Demolition drive on in Kasauli, murder accused arrested

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Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh), May 3 (IANS) Even as illegal constructions in hotels and resorts in Himachal Pradesh’s Kasauli area continued to be razed on Thursday, a hotelier accused of fatally shooting a woman officer two days ago was arrested from Uttar Pradesh, officials said.

On May 1, Assistant Town Planner Shaila Bala Sharma was shot dead by Narayani Guest House owner Vijay Singh during the Supreme Court-ordered demolition drive.

In a joint operation, a state police team, which was coordinating with Delhi Police, arrested him from Mathura town, Superintendent of Police Mohit Chawla told reporters here.

Police officials said the accused, who was not using his mobile phone since the murder, had shaved off his moustache and tonsured his head to conceal his identity. He is being brought to Kasauli.

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Expressing anguish over the delay in the arrest of the accused, Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur earlier told reporters in New Delhi: “I am in regular touch with top police officials. As per my information, he’s likely to be arrested today (Thursday) or tomorrow (Friday).”

Police officials said Vijay Singh shot dead the official when she insisted on executing the apex court order to demolish illegal constructions at his guest house.

After the crime, Vijay Singh, a Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board employee who was on leave for three weeks, disappeared into a nearby forest.

Admitting negligence in the matter, Deputy Commissioner Vinod Kumar said: “It was our responsibility to carry out the demolitions. It was a lapse on part of the district administration. We had asked the demolition teams to exercise restraint.”

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But the demolitions would continue, he added.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ordered the Himachal government to file an affidavit by May 9, the next date of hearing, detailing the progress in the murder probe.

A bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur said the affidavit should contain details of action taken to demolish illegal constructions and steps to prevent unauthorised constructions in future.

Taking suo motu cognisance of the official’s killing, the Supreme Court a day earlier pulled up the state authorities for failure to ensure the safety of officers implementing its orders.

The apex court on April 17 ordered the demolition of illegal constructions, saying the life of people cannot be endangered for making money.

The Congress blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party government for what it said was “deteriorating law and order” in the hill state.

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“Even two days after the crime, the state has failed to fix responsibility on officials responsible for the lapses that led to the death of a government employee,” Congress leader Mukesh Agnihotri told IANS.

–IANS

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