HC clears hurdles for Railways to take over land in Velachery

Division Bench confirms orders passed by a single judge to evict encroachers

CHENNAI: A Division Bench of the Madras High Court on Wednesday cleared all legal hurdles and paved the way for Southern Railway to take possession of 4.87 acres of prime land, allotted for the second phase of Mass Rapid Transport System (MRTS), at Velachery here.

The Bench comprising Justices R. Subbiah and P.D. Audikesavalu dismissed a writ appeal filed by Annai Indira Gandhi Hut Dwellers Welfare Association which claimed right over 97 cents of the high value land and confirmed a judgement passed against it by Justice S. Vaidyanathan on Feb. 23.

The judges said, several multi-storey buildings had been constructed on the lands that were reportedly under the occupation of the appellant association and they were being used for commercial gains though it was the case of the association that all its members were poor hut dwellers.

It was the case of the association that it had as many as 97 members and that the government had allotted one cent of land to each of them in 1992. However, the allotment was abruptly cancelled in 2003 citing the need to handover the lands to Southern Railway for the project.

Challenge dismissed

Though the association challenged the cancellation by way of a writ petition filed in 2004, it got dismissed by Justice Vaidyanathan early this year after he learnt that the original allottees were no more in occupation of the lands where many multi storey commercial buildings had been raised.

The judge referred to the submissions made by Chennai Collector, in his counter affidavit, that actually 97 families in the locality had encroached upon the government land about two decades ago and thereafter made a request for allotment of one cent to each of them. Therefore, a G.O. was issued in 1992 assigning the lands.

Subsequently, the association increased its membership to 312 and obtained ‘pattas’ (land ownership documents) in the names of those members from a Tahsildar through illegal means. Shocked over encroachers squatting over government land and refusing to vacate, the single judge had termed them as “land grabbers” and ordered their eviction.

Concurring with his core findings, the Division Bench now said: “Most of the persons in favour of whom the lands were assigned, originally, were not actually living there. Further, it could be seen that lots of construction were put up unauthorisedly… Therefore, members of the appellant association are not entitled to the relief of equity to continue in the lands.”