SRINAGAR The J&K High Court has directed government to clear stand with regard to the recovery of the possession of the property where leases and licenses have expired in Gulmarg, the worlds famous tourist destination in north Kashmir.
It is trite that public property is held in public trust by the respondents (officials) and has to be dealt with in a non-arbitrary and transparent manner ensuring that public interest is best served, a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Dhiraj Singh Thakur while hearing a Public Interest litigation.
No person can be permitted to utilize the property with the intention of furthering of private interest of any person or authority. It has to be ensured that the maximum benefit results to the public as a result thereof, the court said.
During the proceedings, the courts attention was drawn to SRO-580 wherein the maximum period for which a lease could be granted was 40 years.
Obviously, no extension beyond this period is permissible, the court said and directed the official respondents to place on affidavit also their stand with regard to the recovery of the possession of the property where leases/licenses have expired.
We shall also be informed in the affidavit about the manner in which such public property shall be dealt with. If the same is to be allowed to a private persons, the procedure which would be followed for the same.
On the expiry of lease/license, the erstwhile lessee/licensee acquires the status of an unauthorized occupant within the meaning of Section 2(g) of the Jammu and Kashmir Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Act, 1988, the court underlined.
The respondents shall inform this Court with regard to the amount which the lessee/licensee were required to pay towards the grant of leases and the status of the payments by the lessees. This may be added in two additional columns to the tabulation which has been filed by the respondents, the court added.
Regarding finalization of the Master Plan for Gulmarg, the court was informed by government advocate Usman Gani that the Secretary of Tourism Department and the Chief Town Planner and Chief Executive Officer, Gulmarg Development Authority visited all areas of Gulmarg for a physical inspection and had a meeting with regard to finalization of the Master Plan.
A meeting was thereafter convened by the Chief Secretary when times line for finalization of the Master Plan were appointed, he said following which court ordered that timelines be placed before the court by filing an affidavit by the Chief Executive Officer, Gulmarg Development Authority.