The Himachal Pradesh High Court has recently directed the Chief Secretary of Himachal Pradesh to examine an issue raised in a PIL on the construction of parking slot in consultation with other stakeholders and take appropriate decision as expeditiously as possible, preferably within four months.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Sabina disposed the PIL filed by Ashok Kumar with the following main prayer:-
“(i) To direct the respondents to construct the car parking near New OPD Block IGMC Shimla near Nallah and further respondents are directed to take appropriate steps to acquire the private land measuring 1053.59 square meters is consisting of Khasra No. 1551/3, 591/2 and 591/4.”
Jagdish Thakur, the counsel for the petitioner, submitted that the State Government has constructed a new OPD Block in Lakkar Bazar, Sanjauli Road, below the existing building of the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital, Shimla (IGMC) in order to ease the congestion due to lack of space in the old building and also to give better medical facility to outpatients.
He further submitted that in 2016-17, the State Government had decided to construct the car parking near the New OPD Block, IGMC Shimla. The Municipal Corporation, Shimla was entrusted with the work of construction of the car parking near the New OPD building at IGMC Nallah. Thereafter, the Chief Minister had directed the car parking shall be constructed by the HP PWD Department. Site plan was prepared and drawing was issued by the office of the Chief Architect HP PWD, Shimla, which was duly checked and approved by the competent Authority.
It is submitted that the total area measuring about 4892.99 square meters was identified for construction of car parking, out of which, land measuring 1053.59 square meters situated in Khasra Nos. 1551/3, 591/2 and 591/4 is owned and possessed by a private person. The matter was taken up in its 157th meeting by Himachal Pradesh Infrastructure Development Board held on 05.06.2018.
It was decided to develop a car parking complex near New OPD IGMC, Shimla under public-private partnership (PPP), Mode and was resolved that Municipal Corporation, Shimla shall be Concessioning Authority for the same which shall ensure that the proposed land of the parking project is made free from all encumbrances. The owner of the said private land was contacted by the Joint Commissioner, Municipal Corporation, Shimla.
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Thereafter, the Collector, District Shimla, vide his letter dated 12.02.2019 intimated the same to the Principal, IGMC, Shimla and requested that for the process of acquisition of the land, the Acquisition Collector is to be appointed at the Government level, for which the matter is to be taken up with the acquiring department, i.e. Health Department. The Principal, IGMC, Shimla, vide his letter dated 7th March, 2019, apprised the Additional Chief Secretary (Health) to the Government of Himachal Pradesh about the same and requested that District Land Acquisition Officer or Sub Divisional Magistrate (Urban), Shimla may be appointed as Land Acquisition Collector for acquisition of the land in question.
Thereafter, a meeting was convened under the chairmanship of the Additional Chief Secretary (Health) to the Government of Himachal Pradesh on 2nd April, 2019 to discuss the issue regarding the parking slot near New OPD Building, IGMC Shimla and the action taken in respect of the meeting held on 10th May, 2018. Despite all this exercise done so far, no steps have been taken either to initiate the process of construction of the parking slot on the unencumbered portion of the land or to acquire the private land, which would be necessary to have access to the remaining part of the land, where the parking slot is proposed to be constructed, the petitioner alleged.
While considering the PIL, the Court held that whether or not a particular piece of land has to be acquired is eminent domain of the State, for which a conscious decision has to be taken by the State on its own.
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The Court observed that it is for the State to evaluate whether the parking slot is required to be constructed in the public interest and decide whether a certain portion of private land is required to be acquired and for that, what steps are required to be taken. No writ of mandamus can be issued for that purpose.
“Therefore, instead of entertaining this writ petition, we direct the Chief Secretary to the Government of Himachal Pradesh, to examine the issue at his own level in consultation with the other stakeholders and take appropriate decision with regard to construction of the parking lot or otherwise, as expeditiously as possible, preferably within a period of four months, the order reads.