The murder of a town-planner (Shail Bala Sharma), who was on official duty in compliance with the Supreme Court’s orders, allegedly by a guest-house owner in Kasauli, Himachal Pradesh, has deeply irked the SC. The court has expressed its annoyance over the matter of non-implementation of the law by the state authorities.
“The death is not a result of the court’s order. It is a result of the non-implementation of the law. The incident is very unfortunate. You have to ensure rule of law and implementation of law related to unauthorised constructions,” the bench told the counsel appearing for the state.
Pulling up the Himachal government authorities for their failure to ensure the safety of officers implementing its orders, the SC on Thursday ordered the state government to file an affidavit by May 9, giving details on the progress in the investigation into the murder of Shail Bala Sharma during a court-ordered demolition drive.
On April 17, the top court had ordered the Himachal Pradesh state government to demolish unauthorised structures in hotels and guest houses in the Kasauli and Dharampur areas of Solan district. A few teams of officials for the purpose were constituted – and Shail Bala Sharma, an Assistant Town Planning Officer, was heading one such team. After a heated argument with the lady officer on Tuesday, Vijay Singh, the owner of the Narayani Guest House at Kasauli allegedly shot her dead and fled from the scene, despite the presence of the police. The bench, headed by Justice Madan B Lokur, had taken cognisance of this murder on Tuesday.
The latest information reveals that the absconder has now been arrested by the police. The police had announced a reward of ₹1 lakh for any information on the whereabouts of Vijay.
How could Kasauli, a tourist place famous for its peaceful winds and old heritage buildings, be tarnished by this murder? This incident raises some questions, indeed. Despite the presence of a heavy police force, how could the alleged murderer flee from the scene? How could he have even dared to fire the shots on the lady officer? And what exactly was the police deployed for?
Raising questions on the role of the police, the bench asked, “What were they doing? Watching her get killed? We might stop passing any orders if you are going to kill people.”
Another unresolved question is: why was this evil not nipped in the bud? In the first place, how could the hoteliers have encroached and raised the illegal constructions by defying the set norms? How could the officials responsible for having an eagle eye on the illegal constructions have turned a blind eye to this defiance? To me, the incident seems to hint towards the fact that the officials capacity had ignored their duties, perhaps in exchange of some favours. An honest officer had to pay the price for the activities of this corrupt nexus.
Enquiries will be made, and the reports shall be submitted to the relevant state authorities. But, will all the other officials responsible for letting the evil bud to blossom be punished? This better be the case, otherwise every other person will dare to challenge the rule of law. To some extent, a fear of the law should always be there to build a safe and law-abiding society.