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Sikkim High Court disposes of suo motu PIL on residents’ access to footpath along Army area

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The Sikkim High Court on Thursday disposed of a suo motu PIL dealing with the barring of people of Syari, East Sikkim, from using the footpath along the entry point from the Army area.

The matter has been treated as a PIL on the basis of a letter dated March 3, 2020, received from the people of Syari, East Sikkim, Gangtok, stating that the people of Syari, East Sikkim, were facing a problem after they were barred from using the footpath along the entry point from the Army area, Ganju Lama Dwar, Ward no. 1, 2, 3 and 4 under Syari, East Sikkim.

As per the said letter, residents of the above-mentioned wards were using the footpath for many years. There is no alternate route connecting their residence from the main road. The fencing of the entire Army area by the Army personnel and locking the area and barring the residents of the said area from commuting through the said route had led to harassment and difficulties. In such circumstances, the applicants requested the HC to initiate a PIL.

Thereafter, the matter has been taken up for consideration by the Court several times. The first order in the matter was passed on March 18, 2020, and the last order was passed on 7th October 2021. During the pendency of this matter, several affidavits have been filed.

On Thursday, the Division Bench of Chief Justice Biswanath Somadder and Justice Meenakshi Madan Rai wished to focus on the affidavit affirmed by the Special Secretary of Land Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Government of Sikkim, Gangtok, East Sikkim, on September 21, 2021.

Paragraph 4 of this affidavit reads as below

 “4. I say that after thorough discussions, the following resolutions were passed and agreed upon by all:- 
i. The road from ‘VC Ganju Lama Dwar’, Deorali to Syari, falling under the jurisdiction of Indian Army will remain open for commuters and for Public Transport till an alternative solution is worked out. 
ii. There will be no restrictions for transportation of essential commodities, milk supply and other necessary items from this road/route. 
iii. The contact no. of the concerned person (Army) will be displayed on the gate in case any sort of permission is required for emergency entry and exit. 
iv. Alternative roads will be constructed subject to NOC from the landowners. 
v. Principal Chief Engineer, Roads and Bridges Department, GOS will facilitate the carrying out the survey of the proposed alternative road in consultations with the public of the area if NOC for the same is obtained.
vi. The village Panchayat will work on the modalities for identification of genuine vehicle/person entering the gate.”

Considering the fact that an amicable solution has been arrived at by all concerned including representatives from the Army, the Court is of the view that this PIL can be disposed of with a direction upon all concerned to adhere to the Resolution which was agreed upon by all and passed on 29th July 2021, in a meeting held under the chairmanship of the  Minister,  Kunga Nima Lepcha, at his chamber./ILNS/SS/SNG/

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