Apex court stays cancellation of Jaipur’s Jal Mahal lease (Lead)

May 25th, 2012 - 9:40 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) The Supreme Court Friday stayed the Rajasthan High Court’s order cancelling a resort company’s 99-year lease to run the Mansagar Lake and Jal Mahal monument in Jaipur as a tourist destination after restoring it.

A bench of Justice Deepak Verma and Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya, issuing notices to the Rajasthan government, petitioner K.P. Sharma and others, allowed the Jal Mahal Resorts Private Ltd. the renovation and restoration activities in the Jal Mahal complex, but said the firm would not undertake any fresh construction in the area.

The project that was awarded to Jal Mahal Resorts Private Ltd involved the ecological restoration of Mansagar Lake and restoration and renovation of the dilapidated Jal Mahal.

The Rajasthan High Court, by its May 17 order, held as illegal the lease granted to the resort company for developing the Mansagar Lake and Jal Mahal monument in Jaipur following a public interest litigation filed by Sharma, professor of botany in Rajasthan University.

Staying the operation of the high court order, the apex court said the undertaking given by the company to the high court that it would not undertake any fresh construction in the complex would continue.

Senior counsel Gopal Subramanium, appearing for the resort company, also reiterated the undertaking.

“We did give an undertaking. We will not undertake any fresh construction,” Subramanium told the court adding that the court may stay the high court judgment and record his statement.

The high court May 17 had declared as “illegal and void” the Nov 22, 2005, Mansagar Lake Precinct Lease Agreement by which 100 acres of the land in the complex was given on a 99-year lease. The court also cancelled another document named the Jal Mahal Leave and Licence Agreement.

Subramanium told the court that tenders for the project were invited in 2003 and the same was awarded in 2005 and all though the petitioner was aware of the execution of the project but it was only in 2011 that he moved the petition before the high court seeking the quashing of the lease agreement.

As senior counsel P.S. Narasimha, appearing for Sharma, opposed the stay of the high court order, Justice Mukhopadhaya observed: “If you can wait for six years for moving the court, you can wait for another six months for the disposal of the case.”

As Narasimha told the court that at least it should order the stoppage of the construction activity, the court said that it was not construction but the restoration and renovation of the dilapidated Jal Majal that was going on.

Justice Verma said: “You (client) have no right to say that every thing has to be undone. Some constructive work is also not being allowed to be done. It is highly unfair.”

Narasimha contended that it was a “classic case of destruction of environment with impunity”.

The Mansagar Lake and Jal Mahal are located near Amber Fort in Jaipur.

The high court while holding the two lease agreements as illegal and void, had directed that the resort company would bear the entire cost of restoring the 100 acres of land to its original position by removing the soil filled by it and restore its possession to Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC).

Dealing with different aspects of the case, the high court noted that the decisions were taken on extraneous considerations to favour the lease holder which was against the doctrine of public interest and violative of Article 14, 21 and other provisions of the Constitution.

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