Rajasthan High Court revokes 99-year lease for Jal Mahal, BJP-Congress blame each other

Rajasthan High Court today ordered cancellation of the lease granted by the Rajasthan Government for renovation/revival and establishing a hotel at the famous Jal Mahal/Mansagar of Jaipur to a company and also ordered restoration of original character and form of the historic lake and its nullah/rivulets. The Court order came on PILs filed by Dharovar Bachao Samiti, Heritage Sanrakshan Society and Prof KP Sharma. The Court set aside the government lease orders and also held that the expenses to be incurred on dismantling/removal of the construction/structures brought up by the lessee Jal Mahal Resorts Pvt Ltd, would be borne by the company that was working on this project. The high court, while cancelling the lease and license agreements, has directed the private company, the Jal Mahal Resorts Pvt Ltd, to return the entire land to the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC), which will pass it back to its original owners, the Jaipur Development Authority, the Jaipur Municipal Corporation and the Public Works Department. The judgment has come as a blow to the state government which had been trying hard before the court as well as the state assembly to project the agreement to be in public interest. The government had given away 100 acres of priceless land of the ancient Man Sagar Lake to the private company for 99 years in return for an annual lease money of merely Rs 2.5 crore. The land's current market value is estimated to be anywhere between Rs 2,500 crore and Rs 3,500 crore. Reacting on the High Court decision on Jal Mahal, both the Congress and the BJP were quick to pass the buck on to the other party, with the latter even blaming Ashok Gehlot for the decision during his first stint as chief minister. In spite of the blame-game the court decision to unshackle Jal Mahal from private hands is a slap on the face of successive state governments, which “surrendered the heritage property” in violation of rules.