CBI Starts Probe Into Patnitop Master Plan Violations

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NEW DELHI – The CBI has launched a probe into alleged violations of the master plan of the Patnitop area in Jammu and Kashmir, dispatching 30 officers of its special team to inquire into encroachment of forest land by hoteliers in the region, officials said on Wednesday.

The agency had registered a preliminary enquiry on the orders of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court dated December 31, 2019, they added.

“This order has been passed on a PIL filed by the president of the Hotel and Restaurant Association, Patnitop, wherein he has alleged glaring violations of the master plan of the Patnitop area, resulting in 70 per cent of hotels and restaurants having been constructed without permission,” a CBI official said.

In order to meet the deadline of eight weeks given by the high court to conclude the inquiry and submit a report, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had dispatched a special team of 30 officers to carry out the enquiry, he added.

The officers were presently camping at Patnitop, Udhampur and Jammu in connection with the enquiry, the CBI official said.

In its order, a division bench of Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Bindal had directed the central probe agency to look into all aspects of the matter, including issuance of licenses and permissions granted within the jurisdiction of the Patnitop Development Authority, and submit a report within eight weeks.

The bench was hearing a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petition filed by Harcharan Singh, owner of Krystal Hotel and Restaurant at Patnitop, seeking demolition of the illegal or unauthorised buildings raised in the green buffer areas of the hill resort.

In the PIL, the details of 59 hotels and resorts, which had allegedly encroached on agricultural and forest land, were given, an official said.

The CBI had had so far collected documents of 50 of those hotels and resorts from various government officers, he added.

The bench had directed the CBI to examine the aspect of encroachment of forest land and other public land, illegal change of use and misuse of land in violation of the permitted user, raising of illegal constructions, failure of the authorities to take action, and fix the responsibility of the persons who were at the helm of affairs.

“We, therefore, direct that this order be placed before the Director, CBI, who shall appoint a senior officer not below the rank of Superintendent of Police to conduct an in-depth enquiry into the misuse of power and authority for any reason and violations of law.

“On conclusion of the enquiry, the CBI shall register case(s) in accordance with law against person(s) found culpable, proceed with the investigation as well as prosecution,” the order had said.

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