Top state bureaucrat failed to set up lake protection committees to check encroachment, pollution and destruction of lakes in the state
In a significant move, a division bench of the Karnataka High Court on August 29 issued a contempt notice on the state’s chief secretary, S V Ranganath, for not complying with the directions of the court to constitute lake protection committees in Karnataka.
The court was considering a civil contempt petition filed by Environment Support Group, a Bengaluru-based environment organisation, against the state government for its failure to comply with the court order in a case related to destruction of lakes in the state.
A division bench of the Karnataka High Court, in its final directions in April last year on a public interest litigation filed by ESG in 2008, had directed the state government and local bodies to take up various measures to ensure that District Lake Protection Committees and State Level Apex (Appellate) Lake Protection Committee were set up immediately so that public at large would be able to seek appropriate remedies to stop widespread encroachment, pollution and destruction of lakes in Karnataka.
“Such a direction was also issued to ensure the public did not have to approach courts and that necessary relief could be secured locally and immediately,” points out Leo Saldanha of ESG.
The Court had affirmed that the detailed guidelines for "Preservation of Lakes in the City of Bangalore" prepared by the court- appointed committee chaired by Justice N K Patil would be binding for survey, protection, rehabilitation and wise use of all lakes and canals across Karnataka. To ensure that their orders were obeyed, and with due urgency, a specific direction was issued to the chief secretary, stating that he “...is directed to comply with the said directions by passing necessary order in accordance with law for ensuring proper preservation, maintenance and development of lakes.”
“However, despite repeated reminders, the chief secretary failed to comply with the high court order to constitute lake protection committees,” points out Saldanha. Subsequently, a legal notice was served in May 2013 by ESG, urging the chief secretary to comply with the high court directions. When even the legal notice went unheeded, ESG started contempt proceedings. The high court has asked the chief secretary to give reasons for ignoring the court’s directions.
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