The Madras High Court has directed the State government to consider afresh a plea made by sons of the fifth Prince of Arcot, Sir Gulam Mohammed Ali Khan (1903-1952), to allot alternative land in lieu of 50 grounds of land owned by them in Mackey’s Garden, Nungambakkam, which is now under encroachment.

The First Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice R.K.Agrawal and Justice N.Paul Vasanthakumar recalled that in 2003, the District Revenue Officer (DRO) had recommended a suggestion that they could be given 10 grounds of land on Greams Road in lieu of Mackey’s Garden. In 2006, the State government had passed an order, rejecting their application to hand over their property or allot suitable land or compensation.

“The Government order issued in 2006 nowhere refers about the report submitted by DRO. Hence, the impugned order rejecting their plea was passed without relevant issues proper perspective”, they added.

Setting aside the order of the State government passed in 2006 and also the order of single judge, the Bench asked the Revenue Department to consider the issue again and pass fresh orders within four months.

The late Prince of Arcot Sir Gulam Mohammed Ali Khan had two sons, Nawabzada Khursheed Mohammad Khan and Rafique Mohammad Khan and one daughter, Aza Muniza Begum.

Gulam Mohammed Ali Khan was the elder brother of the grandfather of the present Prince of Arcot, Nawab Mohammed Abdul Ali.

A property measuring 82.5 grounds in Nungambakkam by name "Mackey's Garden" was originally owned by the Prince of Arcot and after his lifetime, his sons and the daughter each were entitled to 1/3rd share in the property.

As Aza Muniza Begum migrated to Pakistan, her share was declared as evacuee property under the Administration of Evacuee Property Act, 1950. Pursuant to such declaration, a custodian was appointed to take possession of entire property. The custodian decided to dispose of the evacuee property and fixed value of Rs.1.54 lakh for her land in 1954. However, the efforts to sell the property were not successful. Another proposal to transfer her property to (non-evacuee claimants) her brothers also did not fructify as they opposed the mode of assessment.

A number of slum dwellers had encroached upon the entire area. The government was also earning revenue from the illegal encroachers by way of property tax. As a result, the two sons are unable to enjoy their ownership right, the judges said.

According to Nawabzada Khursheed Mohammad Khan and Rafique Mohammad Khan, the government is legally responsible for holding their sister’s property. But, it should hand over their individual share to them as it is unlawfully earning revenue from their property collecting property tax from the encroachers.

Under these circumstances, they approached the Revenue authorities in 2003 to provide their share — 52.5 grounds. Alternatively, 12 grounds in Nungambakkam should be allotted to them in exchange of their share or they should be given compensation.

Having not received any positive reply, the brothers approached the Supreme Court which directed the authorities to dispose of their application in three months. In 2006, the Revenue Department rejected their request stating that area in question was declared as slum area during 1971. As per the administration of evacuee property, the government was not having specific responsibility in respect of the non-evacuee (brothers) property, which was purely a private property and which had to be protected by the owners. This was why they were not entitled to get compensation or exchange of lands.

The Revenue department’s order was challenged by the brothers in 2007 and three years later, a single judge of the Madras High Court directed the State government to hand over their land or any other suitable land in exchange or pay compensation for the land. Aggrieved over the order, the State government filed the present appeal.

P.H.Arvind Pandian, Additional Advocate General, contended that the sons of the Prince of Arcot failed to purchase the Evacuee property in spite of receiving an offer to purchase. Having failed to partition their share, they should not demand compensation or exchange of land as the entire area was occupied by the trespassers.

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