Supreme Court sets aside NGT's order on Shimla Development Plan [11.1.2024] [See State of Himachal Pradesh and Others Vs. Yogendera Mohan Sengupta and Another, 2024 Legal Eagle 29]

The Supreme Court on Thursday set aside a 2017 order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), banning construction activities in the green and core areas of Shimla.

The NGT, in its order, banned the construction of buildings taller than two and a half storeys in the planning area.

However, an SC division bench of Justices BR Gavai, PK Mishra and Sandeep Mehta set aside the order on Thursday.

Speaking to reporters, the advocate general, who appeared for the state government in the apex court, welcomed the division bench ruling saying that it would lift all impediments to the sustainable development of Shimla.

"The Shimla Development Plan 2041 was formulated for sustainable development. This plan was denounced by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the state government challenged it in the Supreme Court. Today, the Supreme Court set aside the NGT order while directing the state government to constitute a developed plan for the city. The division bench ruled that the NGT has no right to direct the state to formulate a plan as per their directions," Advocate General Anup Kumar Rattan told reporters on Thursday.

"The apex court ruled that NGT has no powers and previews to suggest and direct the state government (in making a development plan). The state government has legislative powers, which it delagates to the Town and Country Planning Department. The ruling has come as a relief for the people of Shimla. If the NGT order was implemented, the lower and middle bazaars would all have been razed. Now, the Supreme Court has given its nod of approval to the Shimla development plan. The authorities concerned would draw up maps and building plans for the sustainable development of the city," the AG added.

Weighing in on the verdict, the Urban Development Minister in the erstwhile BJP government, Suresh Bhardwaj, claimed the Shimla Development Plan of the previous Jai Ram Thakur-led regime has received the green signal from the apex court.

Apart from curbs on raising buildings taller than two and a half storeys, the NGT had also enforced a blanket ban on building construction in Shimla's Core and Green areas as well.

As the Supreme Court set aside the NGT curbs on Thursday, Bhardwaj said the people of Shimla were desperately counting on the apex court to rule in favour of sustainable development of the city.

Saying the Supreme Court ruling was in 'public interest', the BJP leader said the Jai Ram Thakur-led government had filed a plea in the top court, challenging the NGT curbs.

The apex court took up a special leave petition (SLP) filed by the Himachal government in 2018-19, on a complaint by Yogendra Mohan Sen, challenging the NGT order in 2017, banning construction activities in the Shimla planning area.

"The Shimla development plan was the BJP's vision for the development of the city. The plan was devised after consulting several experts. However, the NGT issued an order in 2017, putting curbs on the construction of buildings taller than two and a half storeys, and later junked the Shimla Development Plan altogether. It was first such development plan for the city that we came with, specifying the city's core, non-core, green and other areas of Shimla. The building guidelines for Shimla were divided between the core and non-core areas as was classified under the plan," the former Urban Development Minister told ANI.

"The proposed building bye-laws for the core area recommended 2 floors, a habitable attic and parking. For the non-core areas, 3 floors, a habitable attic and parking were suggested. The guidelines also provided for more relaxations in terms of building height, number of floors, and land use for construction along the main roads. I welcome the Supreme Court order, as it would help in the sustainable development of the city," he added.

12 Jan 2024