KOLKATA, Dec 11: The Calcutta High Court on Monday imposed a cost of Rs one lakh on the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) and directed it to pay the amount before submitting a report on the number of water bodies within its jurisdiction and action taken on encroachments.
Directing that the report be accompanied with a receipt for payment of the amount to the state legal services authority, the court said petitions alleging illegal filling up of numerous water bodies in the KMC area would be heard again on December 19.
A division bench presided by Chief Justice TS Sivagnanam directed that the KMC can submit the report before it on the next hearing date clearly stating the number of water bodies within its jurisdiction and action taken where there were encroachments or illegal conversion of the water bodies.
“The report in the form of an affidavit will be accepted by this court subject to payment of Rs one lakh by the KMC to the West Bengal State Legal Services Authority,” the bench directed.
Observing that the KMC has not been able to ascertain the number of waterbodies within its jurisdiction, the court said the municipal body was dragging the matter for reasons best known to it.
Noting that truncated reports have been filed in previous occasions, the court said by virtue of an order of November 2022, a report was to be submitted by the KMC, but this has not been done.
The bench, also comprising Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya, refused to accept the KMC’s contention that action was initiated wherever there was a change of user or encroachment of water bodies, maintaining that from 2021 onwards, no concrete action has been reported to it by the civic body for evicting encroachers or demolishing the illegal structures.
A visibly annoyed Chief Justice told the KMC counsel, “If your officers think they can keep on hoodwinking everybody, tell them this is the last place they can do that.” The CJ said each of them will be prosecuted individually.
The court threatened to ask the KMC to disclose from the year 2020, the names of executive engineers, junior engineers, names of councillors and implead them as parties suo motu and summon them to court.
In his submission, the KMC counsel said process was on to update data of municipal wards from 101 to 141, which had been added to KMC area, and an interim report was being prepared.
The court said it is not stone age and everything should have been digitized.
The bench said KMC is bound to protect the water bodies.
The KMC counsel submitted that more than 1,000 FIRs have been registered in local police stations.
Holding that mere filing of FIRs does not help, the court said illegal constructions should have been demolished.
Maintaining that two petitions with regard to filling up of water bodies and illegal construction have been pending since 2014 and 2021, the court observed there is a clear collusion between officials of KMC and encroachers. (PTI)