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Custodians lose prime land near Bengaluru's Infantry Road

A conservative estimate puts the value of the land, measuring 23,446 sq ft, at Rs 100 crore. A portion of the land was a public road, connecting Cubbon Road and Infantry Road. The land was leased out in November, 1924.
Last Updated : 30 May 2024, 00:11 IST
Last Updated : 30 May 2024, 00:11 IST

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Bengaluru: A piece of prime land in the custody of the Church of South India is going into private hands as two of its office-bearers did not effectively contest a legal battle that went on for two years.

A conservative estimate puts the value of the land, measuring 23,446 sq ft, at Rs 100 crore. A portion of the land was a public road, connecting Cubbon Road and Infantry Road. The land was leased out in November, 1924.

In an order dated March 7, the VII City Civil and Sessions Judge has awarded the property (Old No 12, new No 151, PID No 78-1-151) to Nirmala and three others, who were plaintiffs in the case.

“The defendants either by themselves or through anybody on their behalf are hereby restrained from interfering with the peaceful possession and enjoyment of the suit schedule property by the plaintiffs in any manner,” the order passed by K S Vijaya reads.

In November 2022, Nirmala filed a suit against Vincent Vinod Kumar, secretary of CSI’s Karnataka Central Diocese, and treasurer N D Solomon Raju, seeking a permanent injunction restraining them from interfering with the “peaceful possession of the scheduled property”.

The plaintiffs argued that the property originally belonged to Anna Maria Lucy Smith. She purportedly gifted it to Sgt Maj William Buckley, through a gift deed in March 1908. Buckley’s grandson Malcum E Summer bequeathed the property to Dr Kasthuri Raj in 1986, the plaintiff claims. 

Nirmala, daughter of the late Kasthuri Raj, presented to the court copies of the khata certificate, as also a receipt for Rs 8.71 lakh paid as betterment charges, to stake her claim to the property.

Interestingly, Solomon Raju, one of the defendants, remained absent throughout the proceedings. The other defendant, Vincent Vinod Kumar, did appear through his counsel but did not file a written statement. When the court examined the plaintiffs, the defendants filed no
objections. 

The court eventually ruled in favour of the plaintiffs, noting that “nothing has been placed by the defendant to disbelieve” the April 1986 will produced by Nirmala. No cross examination took place to determine the authenticity of the documents.

The court said while the plaintiffs had submitted a khata certificate and a receipt for betterment charges, the defendants had produced “no material”. 

Last Saturday, an earthmover was pressed into action to raze the old compound and bring down the board erected by the CSI. Three days later, the CSI filed a police complaint, seeking protection for the leased land from the “illegal acts of Nirmala and others”.

DH tried to contact Solomon Raju, but he did not respond to calls and emails. Vincent Vinod Kumar told DH that he had not appeared before the court as he does not represent CSITA, the custodian of the property.

The property, located between Cubbon Road and Infantry Road, stands adjacent to CSI’s Vishranthi Nilayam building.

Old records show that the erstwhile Municipal Commission, Civil and Military Station, had leased out the land to the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society (CEZM) in perpetuity. The lessee had agreed to construct compound walls and not to put up any building or structure on it. The land remains free of construction to this day.

Under the instrument of transfer dated August 1958, the trustees of CEZM vested both Vishranthi Nilayam and the leased land with the CSI Trust Association (CSITA). The compound wall, razed on Saturday, had been built on the leased land, as mandated in the original agreement. A top BBMP official said he would check property records to ascertain ownership of the land. 

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Published 30 May 2024, 00:11 IST

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