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Monday, April 10, 2017

“Beaulieu” Estate is the property of princess = The Division Bench of the High Court held that, in terms of Section 67, the aggrieved parties can file either a civil suit or an appeal against the order before the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal under Section 49 of the KLR Act. It did not decide the claim on merits. In the peculiar facts and circumstances of the present case, where the dispute regarding title has been raised after more than 100 years and when there is evidence to show that the land was bought for the benefit of First Princess, the allegation of fraud cannot be believed, especially in view of the contemporaneous evidence and the subsequent acquisitions out of this very estate, both by the Maharaja of Mysore before independence and by the State of Mysore after independence. The notice being without jurisdiction could be quashed in proceedings under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.= It is held that the “Beaulieu” estate was purchased by the Dewan of Mysore on behalf of the First Princess and the consideration was paid from the personal funds of First Princess. Therefore, the State of Karnataka has no right over the property. Consequently, the appeals are allowed and the judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court is set aside and that of the learned Single Judge is restored and the appeal filed by the appellant M. Sankaranarayanan which was transferred to the High Court is decided in terms of the judgments passed by the learned Single Judge and this Court.


                                                                ‘REPORTABLE’

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4937 OF 2017
                 [Arising out of SLP (C) No. 20459 of 2014]


Sri M. Sankaranarayanan                            ... Appellant

                                   Versus

The Deputy Commissioner, Bangalore & Ors.    ... Respondents

                                    WITH

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4939 OF 2017
                 [Arising out of SLP (C) No. 12595 of 2014]


Asha Chakko & Ors.                                 ... Appellants

                                   Versus

State of Karnataka & Anr.                          ... Respondents


                               J U D G M E N T


Deepak Gupta, J.


      Leave granted.
1.    As common questions of law and  facts  are  involved  in  these  civil
appeals, they are being disposed of by this common Judgment.

2.    The relevant facts are that, by a Conveyance  Deed  dated  25.08.1900,
one Lancelot Ricketts sold his property known  as  “Beaulieu”  measuring  24
acres and 12 gunthas situated  in  Bengaluru.    This  conveyance  deed  was
executed in favour of  the  Dewan  of  Mysore.   It  is  not  disputed  that
thereafter, on various occasions, portions of this Estate were  acquired  by
the erstwhile State of Mysore, both before and after independence.

3.     This  “Beaulieu”  Estate  is  apparently  located  in  the  heart  of
Bengaluru city.   It  appears  that  the  Office  of  the  Karnataka  Public
Service Commission had a boundary adjoining “Beaulieu”  estate  in  which  a
hotel under the name of Atria was being run.  There were a number  of  other
commercial buildings and residences, including the  residence  of  appellant
M. Shankaranarayanan in this estate.

4.    A complaint was sent by the Secretary of the Karnataka Public  Service
Commission on 14.05.2004 that, in the  year  1900,  the  property  had  been
transferred by the original owner Lancelot Ricketts in favour of  the  Dewan
of Mysore.  However,  it  was  fraudulently  shown  that  the  property  had
actually been purchased  for  the  First  Princess  of  Mysore  out  of  her
personal funds.   It was alleged that the  original  conveyance  deed  dated
25.08.1900 had been  executed  only  in  favour  of  the  Dewan  of  Mysore.
Furthermore, no stamp duty was paid on the sale deed and, therefore, it  was
complained that the sale was either totally illegal or that the sale was  in
favour of the State of Mysore and “Beaulieu” estate  was  not  the  personal
property of the  First  Princess.   In  the  same  complaint,  it  was  also
mentioned that, in the year 1956, the Government of Mysore acquired 6  acres
of “Beaulieu” estate and, in those proceedings,  Rajkumari  Leelavathi  Devi
was notified as the owner of the estate.   In  the  year  1959,  some  other
portions of the estate were acquired and this  time  K.  Basavaraj  Urs  was
shown as the owner.  It was complained that the acquisition of 20 acres  and
9 gunthas of land, out of the 24 acres and  12  gunthas,  was  a  fraudulent
acquisition and would not confer any rights upon the owners.

5.    As a result of this complaint, summary proceedings  under  Section  67
of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964  (for  short  ‘the  KLR  Act’)  were
initiated against the occupants of the land.     Aggrieved by  this  action,
one of the parties - Smt. Asha Chakko, who is appellant in Civil Appeal  No.
4939 of 2017 [arising out of SLP  (C)  No.  12595  of  2014]  filed  a  writ
petition before the Karnataka High Court, whereas the  other  parties  filed
appeals before the Appellate Tribunal.   The learned  Single  Judge  quashed
the order passed by the State of Karnataka on the ground that the State  had
no jurisdiction to pass the same.

6.    The State of Karnataka preferred an appeal  against  the  judgment  of
the learned Single Judge before the Division Bench of the High  Court.   The
appellant M. Sankaranarayanan applied for transfer of his appeal, which  had
been filed before the Appellate Tribunal, to the High Court.    This  prayer
was rejected  by  the  Karnataka  High  Court.   Thereafter,  the  appellant
approached this Court in SLP (C) No. 25034  of  2011  for  transfer  of  his
case.  This petition was allowed and the  operative  portion  of  the  order
reads as follows:
“3.   The appellant applied to the High Court for  transfer  of  Appeal  No.
690 of 2005, titled as  M.  Sankaranarayanan  vs.  Deputy  Commissioner  and
others: filed by him before the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal  (KAT)  to  the
High Court for hearing the same along with Writ  Appeal  No.  643  of  2009.
The High Court dismissed the application. While dismissing the  application,
the High Court observed that the appeal pending before the  KAT  has  to  be
heard and decided by the Tribunal itself and it cannot be clubbed  with  the
writ appeal.
4.    Having regard to the fact that the controversy in Writ Appeal No.  643
of 2009, which is pending before the High Court,  is  broadly  identical  to
the appeal which has been preferred by the appellant before KAT, we  are  of
the view that the High Court failed to exercise the jurisdiction  vested  in
it by transferring the appeal pending before the  KAT  to  itself  to  avoid
multiplicity of arguments as well as the conflict of judgments.
5.    We, accordingly, allow the appeal and direct that the Appeal  No.  690
of 2005, titled as “M. Sankaranarayanan vs. Dy. Commissioner, Bangalore  and
others” pending before the KAT be transferred to  the  High  Court  for  its
hearing and disposal along with Writ Appeal  No.  643  of  2009,  titled  as
“State  of  Karnataka  and  another  vs.  Asha  Chakko  and  others”.    The
Registrar, KAT shall transfer the record and proceedings of Appeal  No.  690
of 2005 to the High Court as expeditiously as may be possible and not  later
than four weeks from the date  of  receipt  of  copy  of  this  order.    No
costs.”


The writ appeal filed by the State of Karnataka in the  case  of  Smt.  Asha
Chakko was allowed mainly on the ground  that  the  writ  petition  was  not
maintainable, since the petitioner had an efficacious alternative remedy  of
approaching the Tribunal.  As far as  transferred  appeal  of  appellant  M.
Sankaranarayanan is concerned, the High Court held  that  since  the  appeal
had been filed before the Tribunal, it would be proper to remit it  back  to
the Tribunal for  decision.   Aggrieved  by  the  judgment  of  the  learned
Division Bench, these two appeals have been filed.

7.    We have heard Shri K. K. Venugopal, learned  Senior  Counsel  for  the
appellants and Shri J. N. Raghupathy,  learned  Counsel  for  the  State  of
Karnataka, at length.   The main contention of Shri Venugopal is  that  this
is a case where the action of  the  State  Government  is  hopelessly  time-
barred.  The acquisition took place in 1900 and the State  Government  could
not have issued  notices  after  more  than  100  years  claiming  that  the
property belonged to the State of Karnataka.  It is further  submitted  that
the very basis of the complaint is false because a careful consideration  of
the sale deed of 1900 clearly shows that this  was  a  sale  deed  which  is
executed in favour of the First Princess.  The  second  contention  is  that
the State had no jurisdiction to initiate proceeding  under  Section  67  of
the KLR Act.

8.    At this stage, it would  be  appropriate  to  refer  to  the  original
conveyance deed itself.   No doubt, the conveyance deed shows  that  it  had
been executed to the Dewan of Mysore by Lancelot Ricketts, however,  at  the
bottom of the conveyance deed, there is  a  note  that  the  same  has  been
registered and a fee of Rs.128.50 had been paid.  There is a memo on  record
which has been produced from the Archives of the State and this  shows  that
the Dewan of Mysore put up a memo before the Maharaja of  Mysore.   In  this
memo, it is stated that, as desired by His Highness,  the  Dewan  of  Mysore
had arranged to  purchase  Mr.  Lancelot  Ricketts’s  house  for  the  First
Princess Jayalakshammanni Avaru.  There are details of the  account  of  the
First Princess, cash balance and pension due to her and how  the  money  for
purchase of this house was to be appropriated out of the funds of the  First
Princess.  This memo was put up on 03.08.1990 and  approved  on  04.08.1990.
It would be apposite to mention that, on the side of this memo, there  is  a
note that His Highness before conveying approval may explain the  matter  to
and secure the  clearance  of  the  First  Princess.    This  was  done  and
approval given on 04.08.1990, where-after the conveyance deed  was  executed
on 25.08.1900.

9.    The matter does not end here.  As  mentioned  hereinabove,  the  total
area was 24 acres and 12 gunthas.  In the year 1918-19,  correspondence  was
exchanged between the Government of Mysore and the Controller of  Palace  of
Mysore with  regard  to  some  encroachment  upon  the  land  of  the  First
Princess.  Finally, the Government agreed to pay compensation of  Rs.2,300/-
for the same to the First Princess.  Again  in  1948  it  appears  that  the
State wanted to acquire some  portion  of  the  estate.   On  11.12.1948,  a
letter was written by the Huzur Secretary to the Government of  Mysore  that
since the land was part of “Beaulieu” estate which  belonged  to  the  First
Princess, all correspondence for acquisition of the  same  be  addressed  to
her.   On 06.08.1949, 12680 square yards,  out  of  ‘Beaulieu’  estate  were
acquired for a sum of Rs.1,95,000/- and the compensation  was  paid  to  the
First Princess.

10.   It would be pertinent to mention that the First Princess  married  one
Sri Kantharaje Urs in the year 1918 and they had a daughter Smt.  Leelavathi
Devi.  Smt. Leelavathi Devi became the owner of “Beaulieu” estate after  the
death of her parents and, after her death,  her  husband  K.  Basavaraj  Urs
succeeded to the property.

11.   On 02.08.1956, the Government of  Mysore  acquired  another  piece  of
land and, again, the compensation was paid  to  Rajkumari  Leelavathi  Devi,
the daughter of the First Princess.  Another portion  of  “Beaulieu”  estate
was acquired in the year 1959 and compensation  was  paid  to  K.  Basavaraj
Urs.

12.   As Rajkumari Leelavathi Devi and K. Basavaraj Urs had no  children  of
their own, they had adopted one K.B.  Ramachandraraj  Urs,  who  became  the
owner of the property after the death of his parents.  He  executed  a  sale
deed in favour of the appellant  M.  Sankaranarayanan  on  12.12.1973.   The
entry in the Revenue Record was also made in 1973.

13.    As  far  as  the  case  of  Smt.  Asha  Chakko  is  concerned,   K.B.
Ramachandraraj Urs sold a portion of the property  to               Smt.  M.
Meenakshi Amma vide sale deed dated 15.04.1971.               M.   Meenakshi
Amma, thereafter, executed a will in  favour  of  Dr.  Ammu  Nair,  who  was
recorded as owner of that portion of the property.   Dr.  Ammu  Nair  willed
the property in favour of Asha Chakko, Nikhilanand  Nair  and  Nityanand  N.
Nair.

14.   After the complaint dated  14.05.2004,  the  Government  of  Karnataka
issued  a  notice  under  Section  67(2)  of  the  KLR  Act.   Asha  Chakko,
Nikhilanand Nair and Nityanand N. Nair filed  a  writ  petition  before  the
High Court challenging the notice and the learned Single Judge of  the  High
Court vide order dated 05.02.2009 passed in W.P. No. 16974 of  2005  allowed
the writ petition in the following terms:
“24.   Having regard to the admitted  circumstances  in  the  present  case,
where the properties originally sold in the  year  1900  by  Shri.  Lancelot
Ricketts has been divided and sub divided and sold to several  parties  over
the years by various individual and a portion of which has been acquired  by
the  petitioners,  under  registered  documents,   apart   from   compulsory
acquisition proceedings  in  respect  of  other  portions  of  the  property
whereby the government itself has consistently  acknowledged  the  ownership
of individual, they cannot be ousted by recourse to section 67.  This  would
be so even on the principal, that fraud would vitiate all.
25.       Reliance sought to be placed  on  the  judgment  of  the  Division
Bench of this court in  respect  of  land  granted  by  the  Government  for
temporary cultivation and subsequent alienation by the  grantees  in  favour
of the appellants, in that case, had only resulted in enquiries having  been
conducted and  entries  made  in  the  revenue  records  in  favour  of  the
appellants having been rounded off and the name  of  the  Government  having
been substituted. The dispute as regards title, was not adjudicated and  any
observations as regards title were held  to  be  inconsequential.  The  said
judgment would not be relevant to the facts of the present case.
26.       Further, Section 67(2) does not provide for an order  of  eviction
being passed. In the light  of  section  67(3)  providing  for  time,  to  a
claimant in respect of any Government property, of one  year,  the  impugned
order directing that the respondents be evicted and that they hand over  the
property in their possession to the Government within 21 days of service  of
the order is also without jurisdiction.”

It was held that the authority could not have come to  the  conclusion  that
the deed of conveyance executed on 25.08.1900 was  fraudulently  claimed  by
Lancelot Ricketts in favour of the First Princess.  It was  also  held  that
no presumption could be raised that the erstwhile royal  family  had  sought
to play fraud and, therefore, the learned Single Judge  quashed  the  entire
proceedings.  As we have already mentioned above,  the  State  of  Karnataka
filed an appeal and that appeal has been allowed only  on  the  ground  that
the proper remedy for the writ petitioner(s) was to approach  the  Appellate
Tribunal.

15.   Section 67 of the KLR Act reads as follows:
“67. Public roads, etc., and all lands which are not the property of  others
belong to the Government.—
All public roads, streets, lanes and  paths,  bridges,  ditches,  dikes  and
fences, on or beside the same, the bed  of  the  sea  and  of  harbours  and
creeks below high water mark and  of  rivers,  streams,  nallas,  lakes  and
tanks and all canals and water-courses and all standing and flowing  waters,
and all lands wherever situated which are not the  property  of  individuals
or of aggregate of persons legally capable of holding property,  and  except
in so far as any rights of such persons may be established, in or  over  the
same, and except as may be otherwise provided in any law for the time  being
in force, are and are hereby declared to be with all rights in or  over  the
same or appertaining thereto, the property of the State Government.
Explanation.— In this section, “high water mark”  means  the  highest  point
reached by ordinary spring tides at any season of the year.
(2) Where any property or any right in or over any property  is  claimed  by
or on behalf of the State Government or by any person as against  the  State
Government, it shall be lawful for  the  Deputy  Commissioner  or  a  Survey
Officer not lower in rank than a Deputy Commissioner, after  formal  inquiry
to pass an order deciding the claim.
(3) Any person aggrieved by an  order  made  under  sub-section  (2)  or  in
appeal or revision therefrom may  institute  a  civil  suit  contesting  the
order within a period of one year from the date of such order and the  final
decision in the civil suit shall be binding on the parties.”

A bare reading of the section shows that public roads, streets, lanes  etc.,
and all lands which  are  not  the  properties  of  others,  belong  to  the
Government. Where the property is recorded in the  ownership  of  any  other
person  or  persons  who  are  legally  capable  of  holding  property,  the
provisions of Section 67 will not apply.   Section  67  cannot  be  used  to
dispute the title of persons who have been holding property  for  more  than
100 years.  Prior to the conveyance deed being executed on  25.08.1900,  the
Dewan of Mysore had put up a note to His Highness  the  Maharaja  of  Mysore
that the estate property is being bought for  the  First  Princess  and  the
payment was to be made out of her personal funds.   He  had  also  requested
the Maharaja to apprise the First Princess about the facts and  then  obtain
her approval.  It is not believable that, in the year 1900, the Maharaja  of
Mysore and his Dewan colluded to commit fraud on the State of Mysore with  a
view to favour the First Princess.

16.   As is clear from the facts narrated above, various  acquisitions  took
place out of “Beaulieu” estate.  More than 20 acres of the  total  24  acres
and 12 gunthas were acquired by the Government of Mysore both prior  to  and
after the independence of the country.   Nobody raised any  objection.    If
the land belonged to  the  State,  why  would  the  State  acquire  its  own
property?  This question has not been answered.  Various  transactions  have
taken place after the year 1971  and  portions  of  this  estate  have  been
sold/transferred from one person to another.  Entries in the Revenue  Record
were made, but the State never raised any objection.  The  sale  deeds  were
registered without demur.  It was only in the year 2004 that  some  official
of the Karnataka  Public  Service  Commission  filed  a  complaint  in  this
regard.  In the meantime, hotels, commercial buildings  and  residences  had
come up on various portions of the estate.

17.   After 104 years of the execution of the original conveyance deed,  and
after acquiring various lands out of this very estate, we cannot permit  the
State to urge that the original conveyance deed is fraudulent  or  that  the
subsequent transfers are all collusive and, as such, void.   There are  many
bona fide purchasers and, even otherwise, we are not inclined to  hold  that
the original transaction was invalid.

18.   Furthermore, a bare perusal of Section 67 clearly  indicates  that  it
only applies to public roads, streets, lanes etc. or  to  such  lands  which
are not the property of individuals, or  an  aggregate  of  persons  legally
capable of holding property.  A dispute of title  of  property  between  the
State and individuals cannot be decided in terms  of  Section  67.    Merely
because the Secretary of the Karnataka Public  Service  Commission  had,  in
his complaint, opined that the deed of conveyance  executed  more  than  100
years back was fraudulently claimed to be in favour of the  First  Princess,
was not sufficient ground to proceed under Section  67.   It  could  not  be
held that all subsequent transactions relating to the estate  property  were
fraudulent.   Fraud must be pleaded  and  proved;  it  cannot  be  presumed.
Therefore, we are of the view that the learned Single  Judge  was  justified
in holding that the proceedings under Section 67 were without  jurisdiction.
 We are also of the view that the  proceedings  are  beyond  the  period  of
limitation.

19.   The Division Bench of the High Court held that, in  terms  of  Section
67, the aggrieved parties can file either a civil suit or an appeal  against
the order before the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal under Section  49  of  the
KLR Act.  It did not decide the claim on merits.    In  the  peculiar  facts
and circumstances of the present case, where  the  dispute  regarding  title
has been raised after more than 100 years and  when  there  is  evidence  to
show that the land was  bought  for  the  benefit  of  First  Princess,  the
allegation  of  fraud  cannot  be  believed,  especially  in  view  of   the
contemporaneous evidence and the subsequent acquisitions out  of  this  very
estate, both by the Maharaja of Mysore before independence and by the  State
of Mysore after independence.  The notice being without  jurisdiction  could
be quashed in proceedings under Article 227 of the Constitution of India.

20.   In view of the above discussion, we are clearly of the view  that  the
Division Bench of the High Court erred in setting aside the judgment of  the
learned Single Judge.  It is held that the “Beaulieu” estate  was  purchased
by  the  Dewan  of  Mysore  on  behalf  of  the  First  Princess   and   the
consideration  was  paid  from  the  personal  funds  of   First   Princess.
Therefore,  the  State  of  Karnataka  has  no  right  over  the   property.
Consequently, the appeals are allowed  and  the  judgment  of  the  Division
Bench of the High Court is set aside and that of the  learned  Single  Judge
is restored and the appeal filed by the appellant M. Sankaranarayanan  which
was transferred to the High Court is  decided  in  terms  of  the  judgments
passed by the learned Single Judge and this Court.


................................J.
(MADAN. B. LOKUR)




................................J.
(DEEPAK GUPTA)

New Delhi,
April 10, 2017.

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