HC pulls SPCB, directs sealing of hotels without STP in J&K

Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Thursday came down heavily on State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) for not sealing hotels which are operating without Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) in the state, especially in Katra and Patnitop, besides twin capitals of Jammu and Srinagar.
“The status report filed by (Secretary) SPCB is far from satisfactory,” a division bench of Chief Justice M M Kumar and Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar observed following perusal of the report during the hearing of Public Interest Litigation—Rafiq Ahmad Zargar Vs State—seeking directions for implementation of pollution control laws in the state in letter and spirit.
“Why issue ‘suspend commercial operation’ orders and not seal the hotels as was done in Gulmarg?” the bench asked after further reading of the status report filed by Secretary SPCB Arun Kumar Tickoo.
“On your (Advocate General’s) statement (during last hearing) we saved this gentleman (Tickoo) from contempt notice. And if the officers understand this language, we will start talking this language only,” the bench said.
“Nothing has been done. We know Act provides suspension, but suspend operation does not mean that matter comes to end and when the court desired that they must be sealed, it is way of complimenting the provision of law,” the bench said, directing that the hotels operating without STP must be sealed in order of suspending their operation.
“We know what is happening. We are on road also, invisibly. So ask these officers to be sincere to court. Otherwise, we know how to make them sincere,” the court said.
Referring to the annexure attached with the affidavit filed by Secretary PCB, the bench observed that it vaguely states that commercial operation of 96 hotels in Katra has been ordered to be suspended.
“What is the effect of suspending the commercial operation is yet to be known. We are left with the impression that this (suspension operation) order is only an order on paper and in reality all these 96 hotels are operating and there is no sealing process undertaken by the PCB with the help of authorities as was done at Gulmarg and Pahalgam.”
In view of the court’s discontentment, Advocate General M I Qadri assured that all effective steps shall be taken to ensure that hotels in category-A (having 19 or more rooms) have STP operational particularly in the area of Katra, Patnitop, Jammu and Srinagar.
Qadri also stated that all effective steps shall be taken by adopting the sealing process in respect of all the hotels in state so that their commercial operation comes to standstill and they are not allowed to operate.
“An affidavit along with date of passing of the orders suspending commercial operation and sealing shall be filed before the next date of hearing,” the division bench said and posted the PIL for further consideration next week.
Advocate Aijaz Chesti appeared before the bench on behalf of the petitioner Mohammad Rafiq Zargar.