On Tuesday last week, the Patna High Court ordered the demolition of a four-storey building being built adjacent to the High Court ‘Centenary Building’. On March 1, a constitution bench comprising of Justice Ashwani Kumar Singh, Justice Vikash Jain, Justice Ahsanuddin Amanullah, Justice Rajendra Kumar Mishra and Justice Chakradhari Sharan Singh took suo motu cognizance of the matter.
In its 4:1 judgement, the court stated that the construction was illegal as per Bihar Building Bylaws, 2014. The court directed the Patna Municipal Corporation to demolish the building if the construction department fails to do so within the period given by the court.
Inquiry commission to investigate
The court has directed the state government to form an inquiry commission to investigate and fix the responsibility of the government officials who permitted the illegal construction of the building. Reports suggest that Rs.14 crores of the public money would go to waste. The Bihar state building construction corporation constructed the building for Bihar State Sunni Waqf Board. It was supposed to be used as a guest house or ‘musafirkhana’.
Court questioned the government over the construction
The High Court also questioned the government over hurried construction during the Covid time as no construction work was taking place anywhere else in the state.
The building was deemed illegal by three out of five judges
Rajendra Narain, Senior Counsel, was appointed by the court as its amicus curiae. Lalit Kishore, Advocate General, represented the state. Senior counsels PK Shahi, Tej Bahadur and Mrigank Mauli, represented the Waqf board in the court. Prasoon Sinha represented the municipal corporation. Khursheed Alam appeared in person for the managing committee of the Waqf estate.
AG Kishore had taken the stand during the hearing that the building was irregular and not illegal. He added that only the part above 10 meters of height was irregular, and the rest of the building could be left alone. However, his arguments were rejected in the lead judgement.
The court observed that the building was in complete violation of Bylaw 21 that states no building should be constructed with a height over 10 meters within 200 meters radius boundary of the governor’s house, the state secretariat, the legislative assembly, the high court and other high-security buildings. The building was also in violation of Bylaw 8(1)(A) that bars the construction of buildings without permission around locations as mentioned.
The court also observed that the Waqf board did not have any authority to take up the property of Waqf estate for constructing musafirkhana as per the Central Waqf Act, 1993 and Bihar Waqf Act, 1947. During the hearing, the amicus raised objection over the fact the land on which the building was constructed had been used as a graveyard for a long time.
Three judges, Ashwani Kumar Singh, Justice Vikash Jain and Rajendra Kumar Mishra, agreed on the lead judgement by Justice Jain to completely level the construction and deemed it as an illegally constructed building that violates the bylaws. Justice Chakradhari Singh directed the state government in order to set up an inquiry commission. Justice Amanullah, however, was against the demolition and deemed the construction as irregular and not illegal.