Shimla : It was a last minute reprieve for the four-decade-old Tibetan market here that was to be demolished Thursday with civic authorities deferring the move on the directions of the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court Wednesday stayed the Himachal Pradesh High Court order of June this year to shift the 103 kiosk owners from the market under the historic Ridge area. The directive was received Wednesday evening, just in time to stop the demolition that was due to begin Thursday.
“On the directions of the Supreme Court Wednesday, we have decided to defer the demolition of 103 makeshift kiosks in the Tibetan market,” Assistant Municipal Commissioner K.K. Sharma told IANS.
He said alternative sites had been identified and the shopkeepers had been asked to shift there by Aug 26.
But the shopkeepers were not convinced.
“The Supreme Court order is a great relief for us as the civic administration was hell-bent on relocating us without allotting appropriate site. The high court has clearly directed the administration to first find an appropriate place and then ask shopkeepers to shift,” said Ngawang, a shopkeeper.
He added that the site chosen for their relocation was far from the business hub and that they had not been consulted before the decision was taken.
On Wednesday, the apex court took up a special leave petition (SLP) challenging the high court order and stayed proceedings for evicting the kiosk owners from the market.
After hearing counsels for the petitioners led by Harish Salve, a bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and B.S. Chauhan directed a stay of all eviction proceedings pending adjudication of the SLP. Till then, it directed, the parties should maintain status quo with regard to possession of shops at the site.
The high court had directed the state government to shift the market after providing alternative sites to the shopkeepers within two months.
“This decision may cause some hardship to the shopkeepers but to strike a balance between the shopkeepers and the pedestrians, shifting of the market is in public interest,” it had observed.
The narrow lane from the Ridge to the Lakkar Bazaar bus stand where most of the shops of the Tibetan market are located is too congested even for pedestrians on an average day.
Geologists also express fear that the haphazard construction activity was dangerous. Last year, major cracks appeared on the Ridge when about 20 shops of the Tibetan market collapsed due to landslides triggered by heavy rain.
The Tibetan market, comprising 103 shops, has been a landmark of the town for the past 40 years. It is the most frequented market by foreigners and college students for cheap clothes, foreign goods, and spices and condiments.