Rashid Paul

HC raps SMC for allowing unauthorized construction of hotel in residential area

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Directs Commissioner to file action taken report in the matter

Srinagar: Observing that the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) is in league with some hoteliers unauthorizedly raising a hotel in a residential area in Gogji Bagh, the High Court has sought an affidavit from the Commissioner of the Corporation directing him to file an action taken report on the matter.

“We are at pain to say that the status report filed on behalf of the SMC on 16.08.2021, is not up to the mark and it fortifies the fact as indicated in the order dated 05.10.2020, that the officers and the staff of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation are in league with the respondent No. 5 & 6, (the alleged violator hoteliers)”, observed the Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice M Akram Chowdhary.

Earlier the counsel for the SMC sought three day’s time for filing a better compliance report pursuant to the October 2020 order by J&K High Court.

The compliance report should be supported by the affidavit of the Commissioner SMC. He will also indicate the action which was taken on the complaints received by the neighbors or the residents of the area regarding unauthorized construction being raised by respondent hoteliers.

The inhabitants of Gogji Bagh through their counsel had submitted before the court that the hoteliers are raising illegal construction in the residential area.

They said initially the permission was taken for a guest house but it was later converted into a hotel, adding it will certainly affect the privacy of the residents in the area.

A notice was later issued for demolition of the “illegal construction”. But the owners approached the Special Tribunal. In December 2019, it directed status quo to be maintained.

Concealing the pendency of the aforesaid proceedings, the respondent hoteliers filed a suit in the Court of District Judge, Srinagar. The judge passed an interim order allowing them to raise construction in terms of the sanctioned plan.

Interestingly, the order was passed therein on the date of filing of the suit itself on 20th of January, 2020.  Construction went on at full swing, the petitioners said.

Meanwhile the Tribunal decided the appeal filed by the hoteliers (against demolition) in July 2020. It chose to connect the counsel for the hoteliers through audio call. The counsels for other parties were kept away, the affected residents told the court.

“The officials of the SMC are conniving with the respondent hoteliers to enable them to violate the provisions of law and raise illegal construction,” the petitioners told the division bench.

In its order the High Court in October 2020 directed that the respondent hoteliers be restrained from carrying out any further construction in the premises in dispute.

It directed the SMC to depute a team of responsible officers to take still photographs and also video of the present status of construction in the building.

The two judge bench of Justices Rajesh Bindal and Sanjay Dhar had strongly censured Abdul Majid Bhat, presiding officer of the Tribunal for his “uncalled for” behavior.

“The manner in which the Presiding Officer is passing orders does not inspire confidence. Many orders passed by the officer were challenged before Jammu bench of this court as well,” pointed out the judges.

“Compounding has been allowed of major violations ignoring the provisions of Rules and Regulations”, they said.

Even the principles of natural of justice have not been followed as neither the counsel for Corporation was heard, nor the applicants who had filed application for being impleaded in the appeal, were apprised of the date of hearing, noted the court.

It directed the Tribunal to send soft copies of all the orders passed by it to the Registrar Vigilance of J&K High Court, from the date A Majid Bhat joined as its Presiding Officer.

At the first instance, orders passed under Control of the Jammu & Kashmir Building Operations Act, 1988 be sent within a period of one month, it directed.

The court also directed to be apprised of the Khilafwarzi officers who remained posted in the area during the period the construction was raised.

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