The Hyderabad High Court pulled up the Chittoor commercial tax officials on Tuesday after the latter failed to audit the accounts of hoteliers and stall owners atop Tirumala, despite an order from the court.
The court was hearing a petition that the hotels allegedly charged higher prices than what they displayed on the board, and also added that devotees did not have a proper mechanism to file a complaint.
The Deccan Chronicle reported that the bench directed the Executive Officer of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) to file an affidavit explaining the action taken based on complaints by devotees against hoteliers, and also directed the deputy commissioner to appear before the court.
The TTD said that they had set up a WhatsApp number for devotees to air their grievances.
"We have decided to increase the number of technical staff to deal with this," the TTD counsel was quoted as saying.
Last month, the TTD, which manages the affairs of the Sri Venkateswara temple atop Tirumala, had warned hotels to cut down their prices and implement the fixed rate norm.
Following a High Court order on the matter, the TTD said that it had released a 'price list', that was not being followed by hotels in the hill town.
Earlier, the combined High Court of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in Hyderabad, ordered the TTD to rationalise the price structure of various food items being sold at eateries in the temple town.
The irked court pointed out that some hotels were over-charging massively for some items, and asked the TTD authorities if they were working with the shop owners to loot devotees.
In October, the court directed the EO of the TTD to appear before the court in a week, and file an action taken report on the court's previous order.
The counsel for the TTD said that they had imposed a fine on erring hoteliers, but that did not satisfy the court.
“You have said that you imposed a fine of Rs 50,000 on such hoteliers. What impact will it have if their daily income itself is more than Rs 50,000. They will pay the penalty and continue their irregularities...The EO thinks he is above law. Hence, let him come and assist this court," the bench was quoted as saying.