Srinagar, Dec 3: High Court of J&K and Ladakh High has asked government to take a conscious decision with regard to renewal of lease deeds in ski resort Gulmarg of north Kashmir.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking preservation of environs of Gulmarg , a division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Muhammad Akram Choudhary asked the government to take the said decision most expeditiously within three months.
The direction came after the court was informed that in Gulmarg almost all the land is leased land and that most of the hotel owners were leased out land for a particular period under the policy of the Government.
While court observed that the policy provided for granting land on lease initially for a period of 40 years which was extendable to a maximum of 99 years, it said the extension to lease used to be granted as a matter of course until and unless there was breach or violations on the terms and conditions of the lease.
“The lease deeds of most of the owners of the hotels stand expired but their renewal or extension is not being considered by the Government, rather the matter has been kept in a cold storage, with the result, almost all hotels are being run on land with expired lease,” the court said. The court pointed out that the hotel owners when applied for repairs or some construction, they have been refused permission on the ground that their lease stands expired.
The court observed that it is in these circumstances the hotel owners have raised grievance that the matter regarding extension or renewal of their leases is pending consideration.
“As they are not unauthorised occupants of the land, rather tenants by holding over, they cannot be evicted from their respective lands, more particularly in view of the condition of the lease that they are not liable to be evicted unless they are paid compensation to the structures which they raised, as such, in the meantime they may be allowed to undertake the repair work so that they may continue with their hotel business failing which they will be visited with serious civil consequences,” the court said. The court observed that admittedly the hotel owners have entered possession of the land on the strength of lease deeds and are not unauthorised occupants.
The hotel owners, the court said, are running hotels after raising the super structures which require repairs with the passage of time and improvement of facilities. “Therefore, they cannot be denied such repairs as it would tantamount to interfering with their right to business.”
The Court directed the Building Operation Controlling Authority (BOCA) and Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA) to consider the applications or representations of all the hotel owners or any other person interested for the repairs or constructions of building strictly in accordance with law “but ignoring the fact of expiry of the lease.”
The court however said once consideration was accorded by the BOCA/GDA, the applicants would seek the approval of the Court before implementing the permission or raising the construction as directed in one of its earlier orders.
“The repairs or construction that would be raised at any of the land would be subject to the ultimate decision to be taken by the Government with regard to the extension or renewal of lease”, the court said.