Old Grant Bungalows: SCB, occupants in face-off

No clear title:Occupiers of Old Grant Bungalows, many of whom claim to be proprietors, cannot sell them or can make any modifications.— Photo: K.V.S. Giri

No clear title:Occupiers of Old Grant Bungalows, many of whom claim to be proprietors, cannot sell them or can make any modifications.— Photo: K.V.S. Giri

History is playing itself out in the dispute between bungalow residents of Secunderabad Cantonment and the cantonment board, with the former questioning the latter’s claims of authority on what they deem are private properties.

Old Grant Bungalows (OGBs ) in Secunderabad Cantonment — sprawling structures that are decades old and on large parcels of land now worth huge sums — have been mired in controversy ever since Hyderabad’s merger with India, courtesy the ‘Old Grants’ themselves.

The Secunderabad Cantonment Board (SCB), like other boards across the country, refers to General Land Register (GLR) of 1956 to ascertain ownership of lands in its precincts. The OGBs are categorised ‘B3 lands’ in the GLR, which implies lands of Ministry of Defence given on lease or grant. Given that recognition by the SCB, occupiers, many of whom claim to be proprietors, cannot sell it or can make any modifications.

The residents argue that old grants did not exist in Secunderabad Cantonment. “The history of Secunderabad Cantonment differs from that of other cantonments, in that Hyderabad was a princely State where the Nizam’s writ ran,” said Jitender Surana of All India Cantonments Residents Owner Welfare Association.

Division of powers

Drawing attention to division of powers between the Nizam’s State and the British Resident over cantonment, the owners cite Notification No. 41 of August 28, 1906, made by the British Resident. According to the notification, criminal and police jurisdiction in the cantonment will be exercised by the Resident while revenue jurisdiction and matters pertaining to that of religion will be exercised by the Nizam’s government.

Cantonment Land Regulation Rules were specifically framed for Secunderabad and Aurangabad cantonments much later, owners argue. These rules make no mention of grants, they claim.

Another bungalow owner, not wanting to be named, pointed out that the City Civil Court in 1961 upheld claims of land compensation made by petitioners for seven bungalows acquired for building the Begumpet Airport. “Why should the court direct compensation for petitioners if they did not own lands?” he sought to know.

Mr. Surana alleged discrepancies in the GLR that the SCB banks on. “There are documents showing ownership of bungalows dating to a time much before the GLR of 1956. A GLR prepared in 1933 makes no mention of old grants in Secunderabad Cantonment. The word first appears in 1956, but when we seek to see these grants, the board has none to show,” he said.

Bungalow residents also show documents of SCB’s proceedings from 1968 depicting arguments over old grants, indicating the issue has been contentious since before. In contrast, the residents claim only recently have they united against what they term as high-handedness of Ministry of Defence.

When Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar visited Hyderabad last month, the owners submitted a hefty representation, replete with historical documents to back their claim.

“A rebuttal to the last communication sent by the ministry was also included to buttress our claims,” said a bungalow resident.

Varied history

While the Secunderabad Cantonment Chief Executive Officer, Sujata Gupta, could not be reached for comments on the subject, senior officials, however explained that every bungalow is different from the other as properties have varied history.

But, for any claims of land ownership to stand scrutiny, the claimants will have to prove existence of the property and its ownership, they informed. J. Ramakrishna, member ward 5, said the owners’ claims may be valid but the board works by referring to the GLR, which is a statuette register.

Bungalow residents contest categorisation as ‘lands of Ministry of Defence given on lease or grant’

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Printable version | Sep 12, 2022 1:23:25 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/Old-Grant-Bungalows-SCB-occupants-in-face-off/article14497535.ece