SC dismisses Karnataka's claim over Beaulieu estate

SC dismisses Karnataka's claim over Beaulieu estate

The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed Karnataka’s claim over the Beaulieu estate — adjacent to the Vikasa Soudha and the KPSC office on Palace Road in the heart of Bengaluru — that was first purchased by the Dewan of Mysore on behalf of the First Princess in 1900.

A bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta rejected the state government’s move to initiate proceedings under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, which states that all lands which are not the property of others belong to the government.

On May 14, 2004, then KPSC secretary B A Harish Gowda sent a complaint to the government, saying that in 1900, the property had been transferred by the original owner, Lancelot Ricketts, in favour of the Dewan of Mysore. However, it was fraudulently shown that the property had actually been purchased for the First Princess of Mysore out of her personal funds, he claimed. The deed was registered and a fee of Rs 128.50 was paid.

Currently, the Beaulieu estate has a hotel named The Atria, besides a number of other commercial buildings and the residence of M Shankaranarayanan, the former chief secretary who approached the Supreme Court.

Going through the records, the bench said, “After 104 years of the execution of the original conveyance deed, and after acquiring various lands out of this very estate, we cannot permit the state to urge that the original conveyance deed is fraudulent or that the subsequent transfers are all collusive and, as such, void.”

The bench said there were many bona fide purchasers and, even otherwise, “we are not inclined to hold that the original transaction was invalid”.

The court also noted that various acquisitions took place out of the Beaulieu estate.

More than 20 acres of the total 24 acres and 12 guntas were acquired by the government of Mysore, both before and after the Independence. Nobody raised any objection.

“If the land belonged to the state, why would the state acquire its own property? This question has not been answered. Various transactions have taken place after the year 1971 and portions of this estate have been sold/transferred from one person to another. Entries in the Revenue Record were made, but the state never raised any objection. The sale deeds were registered without demur,” the bench said.

The court allowed the appeal filed by Shankaranarayanan and others, represented by senior advocate K K Venugopal, against a ruling given by a division bench of the high court. It upheld the ruling given by the single judge who had quashed the state’s decision on the grounds that it had no jurisdiction over the property.

“The Beaulieu estate was purchased by the Dewan of Mysore on behalf of the First Princess and the consideration was paid from the personal funds of First Princess.

Therefore, the state of Karnataka has no right over the property,” the apex court said.  Notably, the state had on August 6, 1949, acquired 12,680 square yards of the Beaulieu estate and paid compensation of Rs 1,95,000 to the First Princess.

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