J&K asks SC to stay NGT proceedings on Vaishno Devi mule owners’ rehabilitation

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New Delhi, May 28 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear, on May 30, a plea filed by the Jammu and Kashmir government seeking direction to stay proceedings pending before the NGT regarding rehabilitation plan for people engaged in carrying pilgrims on horses and mules which have been barred from plying from Katra to the hilltop Vaishno Devi shrine.

A bench of Justice L. Nageswara Rao and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar posted the matter for Wednesday after Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh and advocate Shoeb Alam, appearing for the state government, mentioned the matter before it for urgent hearing.

Referring to various orders of the National Green Tribunal (NGT), Jammu and Kashmir said that it directed the state to formulate and implement a rehabilitation plan for mule owners.

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However, the state, in its plea before the apex court, said that it had informed the NGT that the draft rehabilitation policy has been submitted to the state cabinet as required, but it could not be taken up due to the pending cabinet reshuffle.

“Judicial propriety demands that once this court (apex court) is seized of a matter and is passing directions and making suggestions on the very same subject matter i.e. the holding of meetings of the Cabinet Sub-Committee in the matter relating to the rehabilitation policy for mule operators, the NGT should not have proceeded ahead with the matter and should have adjourned the matter till disposal of the present civil appeal,” said the plea.

Seeking stay of proceedings pending before the NGT till the top court decides the matter, the plea added: “An anomalous and conflicting situation would arise in the event the Supreme Court, being seized of the matter, would be making further suggestions in its wisdom to guide the process and on the other hand the NGT would be pressing for conclusion and formulation of the policy short of consideration of these suggestions by the state.”

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On April 16, the top court had stayed an order of the NGT where it had imposed a cost of Rs 50 lakh on the Jammu and Kashmir government for not finalising a rehabilitation plan.

The tribunal had earlier said that a new path should be created to the shrine exclusively for pedestrians and battery-operated cars and directed that no horses or mules would be allowed on the new route to the shrine.

The apex court, which had asked for rehabilitation of the owners of horses and mules who have become jobless, had also said that no coercive action be taken till it decided the appeal of the state government.

–IANS

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