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NGT Order On Demolition Of Hotel-cum-restaurant at Bus Stand in HP upheld by SC

Himachal Pradesh Bus Stand Management and Development Authority (HPBSM&DA) Vs The Central Empowered Committee Etc. & Ors

Civil Appeal Nos. 5231-32 of 2016

January 12, 2021.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court Justices Dr Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee upheld a judgment of the National Green Tribunal directing Himachal Pradesh authorities to demolish a hotel-cum-restaurant structure made at a bus stand at McLeod Ganj in Kangra district. The submissions of Himachal Pradesh Bus Stand Management and Development Authority, a state government body, that the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure in the Bus Stand Complex may be allowed to stand for their use was disagreed by the bench.

The construction of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure in the Bus Stand Complex was alleged to be illegal and to constitute a brazen violation of law. The permission which was granted by MOEF on 12 November 1997 was only for construction of a ‘parking place’ at McLeod Ganj and the permission granted on 1 March 2001 was granted for constructing a ‘bus stand’ in the same area. No permission was granted for the construction of a hotel or commercial structure. Thus, NGT’s finding on this count was accepted.

Since the appellant, on being granted permission to engage in construction for a specified purpose, unlawfully utilised that permission as the basis to construct a different structure which was not authorized it was observed as a disregard to the provisions of the Forest Act.

Following this, the Court observed that,

The report of the CEC is a serious indictment of the actions of the appellant. The CEC report indicates that: (i) the construction of the Hotel-cum Restaurant structure in Bus Stand Complex was illegal; (ii) the land was a reserved forest; (iii) there was no valid permission for diversion for the land for the construction of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure; (iv) Forest Act consent was taken only for the parking facility and the bus stand; (v) there has no valid approval from the TCP Department of the plans of the entire Bus Stand Complex; and (vi) the finally constructed Bus Stand Complex is not in conformity with the appellant’s own proposed plans in the RFP. (Para.43)

The Court also dealt with the concept of “Environmental rule of law”, it was held that, the environmental rule of law is founded on the need to understand the consequences of our actions going beyond local, state and national boundaries. The rise in the oceans threatens not just maritime communities. The rise in temperatures, dilution of glaciers and growing desertification have consequences which go beyond the communities and creatures whose habitats are threatened. They affect the future survival of the entire eco-system. The environmental rule of law attempts to weave an understanding of the connections in the natural environment which make the issue of survival a unified challenge which confronts human societies everywhere, the judgment said.

The provisions of the TCP Act required the appellant and second respondent to take prior permission from the TCP Department before changing the nature of the land through their construction. So, the non-conformity with this stipulation led to a violation of their environmental obligations. In this regard the District and the Sessions Judge observed the following:

In his report, the District and Sessions Judge has found that the Bus Stand Complex: (i) Has been constructed on forest land, in violation of the provisions of the Forest Act; (ii) Has been constructed without requisite permissions being obtained from the TCP Department; (iii) Does not conform to the plans prepared by third-party consultants hired by the appellant, which were submitted during the RFP; (iv) Has not been properly maintained, and is plagued by issues of seepage; and (v) Suffers from architectural defects due to which it is extremely difficult for buses to turn into the bus stand from the main road.(Para.30)

Referring to the findings of the District and Sessions Judge the Court observed the following:

The findings which were arrived at in NGT’s judgment were supported by the report submitted by the District and Sessions Judge. The report presents a striking analysis of the manner in which the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure was constructed in breach of statutory requirements and how this was made possible by the connivance of multiple state actors.(Para.44)

Thus from the above observations, the Hon’ble Supreme Court directed that the process of demolishing the Hotel-cum Restaurant structure in the Bus Stand Complex shall be commenced within two weeks from the date of the judgment and the structure shall be demolished by the second respondent within one month thereafter. And further, as directed by the NGT, the State of Himachal Pradesh and the second respondent can utilise the parking space and the bus stand in the Bus Stand Complex, after the demolition of the Hotel-cum-Restaurant structure. However, it shall not be used for any purpose other than parking of cars and buses, as the case may be.

The appeals were disposed accordingly.




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