Assam/ Tinsukia. The Tinsukia District Administration‘s fight against illegal activities was dealt a severe blow on Monday after executive magistrate Niluram Sarma returned empty handed from hotel ‘The Mirana’ after being told the matter was sub-judice, a day after Additional Deputy Commissioner issued a sealing order following recovery of huge quantity of illicit liquor at the hotel.

The court directed the Additional Deputy Commissioner to reconsider the order of total closure or sealing of the hotel. However, it did not put a blanket stay on sealing.

The development came amid an outcry of alleged “high-handedness” by the district administration in the case of Apu’s restaurant, where the authorities went ahead with the demolition despite the matter being sub-judice and allegations of the administration going soft in The Mirana’s case.

Related | Tinsukia restaurant sealed for serving liquor, manager arrested

On June 11, a team of district administration and excise department headed by executive magistrate Niluram Sarma raided the luxurious hotel and recovered a huge quantity of alcohol, including foreign liquor, alleging that VAT taxes were not paid.

The recoveries allegedly took place from rooms 410 and 417 allotted in the name of Bhaskar Upadhyay and Lachit Sharma of the hotel The Mirana, which does not possess a bar licence.

Over 50 bottles of whiskey and 100 bottles of beer among others were recovered and a day later, on June 12, the additional deputy commissioner issued an order to “immediately” seal the entire hotel.

However, passing the buck onto the wedding organizers, the manager of the hotel, Mrigen Kalita said, “The huge quantity of liquor was brought in by the guests without the knowledge of the hotel authorities.”

“We have a strict policy that liquor is not allowed even inside the hotel rooms and the same was categorically informed to Ayush Agarwal at the time of booking of the venue for his wedding,” Kalita said, adding, “The organizers kept us in the dark and violated out hotel policy and we have filed a police complaint against the occupants of the room.”

The district administration of Tinsukia has been accused of going soft in the case of hotel The Mirana, particularly after the boldness it exhibited in taking stringent action against illegal activities by demolishing Apu’s restaurant and 13 other encroachments on the land allegedly reserved for national highway 37.

Related | Tinsukia administration demolishes restaurant it had raided recently

EM Sarma said, “When we reached the hotel to seal it, three lawyers were present at the hotel premises. They said the matter is sub-judice and showed the court’s certified order copy. On the instruction of additional deputy commissioner to not proceed with the sealing as the matter was sub-judice, I stepped back and did not go ahead with sealing of the hotel.”

When pointed out that the court did not use the word “stay” in its order, according to a copy accessed by EastMojo, Sarma said, “I am a junior officer who followed instructions from the higher authorities.”

On allegations related to a deliberate delay in sealing of the hotel, Sarma said he received the order on Sunday.

“The next day morning there was a planned eviction at Sripuria locality in Tinsukia, where I was detailed as executive magistrate to handle law and order. Hence, I proceeded in the afternoon to seal the hotel. In the meantime, the matter was heard in the court and an order was passed.” 

Sarma said, “We had caught the hotel waiters serving snacks in the room where alcohol was being consumed. Hence, to say the hotel authorities were in the dark is a farce to save their skin. The CCTV footage will nail them.”

When questioned that in Apu’s restaurant case, even after the court having heard the matter and posted it for next hearing in July, also making it sub-judice, the district administration went ahead with demolition the restaurant, Sarma refused to comment on it and told this correspondent to speak to circle officer Chinmoy Pathak.

“I was present only as executive magistrate to handle law and order situation,” he added.

Also Read | Are the days of illegal constructions numbered in Assam’s Tinsukia? 

An official in the administration, on the condition of anonymity, said that there is video evidence available to prove things beyond doubt. “How did the office copy of the order got leaked, and that too on a Sunday, and somehow helped the accused in legal process is a serious concern,” he added.

An extract of the order by the District and Session judge read: “However, the facts remain to disclose that there is no material that the said liquor/wine was supplied by the revision petitioners or management of the hotel, but in any way, the revision petitioners being the controlling authority of the affairs of their hotel, namely “The Mirana” cannot escape from their responsibility for the public interest, otherwise it will encourage other persons to consume liquor in the said hotel of the revision petitioners in future and revision petitioners will continue to take such plea of ignorance or lack of knowledge.”

“Even if it is considered that for the sake of fault of two occupants, the hotel authority should not suffer in this case for total stop of their business. Hence, it needs reconsideration of the views expressed by the ld. Addl. Deputy Commissioner, Tinsukia. Accordingly, ld. Addl. Deputy Commissioner, Tinsukia is hereby directed to reconsider the order of total closure/sealing of the hotel, namely “The Mirana” owned by the revision petitioners afresh, when other two occupants consumed liquor in their allotted rooms. With the above view, the revision petition is disposed off,” the order read.

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