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Court orders demolition of illegal Shillong highrises, CBI probe

The Meghalaya High Court on Monday directed demolition of additional floors, above ground plus three floors, of 24 high rise buildings in the state capital while ordering CBI to initiate a preliminary investigation against officials who granted permission for the constructions.

A division bench of Chief Justice Uma Nath Singh, and Justice T. Nandakumar Singh directed the demolition of the illegal constructions which posed an inherent risk to the lives of the inhabitants as well as neighbours of such buildings in the unfortunate occurrence of an earthquake.

“Meghalaya has been placed at Zone 5 of seismic activity. In metrological parlance, Zone 5 area would be an area in which the highest level of seismic activity is expected and inevitable. Zone 5 areas are likely to experience earthquakes which can be as high as 8/9 on the Richter scale and above,” the order read citing the catastrophic result of the April earthquake in Nepal.

“In case it (earthquake) so happens, the number of deaths will be several thousands in as much as the multi-storeyed buildings are all constructed at the hill slope or in the gradient of the hill slope of loose soil.

“The emergence of multi-storeyed buildings within and around Shillong had increased the risk of earthquakes and it is unimaginable as to how respondents (state of Meghalaya represented by chief secretary, commissioner and secretary in-charge revenue and disaster management department and Meghalaya Urban Development Authority (MUDA)) are still issuing building permissions/clearance certificates for the construction of high rise buildings,” the court said.

Recalling the 1897 earthquake measuring 8.7 on the Richter scale which shook Shillong resulting in about 1,542 deaths, it said: “The situation then was one in which Shillong was not the urban jungle that it is now.”

In its previous hearing, the court had directed the MUD) to seal 24 buildings.

“For the foregoing reasons and discussions, this court is of the considered view that there is no alternative except to order demolition of the additional floors of the buildings above ground floor plus three floors (G+3) constructed illegally by the respondents (owners of the buildings),” the judgment said.

It also ordered a preliminary investigation against the MUDA officials who have granted permissions for the constructions.

“Considering the rampant irregularities in granting the permissions for construction of buildings by the officials of the MUDA, it would not be in the public interest to let the erring officials go scot-free,” it said, noting that the records of permissions have already been sealed by the superintendent of police, CBI, Shillong as ordered by the court.

It said that the CBI shall proceed against such 123 builders and others who have been or were likely to be benefited by such acts of commission and omission on the part of the MUDA officers.

It also directed the CBI to find out from the records of MUDA, as to, apart from the instant cases, in how many more such cases of illegal constructions presently existing in the city.

The CBI was asked to submit its report on October 15.