RP Group to be given right to use premises

Halcyon Castle in Kovalam is once again in the eye of a storm following the State Cabinet’s decision to allow a private firm the right to use its premises.

The decision has drawn flak from various quarters, and Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan has declared that the move would be fought tooth and nail. Hospitality industry in the capital in general is also worried that the government move would push the beach resort to the midst of agitations and law-and-order problems in the coming days.

The Cabinet decision is to handover the landmark castle to RP Group of Companies owned by Ravi Pillai, which owns the Kovalam Leela Hotel, in a total turnaround from the earlier decision to take over the castle and 4.113 hectares of land on which it is situated. The government had issued the Kovalam Palace (Taking over by Resumption) Ordinance in 2005 for the takeover.

The Ordinance was quashed by the Kerala High Court in 2011. While doing so, the High Court had ordered maintenance of status quo and supervision of the castle by the Archaeology Department.

The Cabinet took the decision on the basis of a request from RP Group for permission to use the castle and the adjoining land. A government order issued on the basis of the Cabinet decision says that the hotel owner will be allowed use of land and structures in the appurtenant land to the extent necessary for bona-fide enjoyment of their undisputed property.

Although the government order is expected to become operational once the RP Group withdraws their writ appeal before the High Court, Tourism Minister A.P. Anil Kumar told the media on Friday that any decision on the issue would be taken only after holding an all-party meeting.

The government had taken control of the castle on September 27, 2004, from M-Far Hotels Pvt Ltd, which had acquired possession of the palace when it bought the adjoining ITDC Kovalam Ashok Beach Resort as part of the Central government’s disinvestment process. Since, then the four royal suites in the castle are out of bounds for guests.