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File response about formulation of vision document, policy on preservation of Gulmarg: HC to Govt

Post by on Friday, July 29, 2022

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Srinagar July 28: The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh Thursday directed the government to file a comprehensive response on the formulation of a vision document and framing of policy on various issues related to the protection and preservation of Gulmarg tourist resort.
The court sought a point-to-point response from the government authorities on various issues arising from public interest litigation (PIL) about protecting and preserving the resort's environs.
A division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Javed Iqbal Wani directed the respondents to file their response regarding the formulation of a vision document based on the considerations like Environment, Forest Lands, an average number of tourists visiting Gulmarg, existing hotels with bed capacities, sanitation, installation of biodigesters etc.
The respondents were asked about the framing of policy in respect of Hotels, Hutments, and other structures existing in and around Gulmarg bowl, having come up either with or without permission of the authorities and requiring repairs and maintenance on account of harsh weather conditions during winter.
The court directed the respondents to inform it about the cases where the lease has expired, and hotels, hutments, and other structures are existing thereupon and as to whether the government proposes to extend the lease in such cases, and if so, on what terms and conditions.
"In case the said lease is not agreed to be extended, how the hotels/hutments and other structures existing thereupon on the land wherein the lease has expired would be dealt with," the bench asked.
It sought information on whether any area is earmarked or demarcated for raising of construction of hotels, huts, or structures and the manner and method the said unbuilt area(s) have to be dealt with.
The respondents were directed to tell the court how the areas beyond the areas notified under Master Plan are to be handled and treated and how to attend to the immediate needs of the people living in Gulmarg using their residential properties.
The government authorities were further asked to inform the court about the mechanism in place to deal with the issues of maintenance of roads, pony tracks, horse riding, tracking, children's parks, etc., and how a proper balance between development, growth, and environment would be ensured in Gulmarg.
"What is the status and position of the site of dumping of solid waste and how the said solid waste is being managed," the court asked.
It also asked about the position and status of Forest Land and Gulmarg Wildlife Sanctuary, which is stated to have been comprising 180 sq. km as per the status report filed by the official respondents in two PILs.
The directions were issued after the court was informed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA), that even though the Gulmarg Master Plan is in place and stands notified, the said plan is applicable only in certain areas to be implemented by the GDA.
The court noted that notwithstanding the Master Plan in place for Gulmarg, the aforesaid vital and important issues must be addressed at a priority.
"A comprehensive and point-to-point response regarding the above becomes imperative from the official respondents," the court said.
In this regard, the bench directed Advocate General DC Raina, Additional Advocate General M.A Chashoo, and government advocate Ilyas Nazir Laway to file their response in the matter by or before the next date of hearing and fixed the matter on September 16, this year.
Earlier, the court had observed that the PIL was filed way back in 2012 seeking restoration of the pristine glory of the world-renowned tourist resort, and the court passed a slew of directions in this regard.
 Meanwhile, in compliance with the order issued by the court on December 02, 2021, a compliance report along with a supplementary affidavit was filed by the government revealing that the Building Operations Controlling Authority (BOCA), GDA, had to consider applications of all the applicants, hotel owners or any other person interested for the repairs or construction of buildings, strictly in accordance to the law, but ignoring the fact of expiry of the lease.
It reveals that once the consideration is accorded, the applicants would seek the court's approval before implementing the permission for raising the construction as has been directed by one of the earlier orders of the court.

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