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Supreme Court orders handover of Wildflower Hall to Himachal govt

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Supreme Court orders handover of Wildflower Hall to Himachal govt

New Delhi/Shimla, Feb 20 (IANS) Upholding the Himachal Pradesh High Court order, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the East India Hotels Ltd and others to vacate Wildflower Hall, a landmark luxury hotel of Oberoi Group on the outskirts of Shimla.

Last month, the High Court asked the Oberoi Group to surrender possession of the five-star hotel to the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (HPTDC) within two months.

The government, a stakeholder in the hotel, has suspected financial wrongdoing in the management of the heritage hotel that has been running into losses since March 2001.

Wildflower Hall, sought-after by high-end tourists and celebrities, is a joint venture of Mashobra Resorts, the Oberoi Group company that runs the hotel, and the state government. It has long been under litigation between the two partners.

Disposing of the government’s petition, the High Court on January 6 directed the East India Hotels (EIH) Ltd to vacate and ensure peaceful handover of the entire property of Wildflower Hall within two months.

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“It is held that the EIH Ltd has failed to comply with the terms of award within the period of three months from the date it attained finality, i.e. October, 13, 2022,” it said, observing the Oberoi Group had failed to comply with the arbitration award within the stipulated time limit of three months.

Therefore, the state government became eligible to take over the possession and management of the hotel. The hotel was handed over to the Oberoi Group under a joint venture in 1995 by the then Congress government.

BJP leader and former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who entrusted the hotel’s audit to the CAG, had said: “It’s strange that the Oberoi’s other two ventures in Shimla – Clarke’s and Cecil – are making profit. Only Wildflower Hall is running into losses, that too for years together.”

The British-era Wildflower Hall was once the residence of British-era Indian Army Commander-in-Chief, Field Marshal Lord Kitchener. After India’s Independence, the building was handed over to the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation for running a hotel. The building was gutted in a fire in 1990.

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The government then approached prominent hoteliers and finally handed over the prime property to the Oberois for its restoration and operation.

Wildflower Hall is located at Chharabra, at a height of 8,300 feet, and commands a breathtaking view. Former Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her daughter Priyanka are regular guests at the hotel.

–IANS

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