The Madras High Court on Monday expressed concern over grabbing of government lands and said a legislation against it was the need of the hour. The court also directed the Tamil Nadu government to look into the structural corruption in the matter of grabbing of government lands, consider and enact suitable law to deal with the offences, so as to prevent such illegal acts.
Justice S M Subramaniam gave the directive while rejecting a plea from M/s Hotel Saravana Bhavan, which sought a direction to the authorities to grant “patta” for 3.45 acres of land situated in front of the Central Bus Stand at Koyembedu here for constructing a shopping mall and hyper market with an investment of Rs 1,575 crore. It contended the land which was given to it by the previous AIADMK government just before the 2021 Assembly election, was cancelled by the present DMK government last year.
The judge said the facts established and the documents produced by the respective parties to the case on hand would be sufficient enough to arrive at an inevitable conclusion that the petitioner was not entitled for grant of patta. The petitioner was an encroacher of the government land who has grabbed it for unjust gains in a systematic manner, more specifically with the connivance of the government officials in support of few private individuals who all were influential people in the society, the judge added.
The judge observed it was high time the Government contemplates bringing about a special legislation to penalise land grabbing. The cases relating to land grabbing were piling up and the methodical ways in which it was done with the collusion of government officials was a serious issue. The complicity between different layers of the executive and political power players in offences such as these was undoubted.
“It was an understatement to say there was political interference and connivance of government bureaucracy in land grabbing cases. Land grabbing prohibition legislation was the need of the hour. More so, it was essential to ensure criminal prosecution was initiated against land grabbers. Land grabbing definitely attracts the provisions of the Indian Penal Code. The criminality attached to land grabbing was undisputed and such an act was equivalent to theft of another’s property. But more serious was grabbing of government-owned land. This was unquestionably an offence against the State,” the judge stated.
As regards the present case, the court directed the authorities to take possession of the government land in entirety and fence the property and utilise it for larger public interest in consonance with the principles laid down by the constitutional Courts.
The judge also directed the authorities to initiate appropriate criminal prosecution and disciplinary action against those, including Government officials and public servants, who all were responsible and accountable for grabbing of the high value government property across Tamil Nadu.
The judge directed the authorities to appoint a High Level Committee to identify the grabbing of government lands, illegalities and irregularities in dealing with government property, recovery of arrears of lease rent, unlawful occupation of government property and initiate all appropriate action including criminal prosecution to protect the financial interest of the State and to safeguard the poor and voiceless people of Tamil Nadu.
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