Jammu and Kashmir High Court (HC) Tuesday disposed of the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed on Tosa Maidan after it received the compliance report from State government.
The bench comprising Justice M. K. Hanjura and Justice Ramalingam Sudhakar directed the Department of Environment and Ecology as well Forest Department to maintain the area properly by adhering to the guidelines and provisions of Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, as well as State Government.
On previous directions, the court had passed several orders to government following the pleas made by Lubna Sayed Qadri in the PIL.
Lubna had sought several directions for government regarding Tosa Maidan, a detailed survey to assess loss and damage to human life and the environment due to artillery military exercises, ‘individual compensation’ to the families of deceased and injured persons, owners of livestock, to find out ways to replenish the ecology of the area and take steps to save the environment, to provide the guidelines for firing ranges in accordance with the provisions contained in the Maneuvers Field Firing and Artillery Practice Act, 1938 and to de-notify the area with immediate effect.
The government in its report submitted that the Maneuvers, Field Firing and Artillery Practice Act, 1938 (“Act of 1938”) is aimed to provide facilities for military maneuvers and for field firing and artillery practice.
The report said, “The State Government may, by notification in the local Official Gazette, define any area as an area within which for a specified term of years the carrying out periodically of field firing and artillery practice may be authorized.”
Regarding the survey to access the damage, the Deputy Commissioner, Budgam has reported that he has ordered to find out exact number of deaths/ injuries to persons owing to such explosions.
Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir in report informed that the old records regarding payment of compensation are being perused to ascertain the amount of compensation paid to the victims. He has further informed that as far as the welfare of the specially disabled persons or victims of deceased in Tosa Maidan is concerned, the Social Welfare Department is running a number of schemes for the welfare of the specially disabled persons or victims as monthly pension to the widows/ old aged parents including those who may have been injured/ killed in Tosa Maidan Artillery firing/ mine/ IED blast.
It was also submitted that there is no formal report about the damage caused to the forest trees in the area because of the field firing exercise.
State Counsel, advocate BA Dar said, “The Government has handed over the property to the Tourism Development Authority, for creation of a Tourist spot who will take care of the forests, wildlife, fauna and flora of the area.”
The Green Tribunal stated that the Army has already withdrawn from the area and the said field is being used for tourism purposes. It was accordingly directed to ensure that the field is not only clear but is kept clean and free for any waste and environmentally and ecologically friendly and it should be made within a time frame which is already over.
The court directed that government shall comply with the directions of Green Tribunal.