“School Cannot Exist Without Playground; Students Have Right To Healthy Environment”: SC

“School Cannot Exist Without Playground; Students Have Right To Healthy Environment”: SC

The Supreme Court recently emphasised the importance of playgrounds in schools and a safe environment for students.

This was noted by a bench of Justices MR Shah and BV Nagarathna when they called for the removal of encroachments on land designated for a school playground.

The Court determined that due to such encroachment, a nearby school had no playground at all.
The bench remarked, “A school cannot exist without a playground. Even students who attend such a school have a right to a healthy environment.”

The Court added that any unauthorised possession of land designated for playgrounds cannot be directed to be legalized.

The bench then ordered the persons found to have illegally occupied the said plot of land to vacate the area within twelve months or face having their unauthorised structures removed.

The ruling followed the Haryana government’s appeal of a 2016 order of the Punjab and Haryana High Court that had cleared the way for the regularisation of the encroachments near the school.

Before the High Court, the respondents (private individuals) offered to give the gram panchayat double the amount of land instead of having to give up possession of the encroached land. Other people had offered to pay the land’s market value. A local commissioner had previously filed a report establishing that the respondents and other occupants were in unlawful possession of the land.

The High Court dismissed the case after ordering that the concerned authorities separate vacant areas from residential plots on the encroached land whenever possible, and use the vacant plots for the school’s use.

To legalise the unauthorised occupation, the authorities were also given the option of accepting the respondents’ offer of alternative land or the market value for the encroached land.

The Supreme Court, on the other hand, ruled that the High Court’s orders could not be carried out. The Supreme Court then concluded that the High Court had made a grave error in ordering the authorities to legalise the unauthorised occupation of the gram panchayat’s land.

The bench noted that there was no other panchayati land available for use as a school playground. In this regard, the Court noted that other private parties who owned land adjacent to the school refused to part with their plots.

As a result, the Supreme Court set aside the High Court order as “unsustainable” and ordered the removal of encroachments.

“The original writ petitioners are granted 12 months to vacate the land, which they are occupying unauthorizedly, and if they do not vacate the lands in question within one year from today, the appropriate authority is directed to remove their unauthorised and illegal occupation and possession,” the Court stated.

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About the Author: Isha Das