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The Delhi High Court on Wednesday, 31st July, directed the Centre to initiate prosecution against the CPWD officers who have allowed encroachment to go on since 1977, saying that “prima facie connivance of CPWD officers was indicated”. Court slammed the incompetence of Urban Development Ministry and the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) for not being able to protect government land from encroachers, saying it has led to taxpayers money being paid to squatters as compensation for removing them.

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C. Hari Shankar expressed their disappointment over “wastage” of nearly Rs 83 crore of “taxpayers money” to remove squatters from government flats at Sanjay Basti.

The bench said, “You could not protect your own land and now you are paying nearly Rs 83 crore to remove encroachers. It is not a small amount. This is how taxpayers money is being used? Your officers closed their eyes to the encroachment. Why should the amount be not deducted from their salary?”

Court has directed the ministry to file an affidavit indicating initiation of prosecution against erring officers before the next date of hearing on August 30.

The court was hearing a plea which has claimed that the encroached flats at Sanjay Basti in north-east Delhi were initially constructed for Class 4 government employees, but in 1977 they were to be demolished as they were in a dilapidated state.

However, the contractor who was given the work of demolishing them, set up shop there and allowed squatters to reside in the flats which were also rebuilt, the petition has said.

“What if someone comes and lives in your (CPWD) director’s bungalow? You would immediately throw their belongings on the road. But since it is class 4 employees accommodation, it is allowed to be used by encroachers. This is too much. The petitioner is right, it is going on with your (CPWD) connivance. Are the encroachers paying rent to your department,” the court remarked.

The bench further said that had the dilapidated flats collapsed, the ministry would have been paying much more than Rs 83 crore as compensation to the victims.

It also told the CPWD and the ministry, represented by Standing Counsel Ripudaman Bhardwaj and Advocate T P Singh, that a status report filed by them stated that the flats were sealed in December 2017. “So how did the encroachers come there,” the court asked.

In response, counsel Bhardwaj said the seals were broken by the squatters, to which the bench said, “Then why pay compensation of Rs 83 crore?

“You withhold small increments to your employees, but you are willing to pay such huge amounts to encroachers. You should pay the Rs 83 crore to your class 4 employees,” the court said and added that the CPWD officials should “start doing their work or go home”.

–India Legal Bureau

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