Two big parcels of land, including a high-rise, recovered in Madurai

January 28, 2024 08:56 pm | Updated January 29, 2024 12:29 pm IST - MADURAI

The government has initiated the process to recover the land on which Golden Lotus apartment complex has been constructed at Moondrumavadi on Alagarkoil Road.

The government has initiated the process to recover the land on which Golden Lotus apartment complex has been constructed at Moondrumavadi on Alagarkoil Road. | Photo Credit: R. ASHOK

This January saw Madurai district administration recovering two prime lands in the city.

One is a 31.10-acre property in Moondrumavadi near K. Pudur on Alagarkoil Road in the city, including Golden Lotus apartment complex. The other property is a big parcel of land assigned by the government to Madura Coats in Racecourse Colony off Bharathi Ula Road. The recovery of the lands was done based on orders of the Commissioner of Land Administration.

According to officials, the recovery process has been initiated at the Moondrumavadi property, following a direction from the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. The property comprises residential blocks, commercial establishments and a vast vacant space opposite the apartment complex across the road.

The people who have bought apartment in Golden Lotus apartments, one of the very few high rises in Madurai, are now in a Catch-22 situation over these developments. The district administration has placed boards on the property stating that the land belonged to the government with a warning that action will be taken against trespassers.

In 2022, one D. Devasahayam filed a public interest litigation petition before Madurai Bench of Madras High Court seeking a direction to the authorities concerned to recover the government property, citing it was assigned for a specific purpose. He said that, in 1912, the lands - on both sides - of the road were assigned by the government to American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM), a Christian missionary organisation, for the purpose of establishing an industrial home for needy women. The assignment order included a condition that the land should be used only for trade training and charitable purposes and if not, the government could repossess it.

The land at Race Course Colony in Madurai.

The land at Race Course Colony in Madurai. | Photo Credit: G. MOORTHY

The petitioner said ABCFM was changed to United Church Board for World Ministries which abided by the conditions of assignment by cultivating the land and used the income for industrial homes for orphans and destitute till 1973.

But, it was alleged that in 1973, some of these properties were illegally transferred to Church of South India Trust Association (CSITA), in violation of Indian Church Act, 1927, and the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) 1991. After this illegal transfer, the CSITA did not follow the conditions of assignment and went on to sell the properties.

According to the petitioner, the CSITA and its directors committed criminal breach of trust, cheating with dishonest intention and fabrication of documents. The members of the CSITA created forged documents and sold some of the properties fraudulently to the third parties for valuable consideration, in violation of the conditions stipulated in the assignment order.

The CSI Madurai Ramnad Diocese (CSITA) refuted the allegations and said it acted in accordance with the assignment conditions.

In its order, the court observed that in this context, it would be apropos to refer to the Board Standing Order No.15(1-A)(i), which stipulates that lands granted by the government are governed by the Government Grants Act, 1895.

Under section 3 of the Government Grants Act, 1895, the conditions and limitations contained in the grant shall be given effect, notwithstanding anything contrary and the government has discretion to fix conditions in grants and enforce the same.

Thus, the limitations, conditions and restrictions contained in the grant will continue to operate irrespective of anything contrary in the Transfer of Property Act, 1883 or any other statute, the court observed.

The court, considering the facts and circumstances of the case and allegations raised by the petitioner, directed the Commissioner of Land Administration to conduct an inquiry and check for violation of assignment order by the CSI Madurai Ramnad Diocese and pass appropriate orders after affording due opportunities to all necessary parties.

In compliance with the direction of the High Court, the Commissioner of Land Administration in the order held that the conditions of assignment had been infringed.

The order reads as follows: “It is crystal clear that the successor of the original assignee - the CSITA - has infringed upon the conditions of assignment in the following manner: the entire assigned land was not utilised for the purpose of establishing the industrial house for needy women. The lands were sold to third parties involved in real estate business and commercial activities. Since a major portion of land was kept vacant, instead of establishing on facilities for the needy, it invited encroachment. A shopping complex with 344 shops had been constructed for commercial consideration. Sale of lands were initiated in contravention of the purpose of assignment grant and not intimating about the change in ownership of the land (i.e.) from American Board Commissioners for Foreign Mission to United Church Board for World Missionaries (UCBWM) and to CSITA.”

With regard to the vacant land, the Collector was instructed to reclassify the recovered land from ryot to government in all revenue records available both online and offline. A survey must be made to check whether any encroachments have been made and if so they must be evicted and repossessed. With regard to commercial establishments, the Collector was instructed to moot out alienation proposals in favour of Madurai Corporation with their consent and to send it so as to get the orders from the government.

With regard to the educational institution that CSITA is claiming to be running from 1922, a committee to be formed by the Collector was directed to ascertain whether the institution was running on charitable motive or on commercial motive and to decide on whether to allow it to function.

With regard to the residential blocks, the Collector was directed to recover the lands in question and revert them to the government and necessary changes be carried out in the village accounts concerned, including the computerised ‘A’ Register. The Collector was instructed to send necessary alienation proposals to government for handing over the lands to Tamil Nadu Housing Board for maintenance of sold plots and for taking possession of unsold plots for selling after following due procedures of TNHB, so as to avoid/minimise revenue loss to the government.

The flats owner have made the purchase from the vendors who lacked the title. If the flat owners have any grievance about the land not being clear in title, it is solely due to them as they did not follow the principles of “Caveat Emptor” and due to the non-diligence and non-verification of the title and status of the land prior to purchase. Even at this juncture, the flat owners are free to proceed against the vendors in any manner known to law, the order said.

The other property

The authorities were tight-lipped about the ‘Madura Coats property’ and refused to divulge any details about the vast vacant land save for a house. 

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