Telangana High Court summons officials in Hill Fort Palace restoration case
The Telangana High Court has directed the respondent officials to remain present in person before the High Court for their half-hearted approach on the restoration and conservation work of the Hill Fort Palace.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Ujjal Bhuyan and Justice C.V. Bhaskar Reddy heard a Public Interest Litigation regarding restoration and conservation of the Hill Fort Palace and the surrounding grounds.
The Hill Fort Palace, along with the grounds, located in Hyderabad city, reflects the rich heritage of the city and the State of Telangana. Presently, it is in a rundown condition.
The Court found that the proceedings were initiated as far back as on 10.02.2020 when notices were issued.
Subsequently on 07.01.2022, learned counsel for Telangana State Travel and Tourism Development Corporation Limited (Corporation) informed the Court that the Corporation had written to the Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority for grant of necessary approvals to repair the heritage building.
The Court noted that except the aforesaid bald statement, nothing was brought to the notice of the Court as to what steps have been taken in the matter of repairing the heritage building. The Court therefore directed the personal appearance of the Managing Director of the Corporation on 17.01.2022.
In the proceedings held on 17.01.2022, though the Managing Director of the Corporation was present, this Court was surprised to find that a committee was constituted way back on 17.08.2021 following which the committee was requested for grant of approval to carry out the repairs and maintenance of the heritage building.
This Court noted with concern that though the committee was constituted on 17.08.2021, no such permission/ approval had been granted by the committee. The Court directed the Managing Director to request the committee for passing necessary orders.
It was clarified that if no approval was granted by the committee. The Commissioner of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation being the Chairman of the committee, was directed to remain present in the Court on 01.02.2022.
On 01.02.2022, the Commissioner of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation was present through virtual hearing. He informed the Court that a meeting of the committee was scheduled on 03.02.2022.
Subsequently on 14.02.2022, the Court was informed that Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation had accorded permission for restoration and conservation works of the Hill Fort Palace (RITZ Hotel). The counsel for the Telangana State Travel and Tourism Development Corporation Limited prayed for listing of the matter after six weeks as a report of the Expert Committee (Structural Engineers) was required.
On 28.04.2022, the Court was informed that a report was obtained from the Expert Committee (Structural Engineers). This Court directed that since a report of the Expert Committee was received, respondents should take immediate steps for restoration of the Hill Fort Palace. Status report was directed to be filed within six weeks.
In the proceedings held on 15.06.2022, this Court noted that a status report was filed. As per the status report a request was made to the Government for sanctioning Rs.50 crores for restoration and conservation of the Hill Fort Palace. Court was requested to provide some breathing time.
Thereafter on a couple of occasions, the matter was adjourned on the request of A.Sanjeev Kumar, Special Government Pleader for obtaining instructions.
In the hearing on November 01 , A.Sanjeev Kumar, submitted that he has received a letter from the Secretary of the Tourism Department that the Finance Department has called for item wise details before sanctioning the amount for restoration and conservation. On 30.09.2022, the architects of the Corporation were asked to submit item wise details.
The High Court held that even if the Court accept the above contention of the Secretary of the Tourism Department, a month has elapsed since then. Nothing is forthcoming. But that apart, the Court failed to understand as to why the high level committee constituted for this purpose or the Corporation did not forward item wise financial requirements to the Government at the first instance.
‘What we can gather from the above is that the entire approach of the concerned officials are half-hearted. Despite repeated orders of this Court, the concerned officials have not shown the required urgency as well as the spirit of public duty in doing the needful which is of considerable importance to the city of Hyderabad and to the State of Telangana. We are not at all happy with the approach of the concerned officials’, observed the High court.
The Bench accordingly directed Commissioner and Secretary to the Government of Telangana, Finance Department; Commissioner and Secretary to the Government of Telangana, Tourism Department; Managing Director of Telangana State Travel and Tourism Development Corporation; Commissioner of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation; and Commissioner and Vice Chairman of Hyderabad Metropolitan Development Authority to be present in person before the High Court on 22.11.2022 at 10:30 am.
‘It is expected that on that date, the officials shall be ready with all the required permissions to start the restoration and conservation work of the Hill Fort Palace. Any further lapse on the part of the officials will be viewed seriously by the Court. List on 22.11.2022’, the order reads.