Underscoring that disposals of public property can be only by transparent and fair processes, J&K High Court has directed the government to take immediate steps for retrieval of public land which is under unauthorized occupation and encroachment in Gulmarg.
While hearing a Public Interest litigation on Gulmarg, a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Puneet Gupta said persons who were under expired leases had no right to continue to do so.
“Let an action taken report with regard to properties which continue to be in unauthorized occupation which are under the control of the Department of Tourism be placed before us positively before the next date of hearing” the court said.
With regard to the dispute regarding demarcation of the property between the Revenue Department and the Forest Department, the court said: “Let a status with regard to the demarcation be filed before us on affidavit by the CEO, Gulmarg Development Authority, Secretary Revenue, Secretary Tourism and the Secretary Forest. Reports, it said, will be filed under the signatures of these officers within two weeks.
With regard to encroachment of forest land of 13 marlas by Hotel Khyber Resort and 7 marlas by Hotel Castle, the court said: “Both the Khyber Hotel and Castle Hotel shall not obstruct the Tehsildar and forest authorities from visiting the properties and demarcating the land”.
This exercise, the court said, shall be done within one week. The Court asked the two hotels to forthwith remove their trespass and restore the land to the Forest Department.
The Court directed the Special Forest Officer, Tangmarg, and the Tehsildar concerned to visit this spot on 11 November at 11:30 am for retrieving the land in question.
With regard to encroachment by Pride Resort, the court directed the DFO and the Tehsildar to visit the Pride Resort and inform it about the status of this property especially encroachment of public land, if any.
With regard to the land measuring 179 kanals and 19 marlas retrieved by GDA , the court directed that the same shall not be dealt with in any manner whatsoever by the State authorities and be protected and preserved in the present form.
In response to the report that total area of Gulmarg valley is 15494 kanals and 13 marlas out which nearly 2425 kanals is the built up area, the court directed that un-built land shall not be used for any purpose and no construction shall be raised on it till further orders from it.
“The State respondents and its authorities are directed to take all necessary steps for preserving the unbuilt area in Gulmarg valley.”
In response to the report by Commissioner Secretary Tourism and Culture Department that total land retrieved was 179 Kanals 19 marlas, the court asked the authorities to confirm on affidavit that the land detailed out by the Commissioner Secretary Tourism and Culture Department is secure in the custody of the GDA.
With regard to permissions for construction, repairs renovations, the court said, “Most of these are being sought and carried out by persons who have no right in the lands at all.”
The Court directed that all applications for sanction of building, construction, renovation or repairs in any building shall be accompanied by an affidavit by the applicant that he or she is not in illegal occupation, possession of any public in UTs of J&K as well as Ladakh. “If yes, details thereof.”
The application, the court said, should by accompanied with self authenticated copies of all documents establishing legal right of ownership over the land on which construction, repairs or renovation is proposed, certificate from the DC and DFO concerned that the land is not public land and forest land, copy of original sanctioned plan with all documents of original sanction and other details.
“If request is favourably considered, then on completion of the work, completed site plan with colour marking of work undertaken; videography and photos of the completed work be furnished.”
While the court held that in no case will permission be granted to persons having no right, title or interest to occupy the land in question, it said persons in illegal occupation of the public lands must handover such lands to the Government authorities.
The Court directed that the respondents must take immediate steps to retrieve the public lands from the unauthorised occupants.