Shifting capital to Srinagar during COVID-19: J&K HC seeks details from Administration on past years' expenditure
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Shifting capital to Srinagar during COVID-19: J&K HC seeks details from Administration on past years' expenditure

Bar & Bench

The Jammu & Kashmir High Court has directed J&K Administration to provide details, such as the financial implications, logistical arrangements etc, with regard to the impending Darbar Move which is to take place in the last week of April 2019/1st week of May 2020. (Azra Usmail vs UT of J&K)

A Division Bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal sought the details in order to assess the implications of the Darbar Move during the COVID-19 pandemic in the valley.

The Court was hearing a petition expressing a deep concern with regard to advisability of the Darbar Move i.e. the shifting the capital from Jammu to Srinagar during the pandemic. It was submitted that the move which entails movement of thousands of Government personnel at all levels should be postponed due to COVID-19.

The Petitioner contended that the move would not only violate the requirement of social distancing but also result in a huge expense which is completely unwarranted in the present time.

It was also pointed out that the security personnel who are critically needed for COVID-19 functions and deployments, would also be withdrawn for providing security to the Government personnel, securing VIPs and important persons who would all shift to Srinagar.

In view of the above, the Court opined,

In order to enable a considered view to be taken, it is necessary to have firm information with regard to the implications of the Darbar Move in these times; its impact on the necessary resources at this stage; on the personnel involved (positions and number); financial implications; arrangements (transport, accommodation, security etc) involved and other relevant matters. Past experience would lend guidance to our consideration.
J&K High Court

The Hign Court has, inter alia, sought the following details from the J&K Administration:

- Government officials at all levels (position/category-wise) who were involved in the four Darbar Moves in the year 2018 and 2019.

- Move-wise categories/ heads, figures of the finances incurred on the four Darbar Moves for the years 2018 and 2019.

- Move-wise total financial expenditure on these counts in the four Moves for the years 2018, 2019.

The Court also directed the Director General of Police, J&K to provide the details of the police personnel who were involved in providing security cover to personnel involved in the Darbar Moves in 2018 as well as 2019, along with the number of police personnel who have been deployed on COVID-19 related issues and duties in Srinagar.

Officiating Registrar General has also been asked to place a report on relevant aspects of the Darbar Move so far as they concern the court before the next date of hearing.

Apart from the issue of Darbar move, the Court also heard concerns pertaining to other COVID-19 related issues.

It, inter alia, sought report from the authorties on mechanism to address the needs of healthcare personnel, procurement of more safety equipment for healthcare professionals, creation of isolation wards, sample collection, processing etc, lack of efficient internet facility in the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

The Court also took up the issue of the indiscriminate felling of poplar trees due to its pollen and constituted a Committee to examine all aspects relating to the matter including the impact of the pollen and fluff from the poplar trees, the desirability of felling poplar trees.

It also stayed any prior order directing felling of poplar trees till the proceedings of the Committee are completed.

Report was also sought in an application concerning the shortage of essential commodities on account of black-marketing and hoarding done by the shop-keepers under the garb of current lockdown as also unwarranted sealing of premises selling essential commodities.

The Petitioner before the High Court were represented by Advocates Faisal Qadri, Shah Faisal, Shafqat Nazir, Altaf Naik, Altaf Haqani, Ateeb Kanth, Taha Khalil, Hanan Momin.

J&K Admin was represented by Additional Advocate General Shah Amir.

Advocate Monika Kohli appeared as Amicus.

Read the Order:

WP(C) PIL no. 42020_10042020.pdf
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