Encroachment: HC upholds demand for ₹982 crore from Eagleton Resorts
Court declines to accept company’s claim that it is liable to pay only ₹12.35 crore
The High Court of Karnataka has upheld the decision of the State government to collect around ₹982 crore from M/s Chamudreswari Buid Tech Pvt. Ltd., promoter of Eagleton Golf Course and Resorts on the outskirts of Bengaluru, for allowing it to retain 77 acres 19 guntas of the total government land encroached while developing the project during the late 1990s.
The High Court said that “the present petition [by the company] is nothing but an abuse of the process in order to enable the petitioner to achieve its narrow ends, that is to illegally continue its possession and commercial use of public property” even after the apex court had not intervened in the High Court’s earlier decisions of describing the company as ‘an encroacher’.
Justice G. Narendar delivered the verdict while dismissing the petition, in which the company had questioned the legality of the government’s 2016-17 orders asking the company to pay ₹982 crore if it wants to retain 77 acres and 19 guntas of the total 106 acres and 12 guntas of encroached government land. In 2015, the company had surrendered the remaining 28 acres 33 guntas as per the apex court’s 2014 order.
The High Court declined to accept the company’s claim that it was liable to pay only ₹12.35 crore as was ‘determined by the then Minister for Revenue-cum-Chairperson of a Cabinet Sub-committee in January 2015’ based on a 2011 report of the jurisdictional deputy commissioner.
Also, the High Court rejected the company’s claim that the apex court had said that market value of 77 acres and 19 guntas of land has to be determined as per 2011 market value.
After analysing the records of the litigation on the land, spanning over 22 years, the High Court said that the apex court’s 2014 order is very clear that the company had to first surrender 28 acres and 33 guntas of encroached land and thereafter the government was to determine the market rate.
As the company surrendered 28 acres 33 guntas land in 2015, the exercise of determination of market value for the retained encroached land commenced subsequent to the surrender, the High Court said.
Also, the petitioner-company, which had never stated what is the market value of the land, cannot claim as the decision of the government a mere note of the then Revenue Minister-cum-head the then Cabinet Sub-committee in the file, the High Court observed while pointing out that the Chief Secretary had also clarified to the apex court in 2016 that the price of ₹982 crore was fixed by a subsequent Cabinet sub-committee in August 2016.
In 2014, the apex court had permitted the government to claim the remaining 77 acres 19 guntas if the petitioner failed to pay the amount within four months after the demand was made by the government, the High Court noted.