The Madras High Court on Monday granted interim stay of a single Judge’s order that a matter relating to the purchase of 3.20 hectares in Suriyur village by the then District Collector, Rajiv Ranjan, should be entrusted to CBI for verification of the entire records at the time of purchase.

The First Bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice R.K. Agrawal and Justice N. Paul Vasanthakumar, passed the interim order after admitting a writ appeal by the present District Collector, and three others, including the District Adi-Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Officer, challenging the single Judge’s order. The single Judge had also directed the Chief Secretary to initiate disciplinary proceedings against all the erring officials concerned.

The lands had been purchased for providing house sites to Adi-Dravidars from one Sahul Hameed and Nathar Sha and registered in the Sub-Registrar’s Office at Tiruverumbur in April 1997. One B. Mohamed Sheriff, who claimed to be the original land owner, filed a writ petition stating that the District Adi-Dravidar and Tribal Welfare Officer and the Special Tahsildar (Adi-Dravidar and Tribal Welfare), Tiruchirappalli, failed to verify the title and wrongly purchased the land from the two persons. He prayed the court to declare the land purchase transaction as null and void and restore the land to him.

The present Collector, Jayashree Muralidharan, and other appellants submitted that the single Judge failed to note that a sale deed could be set aside only by a competent civil court as held by the High Court in a case. The Judge ought not to have gone into the rights of the sellers of the land as well as that of the writ petitioner whose claim was the rival claim. These facts could be examined only by examining all evidence and witnesses under trial by the civil court. It was well settled in law that the disputed question of facts could not be decided in a writ petition. The Judge had failed to consider that the appellants had gone through the entire formalities as prescribed under the scheme in a G.O. of August 1995 for entering into proper negotiations with third parties. As per the G.O., a committee had been constituted for the purpose of price fixation and after observing the instructions in the order, the sale deed had been executed.