Supreme Court directs City housing society to return land

The Supreme Court has directed the Bangalore City Cooperative Housing Society Ltd to return the vacant portion of the land it had acquired years ago to its rightful owners, holding that the land acquisition procedure by the state government was “illegal.”

A Bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly dismissed the society’s appeal against judgments by the Karnataka High Court in the case.

The apex court, however, allowed the members of the society who had already constructed their houses on the land to negotiate with Bangalore Development Authority to pay the prevailing market price to the rightful land owners.

The society had challenged the High Court’s orders and judgments passed between 1998 and 2004 that quashed the land acquisition for its use on the ground of violation of Land Acquisition Act, 1894, and “manipulations” resorted by it through an estate agent while acquiring the land.

The Bangalore’s deputy commissioner had issued a notification on August 23, 1988, for the acquisition of 201 acres and 17 guntas, including the land belonging to individuals  like Geetha Devi Shah and the predecessor of P Ramaiah, Munikrishna, Keshava Murthy, Nagaveni and Chikkathayamma.

In its appeal before the apex court, the society sought to invoke the “principle of prospective overruling,” saying that it had already spent Rs 18.73 crore on the formation of housing layouts and that it had already allotted 1,791 plots to its members. It also stated that 200 members had already constructed their houses.

It pointed out that 50 per cent of the land had been given to the Bangalore Development Authority for providing civil amenities and an area measuring 16,154 sq ft had been given to Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation.

The apex court did not find any merit in these contentions, saying it was not a fit case for invoking the doctrine of prospective overruling, “because that would result in conferring legitimacy to the influence of money power over the rule of law….”

The verdict, delivered on February 2, noted that the society employed estate agent namely Rejendra Enterprises after entering into an agreement on February 21, 1988, and paid huge money to it for the purpose of land acquisition. “The tenor of that agreement does not leave any manner of doubt that the estate agent has charged huge money from the appellant,” the court said.

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