Sajjad Lone’s mall, Khidmat building among 17 business complexes sealed
SMC swung into action after High Court warned framing of rule against Commissioner
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz_________
SRINAGAR, Dec 1: Following a strict direction from the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has sealed as many as 17 business complexes for different violations of the building permissions in the upscale neighbourhoods of the summer capital on Monday and Tuesday. The shopping malls, hotels and other commercial complexes sealed in the major drive include a business centre of the prominent separatist-turned-mainstream politician and Minister of Animal Husbandry Sajjad Gani Lone and a major property owned by the Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC).
Commissioner SMC Showkat Ahmad Zargar told STATE TIMES that a Division Bench of the J&K High Court, comprising Mr Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Mr Justice Ali Mohammad Magray, had last week warned to frame rule against him in case he failed to seal all the unauthorised buildings, figuring in a list, within a particular framework. “It’s clear that we are not going to listen to anybody, whosoever, other than the High Court. We have sealed 17 complexes on Monday and Tuesday and we are proceeding against two or three more tomorrow”, Zargar said.
The SMC team headed by Chief Enforcement Officer Manzoor Ahmad Tarray sealed a multi-storeyed commercial complex, registered in the names of the Peoples Conference Chairman Sajjad Lone’s 8-year-old twins Emaad and Adnan at Sanat Nagar, for violation of the space earmarked for the parking facility. Mr Lone had raised another business joint, titled Just Baked, on the premises without necessary permission from BOCA. SMC proceed after the proprietor failed to respond to a notice served on him last week.
This is probably for the first time in the last many years that a sitting Cabinet Minister’s property has been sealed in J&K for violations by the municipal authorities, albeit under court orders in a Public Interest Litigation (PIL).
In the year 2008, a local NGO ‘Consumer Welfare Association’ had filed a PIL in J&K High Court in an attempt to make the authorities accountable for removing bottlenecks that cause menacing traffic jams in the State’s summer capital. During the course of the hearing, it was pointed out that SMC had granted a large number of building permissions for hotels, commercial complexes and shopping malls in violation of rules and no space had been reserved for parking of the vehicles of the shopkeepers and visitors.
It was also appointed out that many of the influential businesspersons and traders had secured building permissions on the undertaking that they would reserve a particular area for parking but after making their businesses operational, they had used even that space for commercial purposes. Consequently, most of the vehicles remained parked on the thorough fares resulting in huge traffic jams.
After years of hearing, DB directed to carry out a survey in which it was observed that owners and proprietors of 32 complexes had resorted to brazen violations. Notices were served on them for necessary restorations. During this process, some of them restored the parking spaces. The DB’s warning to Commissioner SMC came after it was alleged that the municipal authorities had turned a blind eye to a grave human problem. Commissioner was directed last week to complete the sealing process within a framework or else be prepared to face charge of contempt.
Significantly, the multi-storeyed complexes sealed by the SMC include Khidmat Building, a property of the JKPCC-run Khidmat Trust. Situated at Abi Guzar, behind Mushtaq Press Enclave, this building houses the offices of Congress party’s official organ, the bilingual daily Khidmat and its printing presses which are also used for printing of around 20 Urdu and English newspapers. Chambers of some advocates, offices and business establishments of different traders also operate from the same complex.
Close to Khidmat, the SMC team sealed three-storeyed building complex of Ghulam Mohiuddin Wani and three-storeyed Bakhtawar Plaza at Regal Chowk in Civil Lines. Eminent nephrologist Dr Munir Khan’s Kidney Hospital, registered in the name of his son Naveed Khan, was also sealed at Sonwar.
At Munnawarabad, the SMC team sealed four-storeyed guesthouse and hotel complex of Asrar Sharief Matoo and three-storeyed guesthouse and shopping complex of Altaf Hussain Mir.
Merajuddin Charu’s, Pritpal Singh’s, Zamir Ahmad Thakur’s and Ghulam Rasool Kuchai’s complexes were sealed respectively at Exhibition Road, Gogjibagh, Maharaja Bazar and Humhama.
A five-storeyed shopping mall and hotel complex, which is the property of Baba Dharam Das Temple Trust, registered in the name of a mahant Lala Jai Ram, was sealed at Barbarshah. The construction of this major complex had been already stayed by different courts as the owners and the lease-holders have been in crosshairs of litigation for over three years. One of the most prominent contractors of the State, who has also functioned as a Minister and MP, is reportedly a partner of the shopping complex and the hotel coming up at a prime location in uptown.