Srinagar: Observing that Jammu and Kashmir is not an “entity fully autonomous in its functioning”, the High Court of J&K and Ladakh on Thursday asked Government of India through its Cabinet Secretary to constitute a Committee to “resolve amicably” dispute regarding termination of lease and eviction notice to Centaur Lake View Hotel Srinagar “being the issue between ‘two limbs’ of Government of India.”
Disposing of a petition filed by Hotel Corporation of India Ltd, a Corporation which carries out its functions under the aegis of Ministry of Civil Aviation, a bench of Justice Sanjeev Kumar asked the Cabinet Secretary to form the committee within four weeks.
“Indisputably, the Hotel Corporation of India Ltd. is an autonomous body/Public Sector Undertaking subject to ultimate administrative control of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India. The other party to the litigation is the Government of UT of Jammu and Kashmir which under the Constitution of India is administered by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India,” the court said.
The court said that there is no dispute with regard to the fact that the leased premises was the property of the erstwhile State of J&K 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.
With the erstwhile State divided in two Union Territories through Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 with effect from 31 October 2019, the court said J&K like other UT is governed directly by the President.
“From a reading of the entire Reorganization Act, it transpires that, though UT of Jammu and Kashmir has 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 Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” the court said, adding, “Without dilating much on the issue and being convinced that Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir is not an entity fully autonomous in its functioning and also having regard to the fact that affairs of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir are monitored and controlled by the Government of India through the Ministry of Home Affairs, I, for the purposes of discussion, I am undertaking hereinafter, treat the UT of Jammu and Kashmir as part of Government of India.”
The dispute raised in this petition is, thus, the court said, a dispute between an Autonomous Body fully owned, controlled and administered by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and “the UT of Jammu and Kashmir administered by the President of India through Lieutenant Governor who is answerable to the President through the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.”
While holding that the termination of lease and issuance of eviction notice by the J&K Government is the dispute between “two limbs of Government of India”, the court asked the Centre through its Cabinet Secretary to constitute a Committee comprising of 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 31.03.2020).
“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 Government of India or Government of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to elicit any information or record.”
The court ordered the Committee within four weeks. “The Committee shall hear all the stakeholders and finalize its decision within a period of two months,” the court said, adding, “Till a final decision on the matter is taken by the Competent Authority, there shall be status quo in respect of leased premises.”