Himachal Pradesh has no tourist accommodations in far-off areas. Rural home-stays that started in 2008 are driving tourists to the interiors and are not a commercial activity, the Himachal Pradesh High Court ruled on Monday.
Setting aside the notices issued by the government to an owner who converted his house into a home-stay unit under a state scheme, the court observed: “Such properties are opened up for use of guests with the avowed purpose of making society inclusive and promote international brotherhood.”
The property is situated in Kasauli, where also the scheme is applicable. It is not the government’s decision to exclude township of Kasauli from the scheme, a bench of acting Chief Justice Sanjay Karol and Justice Sandeep Sharma said.
“But then definitely if a person residing in his own private house at Kasauli chooses to make available part of his residential accommodation, up to three rooms, for stay of a guest as a tourist, then there is nothing illegal or commercial about it,” they said.
A bunch of petitions, comprising Brig Harmesh Sethi (retd), had challenged the notices served on them under the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act of 1972, which prohibits the use of property for the home-stay scheme that is purchased with permission accorded under Section 118.
Section 118 prohibits even non-agriculturist Himachalis from buying land in the state.
To promote tourism, more so in the rural areas, the government of India introduced the ‘Incredible India Bed and Breakfast/Home-stay Establishments’ scheme, encouraging owners of houses to allow tourist to reside with them.
The state government on July 15, 2008, notified a scheme named the Himachal Pradesh Home Stay Scheme 2008.
Sethi also converted his private accommodation into a home-stay.
Subsequently, a notice from the Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation was served on him in July 2015, asking him to immediately stop the ‘commercial activity’ as it violated Section 118 of the act.
At present, 807 home-stay units have been registered in the state. Out of these, 233 are in the Kullu-Manali region. Shimla district has 211 units, followed by Kangra 111.