The first bench of the Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the Additional Advocate General to obtain instructions from the Tamil Nadu government over its stand on exchanging land owned by SASTRA University in Thanjavur for the poramboke land occupied and enjoyed by it for about 35 years.
The bench of Chief Justice M N Bhandari and Justice N Mala gave the direction to the AAG, when the writ appeal from Shanmuga Arts, Science, Technology and Research Academy (SASTRA), a deemed university, challenging a GO dated February 23 this year, came up for further hearing today.
The GO, passed by the Thanjavur Tahsildar, pursuant to an order of the HC, refused to assign 31.37 acres of government land that was held by the university. It granted four weeks time to the institution to vacate the encroached land.
According to the appellant university, it owned 86.80 acres of agricultural land in the neighbouring Thatchankurichi village with all amenities, including electricity supply and a borewell. It offered to hand over any of its properties in exchange for assignment of the 31.37 acres of government land. It had also agreed to pay the difference in value. However, the government did not consider the plea.
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Hence, the present appeal to quash the GO and direct the government to reconsider the issue. The matter stands adjourned till August 8.
Originally, a division bench of Justices Nooty Ramamohana Rao (since retired) and S M Subramaniam in August 2017 had delivered a split judgment on assigning the government lands toSTRA. While the former directed the government to consider the request for payment of Rs 10 crore by the university, the latter directed it to vacate.
The matter was referred to a third judge — C V Karthikeyan — who in August 2018 concurred with Justice Subramaniam.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court too dismissed the appeal from the university, but held the appellant can seek appropriate remedy, if any available under law, before the forum concerned.
On the strength of such observation, the university in September, 2018 wrote to the then Chief Minister K Palaniswami praying for assignment of the government lands. In February, 2020, the government constituted a committee headed by
IAS officer Gagandeep Singh Bedi to study the issue and submit its recommendations.
Bedi was relieved from the committee, after his appointment as Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner later and was succeeded by S Jayanthi who submitted her recommendations. Thereafter, the government decided to take back the land for an open air prison for adolescent offenders, in October last year.