The Punjab and Haryana high court has ordered the Punjab government to constitute a three-member committee of senior officers to investigate the mushrooming of 131 illegal hotels in and close to the Galliara project space around the Harmandar Sahib shrine in Amritsar.
The division bench comprising chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and justice Arun Palli, hearing a public-interest petition by Sarabjit Singh Verka, also ordered the state government to submit the names of the officers to be put on the committee.
The state government counsel submitted that the authorities had charge-sheeted 33 officials of the Amritsar municipal corporation for the laxity of allowing illegal construction during their tenures. The officers are of the rank of senior town planner, town planner, and assistant town planner, though the names are not revealed.
Petitioner's advocate RS Bains submitted that senior town planner Hemant Batra, who had filed an affidavit in the case, was among the culprit officials. Batra has stated in the affidavit that in his speaking orders passed on January 23 after he had heard hotel/guesthouse owners personally, he had granted the owners of 131 hotels six months to comply with the building bylaws of 2010.
If the violators failed to take action, the authority was to take legal action after site inspection. It was submitted in the court that the Federation of Hotel and Guest House Association of Amritsar had submitted a representation to the local government, praying for relaxation or amendment in the bylaws. On January 30, the representation was forwarded to the corporation to consider in the house meeting.
The association had submitted that their guest houses should be accommodated in the "Bed and Breakfast Scheme" of the Punjab tourism department. The next hearing is on March 7.
November 2010: Petitioner moves high court, questioning illegal hotels in Galliara
May 2012: Amritsar municipal corporation finds 13 illegal hotels in Galliara
Sept 2013: High court orders action against erring MC officials
Nov 2013: Three assistant town planners charge-sheeted, 11 hotel buildings demolished partly, HC orders action against owners of more than 100 illegal guesthouses
January: Owners of 131 hotels given six months to comply with bylaws
February: MC informs high court that it had charge-sheeted 33 officials; HC orders forming a committee.