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J&K: CBI initiates PE into alleged violations of Patnitop Master Plan

J&K: CBI initiates PE into alleged violations of Patnitop Master Plan
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New Delhi: The CBI has initiated a preliminary enquiry against erstwhile officials of the Patnitop Development Authority and even a Minister in the Farooq Abdullah cabinet in the 1980s along with several hotel and guesthouse owners for a host of alleged violations of the Patnitop Master Development Plan 1992, by undertaking unauthorised construction in Green Buffer Areas, forest land, state land, including the Kahcharai land in connivance with public officials.

Officials here said that the then Minister for Housing and Urban Development had allegedly illegally approved the unauthorised construction of 4,547 sqft by one Hotel Forest View and that several hotels at Patnitop were running without any registration and authorisation from the competent authority.

The Central Bureau of Investigation has registered this preliminary enquiry on directions of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, which had recommended a CBI probe in the matter after an official of the hotel owners' association in the area filed a PIL alleging the irregularities.

The CBI has said that the complainant had given details of at least 59 such hotels and guesthouses, of which the central probe agency has gathered documents and materials pertaining to 50 of them from the District Commissioner's office, Forest Department, Tourism Department and the Electricity Department.

In the High Court order from December 31 last year, the court notes that several guesthouses at Patnitop were misusing land marked for agriculture in the J&K Agrarian Reforms Act of 1976.

The court goes on to say that one Hotel Mariyam Begum had misused the green buffer land and constructed a building which was put to commercial use.

The court further said that the non-compoundable deviation by property owners in the Patnitop area had illegally been compounded by a Special Tribunal which was not authorised in most cases by the Patnitop Development Authority.

"The authorities took no action despite non-deposit of compounding fee by the Hoteliers," the court had said, adding that the authorities had compounded the violation even in instances where no permission had been sought for constructing a building.

The CBI has also alleged the hotel owners had put electricity and water connection obtained for domestic use to commercial use and that hotels were being run on licenses granted only for guesthouses and uncontrolled construction had resulted in serious degradation of the environment in the area.

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