States told to raze unauthorised structures

Holding that all types of constructions on gram sabha land across the country are illegal, the Supreme Court on Monday directed all the states to forthwith demolish the unauthorised structures on them and evict the encroachers.

Giving direction to the states, a Bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra asked chief secretaries of the states and union territories to comply with the orders and file periodical compliance reports to the effect.

“In many states, government orders have been issued by permitting allotment of gram sabha land to private persons and commercial enterprises on payment of money. In our opinion, all such government orders are illegal, and should be ignored,” the Bench said in a written order.

The apex court passed the direction while dismissing the appeal of Jaswant Singh, who challenged his eviction from a gram panchayat land in Rohar village of Punjab’s Patiala district.

Noting that gram sabha lands are meant for preserving water bodies, children’s play ground, community centres, etc, the apex court asked the states to forthwith demolish all unauthorised structures at these places constructed by politicians, goonda and influential elements and restore it to gram sabhas.

“In this connection, we wish to say that our ancestors were not fools. They knew that in certain years there may be drought or water shortage for some other reason and water was also required for cattle to drink and bath in etc. Hence, they built a pond attached to every village, a tank attached to every temple, etc. These were their traditional rain-water harvesting methods which served them for thousands of years.

“Over the last few decades, however, most of these ponds in our country have been filled with earth and built upon by greedy people, thus destroying their original character. This has contributed to water shortage in the country.

“Also, many ponds are auctioned off at throw-away prices to businessmen for fisheries in collusion with authorities/gram panchayat officials and even this money collected from these so-called auctions are not used for the common benefit of the villagers but misappropriated by certain individuals. The time has come when these malpractices must stop,” the Bench said.

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