Telangana High Court orders probe into lapses of tourism firms

The petitioner, however, claimed that the government had neglected its duty and had not consistently collected rentals.

Telangana High Court

HYDERABAD: A division bench of the Telangana High Court on Tuesday directed the Director-General, Vigilance and Enforcement Department to investigate a complaint made by Congress leader Bakka Judson on January 24, 2022 and ordered that appropriate action be taken against the lapses mentioned in the complaint.

In his petition, the complainant accused private companies including Ocean Park Multi Tech Private Limited, Hyderabad Trade Expo Pvt Ltd, Jubilee Hills Resorts Pvt Ltd, Jubilee Hall convention centre, Jalavihar Entertainment Pvt Ltd, Secunderabad Golf Course, Prasad Media Corporation Ltd, Pantaloon India Limited, and GSG Constructions Pvt Ltd of violating the terms of the allotment of land in their favour under the Build, Operate, Transfer programme.

The Bench further ordered the DG of Vigilance and Enforcement to investigate the issues including the officials for their alleged failure to fulfil their obligation to collect rentals from the private organisations.

The bench issued the aforementioned instruction after disposing of a public interest litigation plea that was filed by Judson, the secretary of the All India Congress Committee.

The petitioner complained that the State Tourism Department, under its lofty project called "Build, Operate and Transfer", had awarded 13 projects to private entrepreneurs on the basis of the public-private sector partnership mode.

All of them entered into agreements with the Department, which call for lease rentals to be paid at a rate of five percent of the basic market value of the land provided for the project, as well as an additional development premium of 5% per year and a 5% annual escalation of the preceding year's lease amount (a share in the revenue). Private enterprises also have a number of other responsibilities to meet.

The petitioner, however, claimed that the government had neglected its duty and had not consistently collected rentals. As a result, as of the day the writ petition was filed, these enterprises collectively were in default of paying rent to the tune of Rs. 234,69,72,909 (Rupees two hundred thirty-four crores, sixty-nine lakhs, seventy-two thousand, and nine hundred nine only). The petitioner claimed that some political leaders had an agenda in the case, which prevented them from collecting rent.

The complainant asserted that despite the state's unrest or zero tolerance policy toward common citizens who miss payments, private businesses are treated very leniently by the state. If the rent arrears from these institutions were recovered, the state could use the money for public welfare because its finances are in the red.

The bench noted that, given that the petitioner had already made a representation to the Director General of the Vigilance and Enforcement Department as early as January 24, 2022, it would be appropriate to direct the Vigilance Department to take the necessary actions to conduct an investigation to discover failures on the part of the official respondents and the private firms in fulfilling their obligations to pay rent.

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