Appeal by hotel challenges single Judge's order

The Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered that the Chennai Corporation maintain status quo with respect to an “Open Space Reservation” (OSR) land on Anna Salai here. It permitted the civic body to keep the property in its possession.

A Division Bench, comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and K.K. Sasidharan, passed the interim order on an appeal filed by Apeejay Surendra Park Hotels Ltd. challenging a single Judge's order.

The single Judge had dismissed the hotel's petition seeking to forbear official authorities from interfering with its possession of the property and refrain from taking over any land on the basis that it was an OSR land without following the due process of law.

Against this, the hotel preferred an appeal, in which it submitted that the single Judge had merely recorded the submission of the parties. When there being no basis in fact or in law, the Judge disbelieved the hotel's stand and stated that the authorities' stand was correct. At the same time, he had said that the issues were to be resolved in separate proceedings before the civil court. Having determined so, the Judge ought not to have rendered any findings on the facts.

The hotel said it had specifically made the CMDA a party by impleading it in view of the original terms of sanction wherein the gifts for the OSR land were specifically characterised as being temporary in nature since they were to be replaced by the land on G.N. Chetty Road and Anna Salai end. The OSR land had not been earmarked in the gift deeds in favour of the Chennai Corporation by any plan.

When the appeal came up before the Bench, the hotel's counsel contended that even before obtaining a certified copy of the court order, Corporation officials acted in a “high-handed manner” and took forcible possession of the property.

The Chennai Corporation submitted that the property was now in its possession.

In its order, the Bench said admittedly the property was already in the possession of the civic body. Therefore, in its view, no injunction as prayed for by the hotel could be granted.

However, with a view to protecting the hotel's interest also during pendency of the appeal, with the consent of counsel on either side, it was passing the order.

The Bench also ordered that the Corporation would permit the petitioner to use the property for ingress and egress from the hotel. It was open for the Corporation to put its own men for safeguarding its property. The permission was only in the nature of a temporary licence without any kind of equity in the hotel's favour. The interim arrangement was without prejudice to the contention of the respective parties in the appeal. The Bench's order would be in force till the disposal of the appeal.