Dismissing a petition by a registered society seeking ‘patta’ for nearly 10 acres at Kottur which were in its possession from September 1886, the Madras High Court on Wednesday observed that “this is an era of land-grabbing not only by private individuals, but also by educational institutions and public charitable trust.”

The court also came down on a City Civil Court here which declared the society’s title with respect of the land without applying its mind and solely on the ground that government officials remained ex-parte.

Justice K.K.Sasidharan passed the order on a writ petition by The Institute of the Brothers of St.Patrick, Gandhi Nagar, Adyar. The society was running educational institutions, St.Patrick Higher Secondary School, St.Michael’s Academy and St.Patrician College of Arts and Science. A piece of land measuring 10 acres and two cents had been used as playground of the institutions.

The society challenged an order of July 25, 2013 of the Principal Secretary and Commissioner of Land Administration dismissing a plea to rectify the revenue records and issue patta to it in respect of the land. Counsel submitted that the petitioner was in possession of the property for the last several years. In its order on a suit, the civil court had already declared the title in the society’s favour, he said.

The Advocate-General, A.L.Somayaji, said the land in question belonged to the Chennai Corporation based on a deed of assignment. The Chennai Corporation was not a party to the civil suit.

Mr. Justice Sasidharan said since the suit was one for declaration and injunction, the civil court judge should have considered the documents produced by the petitioner and a decree on merits should have been passed. The Chennai Corporation, which had purchased the property in 1956, was not made a party to the suit. Revenue records clearly showed that the land was classified as “Sarkar Poromboke.” It was described as “Chennai Corporation Vilayattu Maidanam” (playground.) The mere fact that the petitioner’s all other property was all recorded in the revenue records and that the disputed property was not the subject of any such registration or endorsement in the records, itself would prove the falsity of the petitioner’s case. The Principal Secretary had considered the factual matrix and arrived at a clear finding against the petitioner.