J. Venkatesan

Supreme Court grants four weeks to file response

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday issued notice to the Tamil Nadu government on a special leave petition against a Madras High Court judgment upholding the takeover of 38 acres of land given on lease to the Agri Horticultural Society on Radhakrishnan Salai in Chennai.

A vacation Bench of Justice C.K. Thakker and Justice L.S. Panta granted four weeks for the government to file its response and three weeks thereafter for filling rejoinder, if any, and directed the matter to be listed for further hearing in August. The Bench recorded an undertaking from the government that the character of the land would not be altered in the meantime. Senior counsel U.R. Lalit, appearing for petitioner V. Krishnamurthy, secretary of the society, sought a direction that the government which had taken over the lands (where Hotel Woodlands was functioning) should not change the character of the land.

When the Bench was inclined to pass this interim order, senior counsel Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for the State, requested the court not to pass any such order. He said the government had planned to make this land into a botanical garden and tenders had been invited for this purpose. He said the administrative process on finalisation of tender would go on but no final decision would be taken on it till the next date of hearing.

Justice Thakker told the counsel “if [you] don’t agree to maintain the status quo with regard to the character of the land, we will pass an order to that effect.” Mr. Singhvi said “the status quo with regard to the character of the land will be maintained.”

The Bench while recording the undertaking gave liberty to the petitioner’s counsel to file an application (before August) if there was any difficulty. Mr. Lalit alleged that the only reason for the takeover was that the petitioner (Mr. Krishnamurthy) was close to the AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa.

He said while a single judge had quashed the show cause notice, a division bench had set aside the order on the ground that the petitioner had violated the lease conditions (by letting it to Hotel Woodlands).

Mr. Singhvi said though the government had passed an order for taking possession of the lands in 1989, it could not develop the land because of court proceedings. He said after the High Court judgment (dated April 11) the government had invited tenders to develop this land into a botanical garden and a research centre. The SLP alleged that the orders of resumption of lands were politically motivated.