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Court nod on Jamuni

Darjeeling, June 25: The district and session court in Darjeeling today upheld the district magistrate’s decision to impose Section 144 of the CrPc on 13 acres at Jamuni following landowners’ complaint that the GTA Sabha had forcibly taken over their plots to set up a tourism project.

Pranay Rai, public prosecutor, today said: “The judge of the district and session court, Uday Kumar Yadav, today upheld the district magistrate’s decision to impose Section 144 on Jamuni (20km from here). Dawa Lepcha, GTA executive sabha member in charge of tourism department, had filed a revision against the DM’s order in the court on May 30.”

The DM, Puneet Yadav, had clamped Section 144 of the CrPc on the land on April 28 for two months. Nine land holders had alleged that GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung had taken over their 13 acres without consent to develop a tourist destination and had not paid them compensation till date.

Lepcha had filed the revision on May 30 and the court had then passed an interim order staying the prohibitory order till the case was heard.

“During the hearing, Lepcha’s lawyer argued that the district magistrate’s order was illegal and wanted to know whether the DM had the power to promulgate Section 144 against a statutory body like the GTA. I, however, said the order was not against the GTA but against the general public and in favour of land losers. I also asked whether the GTA had the locus standi to seek a revision of the DM’s order. The court ruled in our favour and Section 144 will continue to be imposed in the area,” said Rai.

Lepcha, today said the GTA would abide by the court’s order. “We will definitely abide by the court’s order. Anyway, no work is being carried out in the disputed area right now. Nevertheless, we will seek other legal options on the issue,” said Lepcha, hinting at the possibility of the GTA approaching a higher court on the matter.

“We, however, believe that this issue has been politicised,” said Lepcha, referring to the Trinamul Congress’s support for the landowners.

The GTA has maintained that the land losers had willingly given their plots and that there was no question of forcibly taking over the land.