According to the Greater Kashmir, the High Court Thursday asked the Centre through its Cabinet Secretary to constitute a committee to resolve amicably the dispute regarding termination of lease and eviction notice to Centaur Lake View Hotel Srinagar “being the issue between ‘two limbs’ of the Government of India (GoI)”.
Deciding on a plea by the Hotel Corporation of India Ltd, a corporation that carries out its functions under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, a bench of Justice Sanjeev Kumar asked the Cabinet Secretary to form the committee within four weeks.
While the court underscored that indisputably the Hotel Corporation of India Ltd is an autonomous Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) subject to ultimate administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, GoI, it said the other party to the litigation was the J&K government, which under the constitution of India was administered by the Ministry of Home Affairs, GoI.
“There is no dispute with regard to the fact that the leased premises was the property of the erstwhile J&K state and the same was leased out in 1982 to the corporation for a period of 99 years on the terms and conditions enumerated in detail in the lease agreement executed between the parties,” the court said.
With erstwhile state divided in two union territories through Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 with effect from October 31, 2019, the court said that J&K like other union territories was governed directly by the President.
“From a reading of the entire Reorganisation Act, it transpires that, though J&K had been envisaged to be a union territory with a State legislature having conferred legislative powers, yet the final control of the union territory vests in the President who exercises such control through the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir,” the court said. “Without dilating much on the issue and being convinced that Jammu and Kashmir is not an entity fully autonomous in its functioning and also having regard to the fact that affairs of the J&K government are monitored and controlled by the GoI through the Ministry of Home Affairs, I, for the purposes of discussion, am undertaking hereinafter, J&K as part of GoI.”
The court observed that the dispute raised in this petition was, thus, a dispute between an autonomous body fully owned, controlled and administered by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and “the J&K UT administered by the President of India through Lieutenant Governor who is answerable to the President through the Ministry of Home Affairs, GoI.”
Holding that the termination of lease and issuance of eviction notice by the J&K government was the dispute between “two limbs of GoI”, the court asked GoI through its Cabinet Secretary to constitute a committee comprising Secretary Civil Aviation, Secretary Home Affairs, and Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs to adjudicate the dispute.
“Effort shall be made to resolve the dispute amicably by following as far as practicable the mechanism provided under Office Memorandum dated March 31, 2020). Should the committee at its level fail to resolve the dispute between the parties for any reason whatsoever, the matter shall be referred to the Cabinet Secretary whose decision shall be final and binding on all the concerned. The committee shall be free to put on notice any department, officer or official of GoI or J&K government to elicit any information or record.” The court ordered the committee be constituted within four weeks.
“The committee should hear all the stakeholders and finalise its decision within a period of two months,” the court said. “Till a final decision on the matter is taken by the competent authority, there will be a status quo in respect of leased premises.”