Rajasthan High Court orders action against 41 hotels encroaching on lakes and for violating court order
On September 27, the Rajasthan High Court ordered the demolition of 41 hotels, all encroaching upon Udaipur’s lakes and built in violation of an earlier court order. The oral order was given by a bench headed by chief justice Arun Mishra, while hearing a contempt petition filed against the hotel owners for not complying with a 2007 court order. The contempt petition was filed by the Jheel Sanrakshan Samiti (JSS), an Udaipur based non-profit. The earlier order put restrictions on further construction around lakes in the city.
The court not only called for demolition, but in one case has even slapped a fine on the developer. The government had given permission to build a five star hotel on an island of the Udai Sagar lake. The court has ordered that not only the construction be demolished but that the developer, Vardhan Enterprise, pay a fine of Rs 1 crore. The list of 41 hotels slated for demolition was furnished by the state government, based on the building permissions given since 2007.
Three months to set up lake authority
In 1997, JSS had filed a public interest petition in the Supreme Court, a case which was later re-directed to the Rajasthan High Court. Other petitions related to encroachment and pollution of Udaipur’s lakes was clubbed with this case and treated as a joint petition. The judgement passed in February 2007 disallowed construction in and around lakes as well as prevented conversion of land use. The judgement also called for the setting up of a lake development authority, responsible and accountable for ecological and hydrological balance of the lakes. The state government drafted a bill in 2009, but the matter did not gain traction. The high court has now called for the formation of this authority in three months.
Over the past decade, time and again the high court hauled up the state officials and several local government agencies for not implementing a time bound action plan to clean Udaipur’s lakes. “This time, the government has asked for a list of officials who were instrumental in violating the court's orders, including those who are no longer posted but responsible,” says Tez Razdan, convener of the JSS.
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