Srinagar, Sep 19: The High Court of J&K and Ladakh Tuesday asked Ministry of Tourism Government of India (GoI) as well as J&K administration to release within two months the entire amount of interest subsidy for revival of the Hotels and Guest-Houses in keeping with the notification issued by the Centre in 2003.
Allowing a related petition, a bench of Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal directed the Ministry of Tourism GoI, J&K government, Director Tourism as also the coordination committee constituted under Government notification in 2003 to release the entire amount of interest subsidy in favour of the petitioners through their respective Soft Loan Accounts maintained with their respective Banks.
The same, the court said, should be carried out strictly in accordance with the terms of the Scheme.
In their plea, the petitioners had contended that the hotel industry, which is a concomitant part of Tourism, was subjected to fatal setback due to the turmoil in Kashmir. To combat the consequences of prolonged turmoil, they said, a special package was sanctioned by the Ministry of Tourism vide Notification bearing No. 13(18)/2003-MRD dated 08.09.2003.
The petitioners relying upon the policy and the guidelines, submitted that the package for rehabilitation by way of soft loan of Rs.50,000 per room, for renovation and refurbishing 50 percent of the rooms of A, B, C and D category hotels (except Five Star Hotels) was prescribed.
The policy and guidelines, the petitioners said, provided that the Banks would provide loans to the hotels and Guest Houses and the Ministry of Tourism, GoI would provide subsidy so that the hotel/guest-house owners get the loan at four percent interest.
“The guidelines further explicitly provide that the benefit would be available at the rate of Rs.50,000 loan amount per room for upto 50% of the capacity of the hotels/guest-houses and the subsidy would be limited to difference between the principal loan released at 4%”.
The petitioners contended that a Coordination Committee was also constituted with J&K’s Secretary Tourism as its Chairman and the State level representatives of the Bank as its members and the Committee was required to approve the cases eligible for the benefit under the Scheme.
The petitioners submitted that in terms of the notification, funds were required to be released to the Banks based on interest burden worked out by the Banks so that the eligible hotels would bear interest to the extent of 4%. “As per the policy, the amount was to be released by the Government of India to the erstwhile State Government which was to be deposited to the Banks in advance, so that the same could be credited to the loan accounts of the beneficiaries with the interest earned by deposits to be used for the scheme”, they said.
The petitioners claimed that they obtained the relevant information from the authorities under RTI Act, which revealed that against the amount of Rs1600 lakh only an amount of Rs186.34 lakh was appropriated for revival of the hotels/guest-houses
In its reply, the J&K government stated that the Centre has provided Central Financial Assistance of Rs1600 lakhs to the Directorate of Tourism Kashmir for implementation of special package for tourism industry.
“Since the balance amount has not been released by the Central Government and this precisely is the reason that the amount could not be liquidated” it said.
On behalf of the Centre, T.M.Shamsi, DSGI submitted that it was incumbent on the part of the erstwhile State Government to have placed indent before the Union of India for the amount to be released in favour of the lawful claimants.
The Bench pointed out that the “jurisdiction of the High Court while exercising the powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India is not restricted only to the review of the administrative actions and executive decisions of the State but also extends to the applicability of the ‘doctrine of promissory estoppels’ of which the whole object is to see that the Government sticks to its promise and abides by it”.
The Court said that on the careful analysis of the record and the stand taken by the parties, and in light of the law laid down by the Apex Court on the subject, it could safely be concluded that the respondents are liable to settle down the issues regarding release of entire amount of interest subsidy in favour of the petitioners. It, accordingly, directed so.