HC advises Maruti to vacate land in restricted IAF zone

Courtesy: Ajay Sural TNN

Submitted by – Mayank Dureja

The Punjab and Haryana high court has advised public sector automobile giant Maruti Suzuki India Limited (MSIL) to vacate a part of its property that falls in the 300-metre restricted zone around the Air Force stationin Gurgaon.

These oral observationscame from a division bench headed by Justice S S Saron while hearing the ongoing issue pertaining to removal of encroachments around Air Force stations of Gurgaon and Faridabad. On the suggestion of HC, the counsel appearing for Maruti sought time from the court to seek instructions from the company in this regard.

When the matter came up for hearing before the bench on May 23, the counsel for Maruti sought permission to implead the company as party in the case. The counsel said the company is a central government-registered entity and should be heard by the court as the Maruti property falls within the 900 metre as well as the reduced limit of 300-metre restricted zone around the depot.

After going through the property map, the bench orally observed that only the delivery area of the company’s production unit falls within the reduced restricted zone of 300 m, and the company can easily vacate it.

Hearing this, the counsel for Maruti told the court that he would be able to make any submission in this regard only after seeking instructions from the company.

During hearing of the case, the bench also asked additional solicitor general of India, Satya Pal Jain, to clarifiy the powers of district magistrates delegated by the Centre for enforcement of provisions of Works of Defence Act, 1903, to remove encroachments in a 100-metre radius of the ammunition depot in Faridabad and 300 m from that in Gurgaon.

 The matter will come up for hearing on June 1. The matter reached the HC in 2010 through a public interest litigation seeking removal of constructions from the 100-metre area around the Air Force station, Dabua, in Faridabad, and construction within 900 m around the Air Force ammunition depot, Gurgaon.
Following court intervention, the central government, in September 2015, told the HC that it had been decided to decrease the restricted zone around the ammunition depot of Indian Air Force, Gurgaon, from 900 m to 300 m. The Centre, however, made it clear that the area of restricted zone around Air Force station, Faridabad, remains 100 metre.



High court notice to Centre, Haryana on plea to quash Works of Defence Act

Courtesy : TNN – Ajay Sura

The Punjab and Haryana high court on Friday issued notice to the ministry of defence (MOD) and the Haryana government on a plea to quash the Works of Defence Act 1903 that restricts construction around defence establishments.

Bench headed by Justice Rajesh Bindal of the HC has issued the notice while hearing a petition filed by Vikram Singh, a resident of Sheetla Mata road Gurgaon.

Petitioner, who has a house within the restricted zone of Air Force station Gurgaon, has also sought directions not to displace him or demolish his house.

The matter would now come up for hearing on September 19 for further hearing.

Petitioner informed that in March 2016, the high court had directed the deputy commissioners (DCs) of Gurgaon and Faridabad to issue notices against those who have made constructions within 300 metres around the IAF ammunition depot Gurgaon and 100 metres around the air forces station in Faridabad. The DCs had been asked to issue notices asking the encroachers to remove constructions to avoid any action from the administration.

According to petitioner after reading the media reports about the demolition of his house, he is under fear of losing his living abode and only source of livelihood based on his ancestral land since immemorial time.

 “The sword/threat of demolition of the home situated on the ancestral land is in violation of human rights and various international covenants like Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Convention of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Resolution No. 1993/77 adopted by Commission of Human Rights titled ‘Forced Evictions and Human Rights’,” said Pradeep Rapria, counsel for the petitioner.
Rapria further stated that government rehabilitate the slum dwellers having constructed their houses on the public land, but the people like petitioner who had constructed their houses on their ancestral land cannot be uprooted at the altar of Works of Defence Act the old draconian law of the year 1903, without ensuring respectable rehabilitation of people.
He further submitted that due to significant changes in the ground realities and enactment of subsequent statutes, after passage more than 100 years of passing of the Works of Defence Act, 1903, the antique law has lost its relevance and now the present ground reality is that without ruining the lives more than 25 lakhs citizens’ residing in the vicinity of the Air Force Depot, Gurgaon.

While making Maruti Suzuki India Limited and Pasco Automobiles as respondents along with the MOD, the petitioner pleaded before the court that the buildings of these companies are also situated within the restricted zone of the Air Force depot, nobody is touching them, while the government is bent-upon to demolish the houses of people having constructed their ancestral land.

Squatters, location trigger safety worry on IAF ammunition depot


Residents living in colonies surrounding the Indian Air Force ammunition depot in Gurgaon are worried a fire, like the one in the Army depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra on Monday night, could wreak far more havoc here, as it is located in the middle of the city, and its restricted zone has been heavily encroached.

As news of the Maharashtra fire spread, local residents complained it will take a tragedy for the government to take action. Ministers, though, claimed they are working towards a solution. Late on Monday, a fire at the Army ammunition depot in Pulgaon, Maharashtra, killed at least two Army officers and 14 personnel, and left 17 others injured.

Vikas Sharma, who lives in the neighbouring Sheetla Colony, said, “The entire area surrounding the ammunition depot is thickly populated,” adding, “Habitation begins right at the depot’s boundary wall. People have been living here for decades. The government did nothing to stop these houses from being built here. We have been asking the government and courts to relocate this depot, but to no avail so far. Perhaps they will act when someone gets killed in an accident.”


Other locals said they regret voting to elect their present representatives. “It is our misfortune that we voted for Rao Inderjit Singh as MP and Rao Narbir as MLA. Both are cabinet ministers, but have done nothing for us. During their election campaigns, they promised to provide us relief. But now they have abandoned us. The thought of a mishap at this depot is dreadful. The government should either relocate this depot, or help us move out of here,” said Ashish Sharma, a Palam Vihar Extension resident.

While expressing regret about the Pulgaon accident, Gurgaon MP Rao Inderjit Singh, who is also MoS defence in the Modi government, said a meeting will soon be convened to identify how such incidents can be prevented in future. “There are several ammunition depots across the country, including the one in Gurgaon. We will soon hold a meeting to decide what steps need to be taken to avoid such incidents in future,” he said.
Gurgaon MLA Umesh Aggarwal, though, claimed the ammunition in the depot is safe. “Unlike the Pulgaon depot which belongs to the Army, the one in Gurgaon is under the Air Force. The ammunition here is preserved in a safe and secure manner. It’s assembled only when the need arises, so residents need not panic,” he told TOI.

Pulgaon ammo dump fire: India’s armories are under severe stress


Around 20 people, including an officer of the rank of Lt Colonel, were killed and several injured in a major fire in India’s biggest ammunition depot located in Pulgaon, 110 km from Nagpur in Maharashtra. Catering to Army’s ammunition needs in the western sector, Pulgaon is home to the biggest stockpile of weapons including Brahmos missiles.

The fire, at the depot in Wardha district is now said to be limited to a small area and several surrounding villages have been evacuated with a Court of Inquiry ordered by the Army Chief, General Dalbir Singh Suhag. Quoting an Army officer, PTI reported that “secondary fire and explosions cannot be ruled out now”. Television footage showed massive flames lighting up the night sky at Pulgaon where the central ammunition depot is located.

The blaze triggered multiple explosions, rocking houses in the area and forcing the evacuation of more than 1,000 people.

Two among the 20 dead were identified as Lt Col RS Pawar and Major K Manoj. The dead and injured soldiers belonged to the Defence Security Corp (DSC) that guards strategic defence installations.

Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar speaking with reporters on Pulgaon fire. Image courtesy: ANI/Twitter

Union defence minister Manohar Parrikar speaking with reporters on Pulgaon fire. Image courtesy: ANI/Twitter

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar is slated to visit Pulgaon this afternoon. Incidentally, Parikkar was in Pune to meet villagers around another ammunition depot in Pimpri and Chinchwad. The villagers have been demanding that the sanitised area around the dump be reduced to allow them to build houses. In recent years, there have been several fires at ammunition depots with the last one in West Bengal’s Panagarh which is also an IAF base, which was rocked by explosions in 2010.

In 2007, thousands of villagers living in Kashmir’s Anantnag district were evacuated after a huge fire broke out at a depot, injuring at least 25 people.

But, it was a fire in 2000 at an ammunition depot in Bharatpur in Rajasthan that put our attention back on the handling of ammunition and the safety of civilians around such locations. However, in recent years the defence ministry has been under immense pressure from local politicians to relax norms on no-go-areas around these ammunition depots.

According to the Works of Defence Act 1903, the ministry of defence can issue notification for sensitive defence establishments, putting restrictions on construction activities carried out by civilians in a certain radius for safety reasons in case of accidents.

An article in The Indian Express on 17 May quoted Lok Sabha MP from Shirur, Shivajirao Adhalrao Patil, who raised the issue of Red Zone limits around Dighi Magazine Depot in the assembly claiming that the defence minister was positive about reducing the Outer Safety Distance (OSD) from 1,145 metres to 500 metres, but there was resistance from ministry officials.

Local people have demanded a reduction in the 2,000-yard limit of the Red Zone around Dehu Road ammunition depot and Dighi magazine depot as several people are living around these areas. Parikkar travelled to Pune on Tuesday to discuss the issue with local people when the Pulgaon ammunition dump caught fire.

While the Court of Inquiry will conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of this fire serious questions are being raised about the security of civilians in surrounding areas. Coinciding with demands from residents of Pimpri and Chinchwad, an IAF ammunition depot in Gurgaon was also in news for similar demands.

Encroachments, with the complicity of local administration, have created a major security hazard around the Gurgaon IAF depot. Attempts to demolish tenements hugging the outer walls of the IAF depot faced strong protests as local politicians demanded demanding that norms be relaxed at the cost of safety of civilian population living around.

The IAF could not get the surrounding areas vacated and the matter went to the courts.

In March this year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court directed the deputy commissioners (DCs) of Gurgaon and Faridabad to issue notices against those who have made constructions within 300 metre around the IAF ammunition depot Gurgaon and 100-metre around the air forces station in Faridabad.

The state government is in talks with private builders to provide alternate housing to people living near the IAF ammunition depot. The decision comes after Punjab and Haryana high court directed the Khattar government to remove all structures that lie within 300 metres of the depot.

The Hindu reported from the IAF ammunition in Gurgaon in February 2016: “surrounded by unauthorised buildings, security of 54 Air Stores Park, Air Force Station Ammunition Depot on Old Delhi-Gurgaon Road, could be a major concern for the authorities. Though no construction is allowed in a 900 meter radius around the IAF ammunition depot, houses – most of them with a second floor – rise above the concertina mesh on the depot’s boundary wall. Though crucial for the IAF because of its strategic location near Delhi, the political patronage and a mix of civic indifference and collusion has allowed houses to be built deep inside the restricted zone of the depot.”

Alternate soon for IAF depot neighbours

Courtesy: TNN| Joel Joseph

The state government is in talks with private builders to provide alternate housing to people living near the IAF ammunition depot. The decision comes after Punjab and Haryana high court directed the Khattar government to remove all structures that lie within 300 metres of the depot.

 Talking to TOI, Gurgaon MLA Umesh Aggarwal claimed that not a single house will be demolished. “As per the rules there are not supposed to be any structures within 900 metres of this depot. However, in November, 2014 a high level committee under the Cabinet Secretary had suggested to the Ministry of Defence that the restricted area around the ammunition depot area be reduced from the existing 900 meter to 300 meter radius. The court had agreed to it, provided all the existing structures within 0-300 metres from the depot are removed,” he said. “We are trying to relocate the residents within 0-300 metre area and will provide them housing elsewhere and to achieve this we are in talks with private builders,” Aggarwal added.