The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has sought Action Taken Report from the government after the Gulmarg Development Authority admitted that most of the leases have expired and rent for several properties have not been recovered.
The division bench while hearing the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) directed the government to put the decision and Action Taken Report with regard to expired leases and recovery of rent before the court by next date of hearing.
As per the status report submitted by Chief Executive Officer Gulmarg Development Authority (GDA), with regard to the leases of different properties in Gulmarg, the most of the leases have expired and even ground rent for several properties of earlier lessees has not been received.
The status report of CEO GDA makes a reference to SRO 580 dated 5 October, 1977 on the aspect of renewal of leases and as per SRO 580 the maximum period for which a lease could be granted was 40 years and no extension beyond this period is permissible.
Moreover, as per the said SRO on the expiry of lease/license of the erstwhile lessee/licensee, the lessees are now in the status of unauthorized occupants within the meaning of Section 2(g) of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act.
Meanwhile, Advocate General informed the court that a meeting of the highest level officers in this regard is being held to which the court directed the decision taken and the Action Taken Report in the said meeting be placed before the court within eight weeks of time.
The court said that it cannot be denied that the option for renewal lies with the domain of lessor. “However, in this regard, State of Jammu and Kashmir, has to bear in mind that it is dealing with public property and they have to ensure that any decision to be taken by it must be in accordance with the mandate of several judicial pronouncements of the Apex Court that the property held in public trust by it,” the court.
The respondents were also directed by the court to ensure that they are duty bound and the public interest is maximized.
GDA is also supposed to inform the Court with regard to the amount which the lessee/licensee was required to pay towards the grant of leases and the status of the payments by the lessees in a tabulation form as directed.
Court has already recorded that it is trite that public property is held in public trust by the respondents and has to be dealt with in a non-arbitrary and transparent manner ensuring that public interest is best served.
The court also directed the GDA to inform it with regard to the amount which the lessee/licensee was required to pay towards the grant of leases and the status of the payments by the lessees in a tabulation form.
The court directed the authorities that the phase-I Master plan Gulmarg-2032 shall be examined by a sub-committee of Advisors to canine the proposals of Master Plan and submit the same to SAC with their recommendations.
With regard to the preparation of Master Plan, authorities have submitted that Phase-I of the MP is prepared and the court directed to ensure that the requisite steps for preparation and notification of the Phase-II of Master Plan are completed within the scheduled specified in the status report.
GDA was also directed to ensure that no construction in violation of the court orders and law is permitted.
Meanwhile, in another application, the court granted permission to Sheep and Husbandry Department for construction of the High Altitude Disease Investigation Laboratory at the site where Block Office Building was originally located at Tangmarg, Baramulla.
The applicant, Mohammad Sharief, Director Sheep and Husbandry Department was directed to ensure that the construction is made in accordance with the permissions granted by the concerned authorities and that there is no violation of law and permission granted for the construction of the said building.