Madras High Court refuses to re-convey land to the family worth Rs 100 crore

Madras High Court today refused to re-convey land located in a prime area opposite Raj Bhavan worth about Rs 100 crore to the family.

The Division bench order to reconvey the land to the landowners. The Bench comprising Justice V Ramasubramanian and Justice K Ravichandra Baabu which allowed a review application by the state government against a January 23, 2013 order.

The case is also referred to an Apex Court order. “If tested in the light of the principles summarized in the Supreme Court order, it will be clear that the state of Tamil Nadu has made out a clear case for review of the Judgment of the Division Bench.”

It said neither the single judge nor the division bench had been apprised of the fact that what the landowners were seeking by way of re-conveyance was prime property in the heart of Chennai, now valued even as per government guidelines at more than Rs 100 crore over 1.62 acres.

“By the order assailed in these appeals and review, the land has been directed to be re-conveyed to the original land owners after more than 45 years of acquisition and receipt of compensation, on the sole condition that the landowners re-pay Rs 33,947.60 they received as compensation four decades ago.”

“Therefore, sustaining the order for re-conveyance of the land would make justice a casualty and allow Section 48B to be used as a weapon that could cause serious damage to public interest. Hence the revision appeal filed by Tamil Nadu is allowed and the Division Bench judgement of January 23, 2013 is recalled.”

The bench which retrieved files from state archives said they showed a proposal was made in a “Note for Circulation” sent from Deputy Secretary to Secretary to the Minister to the then Chief Minister to lease out land acquired for Cooperative Department on 1.60 acres, to the Highways Department to lay a test track.

A Government Order was issued on June 29, 1964, transferring land acquired for building Central Cooperative Institute and hostel, to the Highways and Rural Works Department for laying the track. It was only on May 25, 1995 that the Association of Highways Engineers was granted permission to enter upon land of 1,550 square meters to put up construction.

The judges said due to absence of documents retrieved from archives, the learned Judge and division bench had arrived at two wrong findings — that the Highways department was in unauthorised occupation and so too was the Association.

The government in a notification on August 31, 1960 sought to acquire land on 1.62 acres in Venkatapuram Village in the taluk of extended areas of Madras District to build a hostel and buildings for Central Co-operative Institute, Madras.

Possession was taken on on November 24, 1960. An award was passed on March 15, 1961 fixing compensation at Rs 33,941.

Land owner Manali Ramakrishna Mudaliar received the amount and did not seek enhancement. Acquisition proceedings were not challenged nor the quantum of compensation.

The wife and son of Manali Ramakrishna Mudaliar and the wife and children of his brother gave representations on April 19, 2005 and June 19, 2005, seeking re-conveyance of lands. They sought it on the ground that the lands were never put to use for the purpose for which they were acquired.