement the provisions of Section 227 of the Himachal Pradesh Municipal Corporation Act, 1994 and also relevant byelaws and in case of first three violations, fine as envisaged under the aforesaid provisions shall be levied but, in case of fourth default, the licence to run the shop shall be suspended for 1 month and in case of another default for another 6 months and in case o further default, then his licence shall be permanently revoked (v) till the building byelaws are not framed, the Municipal Corporation will be authorized to have the electricity and water connections of the illegal structures disconnected and any instruction issued on behalf of the Corporation to the HPSEBL or the IPH will be imperative and mandatory (vi) the Chief Fire Officer shall carry out an unscheduled and unannounced mock-drill every month where the fire brigade shall be made to pass through the entire length and breadth of the Lower Bazar and any hindrance in its movement shall be dismantled and demolished there and then at the spot. Certain other important directions were also issued by the Court. Court on its own motion v. State of H.P., 2015 SCC OnLine HP 1173, decided on 22.05.2015

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