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Two weeks to Lake clear-out

The eviction clock on Rabindra Sarobar started ticking once more, with the high court sounding the alarm.

The miles-long illegal settlements on either side of the railway tracks along the national lake must be removed within two weeks, the high court decreed on Thursday.

Justice Barin Ghosh and Justice R.N. Sinha flayed the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee government and the Eastern Railway for sitting on a Supreme Court order clearing the path for the eviction of all squatters from the railway land to save the Dhakuria Lakes.

“You run the risk of being charged with contempt of court if you are found to have ignored the Supreme Court directive and not dismantled the illegal structures along the railway tracks,” the judges said.

While passing the order, Justice Ghosh and Justice Sinha also admonished counsel for the squatters Sukhendu Sekhar Roy for trying to cause confusion by raising the demand for “shelter” as a fundamental right.

“One cannot just go ahead and grab land or buildings owned by the public to fulfil one’s demand for shelter,” said Justice Ghosh.

“Also, remember that this court is in no position to address the subjects of shelter or rehabilitation in the context of Rabindra Sarobar. If you think you have a submission to make on these subjects, you are advised to place the same in the apex court,” he added.

The Rabindra Sarobar squatters’ issue first hit the idyllic south Calcutta zone in 1997 when environment activist Subhas Dutta moved high court with a petition for the development and preservation of the Dhakuria lakes.

“I am only interested in the preservation of Rabindra Sarobar,” reiterated Dutta, following the high court prod for the clean-up drive.

After a lengthy battle, the court, in 2000 — and then again in 2001 — had ordered erection of walls and eviction of nearly 20,000 squatters. But a Trinamul Congress-led protest had derailed the previous eviction drive.

Justice Ghosh on Thursday asked Eastern Railway counsel Uttam Majumdar to approach the state government, city police and civic authorities immediately for help in the eviction.

Justice Ghosh also demanded that a time-barred, definite programme with regard to the Supreme Court eviction order be placed in court.

“It is surprising that a Supreme Court judgment has not been carried out even in a year,” the judges observed. “If it continues like this, even the high court will be held responsible for contempt of court.”

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