Is the Varanasi Development Authority overdoing its duty of following the Allahabad High Court instructions to strengthen its surveillance against illegal constructions in Varanasi?
We sure are glad to know that Varanasi Development Authority (VDA) is finally taking extreme care in preventing illegal constructions on the Ganga riverfront ghat heritage zone in Varanasi.
Maybe they’ve gone a bit too far this time round, by raiding a private building just for the possession of cement bags!
And maybe they have gone against the law once again, by forcing their way in a private building without written official authorisation. Surely they did not seem to be acting in good faith by publicly condemning supposed “intentions” and by hastening to spread the news that the Kautilya Society supposedly “ran into troubles” for having “wrong intentions”.
Here are the facts for everyone to judge.
On 8th June 2013, a battalion of 5 VDA officers, including Mr. Satish Chandra Mishra, Joint Secretary of the Varanasi Development Authority (VDA), forced their way into the official premises of the Kautilya Society in Varanasi, in the absence of the building owner and without consigning to the caretaker or the staff any written documentation about who they were, what was the objective of their request to visit the building, and what was the authority they had in doing that.
The VDA “assault unit” forced their way in by harassing the hesitant staff, which had orders not to let anyone, who is not a member of the Society, enter in the building, which is residential accommodation for many member students, including girls. One lady staff says that she was even manhandled. The Kautilya Society staff objected to this forced entry into the office premises, so VDA’s raiding platoon of five men called for the support of the police force to overcome the bold resistance of 1 Managing committee member, one lady cook and one lady manager. The VDA even called the police for lodging an FIR against one of the staff because he was not authorizing the visit without being given a written official instruction about who was permitted to visit and why.
Well! the VDA officers entered the building, they found evidence of what they thought was the “evidence of crime” of the Kautilya Society. Did they find secret documents? No! Illegal constructions? No! They found only some cement bags and some piled Chunar stones! Oh! And that seemed to be enough to prove that the Kautilya Society had wrong intentions to build an unauthorized floor!
Happy with their “Great” finding, they went to the press and said out loud “the Kautilya Society runs into trouble and their employees obstruct the course of law!
That the VDA harasses the Kautilya Society is not a novelty, since they are under trial by the Allahabad High Court as part of a PIL lodged by the Kautilya Society against it. (See below for other details about the progress of the PIL).
What is surprising is that newspapers as serious as the Times of India, which previously reported about the VDA inefficiency on protecting the heritage zone, immediately accepted without verification the VDA information, and went on to publish the news that “Kautilya Society runs into troubles”.
Did the journalists not think it strange that the VDA, that has not been following the orders of Allahabad court to demolish those unauthorized illegal constructions on the Ganga riverfront ghats in Varanasi that the VDA itself listed as “illegal”, suddenly raids the non-government organisation that has lodged the PIL against them and is working for protecting the heritage zone in Varanasi, and discovers “the presence of “cement bags and stones” and so decides that the Kautilya Society had wrong intentions?
Did the journalists not find it strange that an FIR was issued against an employee for not allowing entry into a private building of persons who arrived without written authorisation and papers?
Did the journalist not have any doubts that the raid, by 5 VDA officers, on an official holiday, into the official premises of the Kautilya Society, was disproportionate to the normal efforts that VDA generally makes in order to avoid illegalities in Varanasi? Well, we think, a newspaper like the Times of India should give a second look at the incident.
Don’t you think so?
The Kautilya Society Secretary says that its staff was only relocating some construction material (iron garters, some stones and cement bags) that it had stored in the premises for internal and emergency repair work. And that the Kautilya Society is not so naïve as to do unauthorized construction, since they are confronting the VDA and are under their special surveillance, so that VDA can take any small opportunity to hurl accusations against them and try to discredit the organization in the eyes of the Allahabad High Court that has been quite harsh and tough against the VDA. The Kautilya Society did not consider the possibility of an unannounced purposeful inspection intended for finding evidence of “wrong” intentions!
We leave the judgment to the reader’s intelligence.
Here, below is some additional information about the Kautilya Society and the PIL that it lodged in 2005 against the VDA for violating the civil laws, U.P.State Government orders, the National Monuments Act . And the links to the web site that give more information about it.
Two of the latest High Court orders on the PIL 31229 of 2005
The Allahabad High Court Judgment Information System: http://elegalix.allahabadhighcourt.in/elegalix/WebShowJudgment.do?judgmentID=2447321
P.S. The Kautilya Society has written an official complaint to the senior police and administrative officers of Varanasi and the U.P. State government asking that appropriate legal action be taken against this unlawful behaviour of VDA officers who misused their official power and took law into their hands, used unconstitutional language, harassed organisational staff, violated right to privacy by forcing entry into the office premises without official authorisations, defamed and tarnished the image of the Kautilya Society and the General Secretary, gave misleading information to both the police and the press in order to defame the organisation that has lodged a PIL against them.
On asking the Public Information Officer about the reason for the raid, through the Right to Information Act, Satish Chandra Mishra, the VDA officer leading the inspection team declared that “he organised the raid (on a holiday) because he was solicited by Mr. V.K.Singh, the Vice Chairman of VDA who had “personal hostility” against persons of the Kautilya Society. This is the official recorded written statement!
Finally some response did come from the Varanasi Superintendent of Police. But it was not a response to the report of the Kautilya Society on misuse of power by VDA officers. And what was it? Another FIR!