NEW DELHI/CHANDIGARH: The Supreme Court on Wednesday took suo motu cognisance of the killing of a woman official by a guesthouse owner during a court-ordered demolition drive in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, and pulled up the authorities for failing to ensure the safety of government officials performing their duty.
Dubbing it “a brazen act”, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said, “We might stop passing orders if you are going to kill people.”
Assistant Town Planner Shail Bala Sharma was on Tuesday shot dead by Narayani guesthouse owner Vijay Singh while she was supervising the demolition drive ordered by the Supreme Court against unauthorised structures in 13 hotels and resorts in the hill town in Solan district.
“It is an extremely serious matter. This is a brazen act of defiance of the court order,” the bench said.
The SC directed that the matter be placed before Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra so that it can be assigned to an appropriate bench for hearing on Thursday.
The apex court had on April 17 upheld a National Green Tribunal order on demolition of illegal constructions in the Kasauli resorts, hotels and guesthouses, saying the lives of people could not be endangered for making money.
“It is quite clear that some of the appellants (hotels, guesthouses that had appealed against the NGT order) are acting with complete impunity and have absolutely no regard for the rule of law or the orders of this court,” the SC bench said.
When the counsel for the state government submitted that everyone was trying to comply with the court order, the bench shot back, “How? By killing people?”
On being informed that about 160 policemen were accompanying the demolition team, the bench asked, “What were they doing? Watching her get killed?” Why didn’t the police stop the assailant from fleeing, it asked.
The Himachal Police has launched a hunt to nab 54-year-old Singh, who is suspected to be hiding in the forest area. A reward of `1 lakh has been announced for anybody providing information about him. The police of neighbouring states have also been alerted. “Singh had a licensed 3.2-bore pistol. We are probing where it was purchased and how he got the licence,” said Solan SP Mohit Chawla.
“We have constituted five special teams to apprehend the accused, besides deploying adequate police force at all 13 sites in question. Five police reserves have been requisitioned from battalions and deployed in Dahrampur and Kasauli area. Dog squads have also been pressed into service,” Chawla said.
Singh, additional private secretary in State Electricity Board, was posted in Shimla and was on leave for three weeks. The guesthouse is in his mother’s name. His mother claimed Singh did whatever the officials asked them to do.