Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh High Court, last week, dismissed the writ petition filed by the Hotel Corporation of India (HCI), against the notice issued by the government under the J&K Land Grants Act, 1960 directing them to immediately hand over the possession of the leased premises.
Justice Ali Mohammad Magray without commenting on the merits of the case dismissed the petition for not being maintainable.
HCI, a company controlled by the Ministry of Civil Aviation, GoI , had sought interference from the court to prevent the state administration from causing any interference in their possession of the leased premises.
Advocate General D C Raina appearing on behalf of the Union Territory questioned the very maintainability of the writ petition. He said the HCI has participated in the proceedings initiated by the estate’s officer, ADC Srinagar, by replying to the show-cause notice issued by the officer.
The eviction order was passed only after both the parties were heard, contended Advocate General.
It was further argued that the Hotel Corporation has preferred an appeal against the eviction order before Deputy Commissioner, Srinagar (Appellate Authority) before filing a writ petition in the High Court.
Advocate Tasaduq Khawaja, counsel appearing for HCI, questioned the power of the government to determine the lease in terms of the rule that does not apply to the corporation.
He contended, that the notice is without jurisdictions and the order is bad in law as provisions of the Land Grants Act, 1960, do not apply to the corporation and the corporation wasn’t afforded the prior opportunity of being heard.
The counsel appearing for HCI also argued that the lease between the company and government is for 99 years and the government has no basis to determine the lease.
Pertinently, the Hotel Corporation of India had entered into a ‘management contract’ with ‘M/s BD&P Hotels India Private Limited’ which was terminated in 2011.
The move had evoked widespread opposition from different quarters including from the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).
The KCCI had suggested, in case the HCI intends to sell the hotel, it should be taken over by State Tourism Ministry or it should be open to bids by state subjects.
The counsel contended the contract was for management of the company not for handing over leasehold rights and this, he said to the court, is no basis for the government to determine the lease.
Centaur Hotel Employees Union, represented by Advocate R. A Jan, was also before the court as intervenors. Employees, who are said to be working in the hotel for decades, are concerned for their livelihood and sustenance.
In the event, the hotel is taken over by the government the employees losing their livelihood would be an immediate casualty, contended counsel representing the employees union.
The court was orally apprised about how the company retained its employees even when it was running into losses during the tumultuous 90s.
Justice Magray while dismissing the petition filed by HCI held: “…I feel that the present Petition, at this stage, is not maintainable before this Court inasmuch as the Petitioner-Company has already filed an appeal against the Eviction proceedings before the appropriate forum… The said appeal, admittedly, is pending adjudication before the appellate Authority and no decision, as yet, has been rendered thereon.”
The matter did not stop there, HCI knocked on the doors of Apex Court immediately after their petition was dismissed by High Court, but couldn’t bring home much relief.
The Apex court refused to entertain the petition and directed the appellate authority (Deputy Commissioner Srinagar) to decide the appeal, pending before it, within 4 weeks.
Pertinently, Centaur Lake View Hotel is the oldest 5-star with an intake capacity of 252 rooms.
The hotel is situated on the bank of the famous Dal Lake spread over 13 acres of land which was allotted to the corporation in 1981. The lease was the outcome of the cabinet decision taken in 1979.