On 14 July, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) took note of a complaint against an alleged illegal construction of a six-storey commercial complex close to the commercial hub of Lal Chowk, amid the COVID-19 lockdown in Srinagar city.
The complaint, which was filed by a shopkeeper Shabir Gojwari, alleged that the commercial complex named Ali Mohammad Baba and Sons is situated in Hari Singh High Street in the Amira Kadal area had added two more floors to their pre-existing four-storeyed structure, taking advantage of the COVID-19 lockdown.
On 14 July, the office of the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir had also asked the SMC to file the report in two days.
Mr. Gojwari further alleged that the owners of the complex have “hired around thirty laborers for the construction work of the fifth and sixth floor” of the commercial complex during the COVID-19 pandemic, “putting the lives of people at risk”.
“They even dug a tube well on the public footpath,” he told The Kashmir Walla. “None of the authorities stopped them from doing this illegal construction.”
However, Aadil Baba, the son of the owner Ali Mohammad Baba, called such allegations baseless. “We have all the proof and permissions for the construction,” he told The Kashmir Walla. “It is not like we can construct illegally on the Hari Singh High Street.”
To this, Mr. Gojwari said, he asked Mr. Baba to show the permission. “His son told me that he has given a huge amount to the public prosecutor, SMC (Srinagar Municipal Corporation) department and police. Do whatever you want to, this tube well will stay here only.”
The complaint against the construction in the complex has been registered under Indian Penal Code’s (IPC) section 188–disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant– 270–malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life–336–endangering life of others. The complaint also alleges that a public servant was obstructed while in discharge of public functions. And in section 51 (b) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 with section 120-B, punishment of criminal conspiracy, of the IPC, 1860.
Mr. Gojwari said that he had gotten a stay order on the already constructed tubewell on the public footpath as well as the illegal addition of two more floors to the commercial complex. “There is even a stay on it currently but they are still doing the construction,” he alleged, adding that repeated requests to stop the construction work were dismissed by the owners of the complex.
Mr. Gojwari has accused the ward officer Mohammad Amin of inaction, alleging that he “saw the illegal construction going on but didn’t do anything about that”. Mr. Gojwari said that Mr. Amin had “yesterday, told me that he will make their construction stop today”.
Mr. Amin, however, said that the tube-well was already in-place and the party accused by Mr. Gojwai were simply repairing it. “The tiles that are broken and Ali Mohammad Baba and sons have brought the permission from Roads and Buildings (R&B), saying that they will bear all the expenses of damage,” he said, adding that construction work was stopped after the receipt of complaint. “They have commercial permission and whatever the violation is there, we have filed a case against that. They have just repaired a bit in lockdown and we are looking into the matter,” he said.
Additional reporting by Gafira Qadir.