New Delhi: In a huge setback to the Kerala government, the Supreme Court on Monday upheld a Kerala High Court judgment restoring 30,000 acres of land to Harrisons Malayalam Ltd (HML), which was acquired under the Kerala Land Conservancy Act.
A Bench of Justices Rohinton Nariman and Ms. Indu Malhotra dismissed at the admission stage the special leave petition filed by the Kerala government challenging the High Court order.
The government took over the estates based on a report submitted by Mr M.G. Rajamanickam, the special officer appointed to examine the matter. The company had argued that the recommendations of the special officer were legally untenable and that any action based on such recommendations should be rejected.
The HC in its verdict had upheld the arguments by the company and said that the government cannot behave like Robin Hood and set aside the order. The land consists of around 30,000 acres owned and possessed by the company for plantation activities.
It said the state government had willingly succumbed to public outcry without looking at the legal implications. The government was not for the masses alone but it existed for each individual. Courage and conviction were lacking when, on a mere public demand, arbitrary action was perpetrated.
In its appeal, the Kerala government submitted that the HC did not consider the reasons cited by the special officer as to why the government should acquire the lands that were once owned by the British before Independence. The state said that as per the Kerala Land Protection Act, the special officer has the same powers of the court to decide on matters relating to land ownership.
But the apex court while dismissing the appeal agreed with the High Court ruling that the special officer does not have the power to decide the ownership of the land, and the state government is facing a roadblock in claiming the land....