HC Asks Govt To ‘Immediately’ Retrieve Gulmarg Land Under Illegal Occupation, expired leases

Srinagar, Oct 21): Jammu and Kashmir High Court has directed authorities to take immediate steps for retrieval of public land which is under unauthorized occupation and encroachment in Gulmarg.

“Disposals of public property can be only by transparent and fair processes. Persons who are under expired leases have no right to continue to do so. The respondents (officials) shall take immediate steps for retrieval of public land which is under unauthorized occupation and encroachment,” a division bench chief justice Gita Mittal and Justice Puneet Gupta said while hearing a PIL.

“Let an action taken report with regard to properties which continue to be in unauthorized occupation which are under the control of the Department of Tourism be placed before us positively before the next date of hearing,” the court said.

Referring to the law on the subject, the court observed that the demarcated approach for disposal of public property, in contradiction to the disposal of private property is that it should be for public purpose and in public interest.

“Disposal of public property partakes the character of a trust. Public purpose would be served only by getting best price for such property so that larger revenue coming into the coffers of the State administration can be utilized for beneficent activities to sub-serve public purpose, namely, the welfare State”.

For getting the best price, the court while referring to a judgment by the Delhi high court, said the public property should be put to public auction or by inviting tender with open participation i.e. ensure maximum public participation and a reserve price. “This also ensures transparency and such an auction would be free from bias or discrimination and thus beyond reproach.”

The private negotiations should always be avoided as it cannot withstand public gaze and cast reflection on the Government or its official and is also against social and public interest.

“In exceptional cases, the authorities may depart from public auction or tender process and even dispose of the property at lower price than the market price or even for a token price. However, resort to this process can be taken only to achieve some defined constitutionally recognized public purpose, one such being to achieve the goal set out under Part-IV of the Constitution of India,” the court added. (GNS)

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