HC allows Ford to construct Ski Village Project in Manali

SHIMLA: The Himachal Pradesh High Court has allowed Alfred Ford of Ford Motor Company to go ahead with a Rs 1581-10 crore-Ski Village being executed by its subsidiary company, Himalayan Ski Village Private Ltd, in Manali.

The court quashed the order of the state government to scrap the project in picturesque Manali Valley and allowed the promoter company to proceed with the project after obtaining the necessary clearances.

The order has come as a big relief to Alfred Ford whose ambitious project had been hanging fire for more than eight years and as a big setback for the BJP government which has been opposing the project while in opposition and decided to scrap the project after coming to power in December 2007.
In a 77-page judgment, the single bench of the High Court consisting of Justice Rajiv Sharma said “it is duly established that the state government had already made up its mind to cancel the project and the issuance of notice based on the recommendations of the (state high-power) committee was merely a ritual.”

“The notice issued to the company on January 7, 2010, is without jurisdiction and authority of law and the action of the state to issue notice is unreasonable”, Justice Sharma said.

The company had challenged the show cause notice issued to it by the state government asking it to explain the reasons for not fulfilling mandatory requirements pointed out by the government.

“The state government has changed its stand by initially supporting the case of the company and now by opposing the same on the grounds, which are not available to it under the law,” the judge said.

“The state government has the right to cancel the implementation agreement (IA) after giving an opportunity of being heard to the company in case it is found that there was misrepresentation or suppression of material information by the company or in the event of breach of any of the provisions of the agreement.

“But in this case, the state has failed to satisfy the court that there was any misrepresentation or suppression of material information or breach of any of the provisions of the IA dated June 5, 2006,” Justice Sharma said. The Ford Motor Company had in April 2004 shown interest in setting up a high-end ski resort project in the Himalayas and entered into an agreement with the then Congress government led by Virbhadra Singh in December 2005 with the Himalayan Ski Village Company for establishing the project.

The court said it is true that the interest of the local people have to be taken care of scrupulously by governmental agencies by adopting the principle of sustainable development but “there is a method prescribed that has not been followed by the state”.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had demanded that the project be scrapped. When the party came to power in December 2007, it alleged the project was sanctioned by the previous Congress government in a hush-hush manner and raised doubts on the project’s adverse impact on the environment and livelihood of the people.

The company pleaded the state government had already signed a memorandum of understanding, IA and detailed project report and argued the decision to the issue-show cause notice was unilateral.

The court said “governance is a continuous process. There should be certainty and consistency in the policy matters taken by the state government which has already accepted Rs.75 lakh from the company”.-PTI

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