Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: An order seeking to rescind the allotment of 1.47-acre land to the Media Development Foundation (MDF), a not-for-profit trust managing the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), was stayed by the Madras High Court on Thursday.

Justice K. Ravirajapandian granted the interim stay, after admitting a writ petition filed by the MDF chairman and trustee, V. Sashi Kumar.

The land, situated at Taramani, was allotted by the Government on December 29, 2004 for 30 years. A formal deed of grant was executed by the District Collector on September 2, 2005. The grant did not stipulate any time frame within which the construction of the composite campus had to be completed.

However, on October 17, 2006, the present District Collector issued order for "resumption of land" on the ground that the land had not been utilised for the purpose for which it had been granted, and that it was required for a public purpose. It also said no lease agreement had been executed.

The order directed the MDF to surrender the vacant possession of the land within 30 days.

Assailing the order, the petitioner narrated that after the deed of grant was executed the MDF got the Union Home Ministry clearance for one-million dollar donation from the South Asian Foundation as seed money for constructing a campus for the ACJ. Soil testing and geo-technical site investigation had been completed, and the foundation stone laying ceremony of the ACJ campus took place at the then Chief Minister's office on February 22, 2006, it said.

Architectural plan

A detailed architectural plan for the project has already been submitted to the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), and as per its direction fencing of the allotted land had been carried out, the MDF said.

Pursuant to a letter from the CMDA in August this year, architectural plans had been modified and the corrected drawings and plans had been submitted, and the requisite development fee and security deposit totalling Rs. 5.57 lakh too had been paid.

Explaining the measures taken by the MDF after the land grant, the petitioner said it had acted promptly and had taken all possible steps to put up a composite campus at an outlay of Rs. 7 crore.

Pointing out that a deed of grant had already been executed on September 2, 2005, the MDF said the question of executing any lease deed as mentioned in the order did not arise as the grant was under the Government Grants Act.

The impugned order had been passed without taking note of the developments and the speed with which the MDF had acted and without affording it an opportunity of hearing, the petition further said.