Was govt's SC fight for Mysuru land botched?

Was govt's SC fight for Mysuru land botched?

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Was the state government’s legal fight in the Supreme Court for 1,561 acres of prime land in Mysuru botched?

This is a question some IAS officers have raised after the top court junked the government’s plea challenging the erstwhile royal family’s ownership of this land, estimated to be worth Rs 10,000 crore.

Bureaucrats told DH that the government’s legal effort was fraught with internal contradictions, including varying perspectives on the dispute itself.

Documents show that Advocate-General Prabhuling Navadgi was unhappy with the government’s decision to appoint senior advocate Harish Salve to fight this case.

On March 1, Salve was appointed as senior counsel with advocate Chinmay Deshpande to assist and coordinate. On March 5, Navadgi sought an explanation from the government saying he was not consulted.

Meanwhile, on Navadgi’s direction, senior advocate Ranjit Kumar was roped in as Salve’s replacement.

Kumar’s appointment was ratified by the government on July 23, days before the case was scheduled for a hearing in the top court. Kumar was appointed since Salve “was not in a position to appear”, according to a government order.

However, officials contend this claim as false; they say Salve was not even informed of the hearing date in July. “How will he appear without intimation about the date? The question is not about the competence of one advocate versus the other. Why did the government change advocates without any reason,” one official familiar with the case asked. Navadgi declined to comment.

Ever since state government initiated an inquiry into the status of the land in 2012, it has failed to convey its stand effectively to both the court and the litigants, another senior officer explained.

“In 2010-11, an inquiry was initiated after a PIL was filed on behalf of the Maharaja of Mysuru for transfer of rights (RTC). Although this land was given to the erstwhile Maharaja by the Government of India, it is B-Kharab land, which cannot be used for any commercial purpose,” the officer pointed out. “A private entity can own B-Kharab land, but cannot make use of it. It is public land meant to serve as the city’s lung space. Over a period, the argument became about ownership of land between government and private entities, taking away the crux of the argument, which was about saving the lung space,” the official lamented.

In 2010-11, then Mysuru Deputy Commissioner Harsh Gupta issued an order declaring this land as B-Kharab. In 2012, P S Vastrad dropped this order. In 2020, the Karnataka High Court passed an order in favour of the private litigants.

Challenging this, the government approached the Supreme Court, only for the plea to be dismissed.

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