Citing a law-and-order situation, the Amritsar municipal corporation did not go ahead with the sealing of the illegal hotels in the Galliara area that were given 72-hour sealing notices on Saturday evening, despite much hype about its commitment to ensure fulfilment of the court directives.
The development is being seen as an attempt by the MC to save its skin on the issue of illegal hotels and gain the favour of their owners by avoiding action against these establishments, though the MC officials have denied these charges as "baseless".
"The situation could have actually gone out of hand had we gone ahead with the sealing of the hotels. To prevent the law-and-order situation from getting out of hand, we decided to defer the process of sealing. We shall file a status report in the high court in this regard," said municipal commissioner Pradeep Sabharwal.
High drama prevailed in the walled city area near the Jallianwala Bagh, where some of these hotels are situated, as the affected hoteliers and their supporters and occupants of the hotels and serais held a demonstration there.
A group led by Guriqbal Singh, a Raagi, who is associated with Mata Kaulan Sangat Niwas, that was also issued the notice, lent a religious touch to the agitation and uttered religious chants to keep the MC at bay. The sealing operations were to start at 9 am on Wednesday.
The owners of the affected hotels and their supporters, who outnumbered the MC's team, assembled there hours before the arrival of the officials of the municipal town planning department, who were accompanied by the police and two duty magistrates, and offered stiff resistance to the MC.
Altercations between the MC men and the owners of illegal hotels and serais marked the occasion. The excitement was too much to bear for Pritpal Singh Sethi, an elderly affected hotelier, who was part of the protest and suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital. Parminder Singh, a hotelier from the walled city area, held the MC authorities responsible for Wednesday's scene.
"Just last month, they gave their nod to the proposal to implement the old building bylaws in the meeting of the house and sent it to the government, reaffirming it in a meeting held a few days ago. Then before the government could take a final decision, which could have benefited us, they served sealing notices. They should have waited for the government to take the final decision," he said.