GHMC bites bullet after legal battle, demolishes structure in Miyapur park

GHMC officials demolished an illegally constructed colony association building in a public park in Hyderabad



HYDERABAD: Marking a victory for environmentalists at the culmination of a protracted legal battle, the GHMC officials on Saturday demolished an illegally constructed colony association building in a public park in Hyderabad. The colony welfare association building was constructed at Matrusri Nagar of Miyapur locality.

Interestingly, the demolition was carried out within 24 hours of the colony association withdrawing its writ appeal from the Telangana High Court following strictures from a division bench during its hearing. It is being insinuated that the association dragged its feet fearing that its appeal would be 'dismissed with costs' by the division bench, headed by Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan.

The demolition of the alleged illegal structure brought to an end a long-drawn out fight between environmental activist Vinay Vangala, also a resident of Matrusri Nagar, and the colony welfare association.

Speaking to NewsTAP, Vinay claimed that the association had kept on raising illegal structures, one after the other. "Spread across 153 acres, our colony has eight public parks, supposed to be maintained as GHMC green spaces. The welfare association first constructed a room in one of the parks, then added one more room to it. Subsequently, another makeshift structure was raised under the pretext of hosting a library. An attempt was also made to construct a temple in one of the parks, which I strongly resisted and nipped the plan in the bud. Later, they came up with an open-air iron shed for the purpose of installing a Ganesh idol," he explained.

Initially, Vinay raised verbal complaints with the GHMC authorities who, according to him, simply turned a blind eye. Realising the futility of it, he started his crusade in the form of written complaints since 2018 against the illegal constructions. He finally moved the Telangana High Court in March this year with a writ petition through his counsel Akhil Ennamsetty, citing a Supreme Court ruling, which prohibits the construction of any structures in public places.

"During a hearing in March itself, a High Court bench led by Justice Lalitha Kanneganti ordered the GHMC to take action immediately against the illegal constructions. The bench, in its order, made serious observations of collusion by the GHMC officials with the encroachers. The corporation was directed to initiate appropriate action and file a compliance report within a month," Vinay recalled in his conversation with NewsTAP.

But, as Vinay claims, the GHMC did not demolish the structures and continued to remain cold even to the High Court orders. This prompted him to move the High Court again, this time with a contempt petition against the GHMC Officials in July. Realising the gravity of the situation, the civic body officials embarked on the dismantling of the open-air sheds in one of the parks. But taking a defiant stand, the colony welfare association moved a lunch-motion petition the next day, only to be dismissed by the High Court which maintained that there should be no change in the existing directions to demolish the structures. In a last-ditch attempt, the colony welfare association filed an appeal on Thursday (October 20) seeking a stay on the single-judge order given in September.

A division bench comprising Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice C V Bhaskar Reddy, before which the plea came up, expressed dismay at the discretion of the welfare association to file the appeal even while admitting that they had constructed illegal structures in the public park. Observing that it was not a case for them to interfere, the bench ruled that the structures in question should be immediately dismantled. It also cited the recent Noida Supertech Twin Towers case to buttress the immediacy of the need to demolish the illegal structures.

In a strong indictment of the GHMC's approach in the entire issue, the High Court wondered why its officials should not be prosecuted for allowing the constructions in a public park and then turning a blind eye to the objections raised against it. With the High Court also expressing its view that the plea was fit to be dismissed with costs, the counsel for the colony welfare association beat a hasty retreat and withdrew the appeal.

Following these developments, the GHMC quickly got into action and dismantled the association building on Friday but left the temple built by the colony association in the same park untouched. Vinay Vangala vowed to keep the contempt case alive until every illegal structure was removed from the parks.

And what is his action plan for these parks, post all the demolitions? "Well, the answer is simple. We want to transform them into full-blown green spaces which are most needed in urban colonies. Already, plans are afoot in this regard and, in collaboration with Urban Biodiversity (UBD) wing of the GHMC, we will be able to realise this objective," said Vinay.

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