In a major jolt to the Virbhadra Singh government,Himachal Pradesh High Court on Tuesday restored the possession of Dharamshala international cricket stadium to Anurag Thakur-led Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA).
The stadium was taken over by the government on October 26 mid-night within hours after the cabinet meeting,presided over by Virbhadra Singh ordered cancellation of the land lease and directed Deputy Commission Kangra C.Paulrasu to immediate take possession of the property dislodging the HPCA.
The court,in its interim,order also stayed the operation of order passed by principal secretary (revenue) relating to cancellation of the lease granted to the HPCA for building its world-class stadium and a five-star luxury hotel The Pavilion.
A division Bench comprising Chief Justice A.M.Khanwilkar and Justice Kuldeep Singh termed the congress government’s action of a mid-night swoop to take over the stadium by sending police force as an ‘act of high handedness’ of the state authorities,which were expected to follow a due course of law to dispossess any person.
In its order announced in the open court,the bench maintained that the action was politically motivated and goes against all established norms,rule of law and constitution.
“We order the state government to restore a status quo ante i.e the position prevailing before October 26,2013 — the day when state cabinet canceled the land lease of the HPCA and also took-over the possession forcibly in the mid-night ,should be restored forthwith,” the court said.
Two-time BJP MP Anurag Thakur,who is also son of former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal ,had challenged the state government’s controversial action accusing the government of acting with political vendetta to cancel the land lease,and also taking over the possession of its assets,mainly the cricket stadium without following due course of law.
Stadium has been a brain child of Anurag Thakur,who heads the HPCA and had successfully got some of the important cricket matches held at Dharamshala including ODI between India and England early this year.
In the petition,he narrated the sequence of the events as how the Congress government on its return to power had tried to fabricate cases against him and even threatened cancel the lease granted to the HPCA for the stadium and its hotel — built as a pre-condition for hosting national and international events at Dharamshala.
The stadium was built in 2003 and ‘The Pavilion’ hotel 2011-12 to host IPL matches and also One-Day international between India and England this year.
It was on October 26,when cabinet took a decision to cancel the lease and subsequently Deputy Commissioner Kangra was directed proceed and take over the stadium,beside other properties. The ministers were also made to stay back in the cabinet till the final orders were passed by the Deputy Commissioner Kangra
Beside stadium,the government had also canceled all other land leases given to the HPCA at Lalpani in Shimla town,Gumma in Kotkhai in rural Shimla,Luhnu in Bilaspur and Nadaun in Hamirpur district.
The State Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau,earlier had also registered a case against the HPCA accusing its of cheating and fraud by converting a registered society to a company without permission of the state government in 2012. The Registrar of Cooperative Societies R.D.Nazeem had also served a show-cause notice to the HPCA asking it to explain how the society was converted into a registered company.
But,before Registrar’s final order,the cabinet acted in a haste and took a decision to cancel the lease without serving a show cause notice to the HPCA.
The court passed severe stricture against the government for its action quoting some of the reported judgments of Supreme court including one relating to the Indian Express building case.