Legal battles one too many marked Wadiyar's life

Palaces in Bangalore, Ooty, large tracts of land under litigation

Legal battles one too many marked Wadiyar's life

Srikantadatta Narasimharaja Wadiyar had been fighting many legal battles over the years as properties worth several hundred crores of rupees, including the Bangalore Palace, owned by the erstwhile Mysore rulers, are under litigation in various courts.

The four palaces – the one in Bangalore, Ambavilas Palace in Mysore, Rajendra Vilas atop the Chamundi Hills, and Fernhill Palace in Ooty, are under litigation since decades, either with private persons or with the State government.

According to advocates who handled the cases, these litigations witnessed several legal luminaries right from Supreme Court senior counsel Fali Nariman and Supreme Court judge Justice H L Dattu to the Chidambarams defending the royal family, especially the Bangalore Palace case.

The problem for Bangalore Palace began in 1970 when the erstwhile Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar transferred a portion of the property to two companies – Chamundi Hotels (P) Ltd (110 acres) and Sree Venkateswara Real Estate Enterprises (P) Limited (344 acres) for a price of Rs four lakh.

“The property was given without any consideration on November 30, 1970. This led to various disputes,” said an advocate who defended the royal family. Later on, two civil suites were filed, one by the Maharaja himself. After the death of the Maharaja in 1974, Srikantadatta Wadiyar, continued it. He contended that the deal itself was fraudulent as it had been executed without any consideration.

He said the firms were trying to acquire even the palace, which was at a prime location. Amidst this, Wadiyar gave 28 acres of the palace land each to his five sisters: Gayathri Devi, Meenakshi Devi, Kamakshi Devi, Indrakshi Devi and Vishalakshi Devi, in 1983. They are still in possession of their respective portions. 

The legal battle ended in 1992, after both parties agreed to settle it amicably. Another problem cropped up when the then government of H D Deve Gowda began the process to take over the palace and its property.

“Initially, S Bangarappa, when he was the chief minister, tried to take over the property under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, and Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976. But the then Governor did not approve it. Later, Deve Gowda enacted the Bangalore Palace (Acquisition and Transfer) Act, 1996. Wadiyar demanded a compensation of Rs 800 crore in case the land is acquired,” an advocate, who defended the Wadiyars, told Deccan Herald.

When the government struck down the demand and proceeded for acquisition, the Wadiyars moved the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal (KAT), challenging the acquisition. The matter reached the High Court and subsequently the Supreme Court, as the Wadiyars appealed against the lower court verdicts. “Supreme Court advocates Ganguly and Nariman argued for the Wadiyars in KAT. Now, even after 17 years, it is still pending before the Supreme Court and the acquisition process has been stayed,” said an advocate. 

The dispute, in which the famous Keshavananda Bharati versus the State of Kerala case was cited, on whether the government can acquire private property is pending before the apex court and has now been referred to a larger bench.

Ambavilas and Fernhill

In addition to this, several disputes related to the Ambavilas Palace may have been dragged to the courts. But Jayachamaraja Wadiyar himself gave away the palace to the government in 1974, keeping for himself just the Brahamapuri Gate portion. The Fernhill Palace in Ooty was given away to Tamil Nadu.

However, a Bangalore-based advocate ensured that the palace remained with the royal family.

Other lands

The royals owned 13,000 acres of land and the power of attorney (POA) of the same was given to some people who illegally sold the property for a song and the land is now under litigation. The High Court recently ordered an inquiry into the sale of Doddakere maidan in Mysore.

Another litigation pertaining to sale of fertile land at Chinchagatta in Mandya by another POA holder is also pending. The POA holder has sold the land for Rs 600 per acre

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