The state government has overruled a legal opinion that it received with regard to providing mutation to fragmented plantations.
Contrary to the legal opinion, the government recently issued an order granting mutation to fragmented land of Wagamon and Bonami estates in violation of the statutory provisions of the Kerala Land Reforms Act (KLR) and the Land Utilisation Order.
In a legal opinion that was sent to the Land Use Board, it has been clearly stated that allowing mutation to fragmented lands will be clear-cut violation of rules.
“The provisions are clear to the effect that any person who has obtained exemption benefits in respect of plantations cannot alienate the land after fragmentation and defeat the ceiling provisions of KLR Act,’’ the legal opinion, that is in possession of Express, said.
It also said: “The tenant cannot use such lands in violation of the Kerala Land Utilisation Order issued under the Central Essential Commodities Act.’’ Senior legal experts have opined that the government cannot ignore the statutory provisions of the KLR Act. They also said the government cannot flout a statute that is passed by a legislature adding that the government is not above law.
Senior advocate and former Additional Advocate-General Ranjith Thampan told Express: “The Government Order on mutation was against the KLR Act and also the Land Utilisation Order. The government cannot violate statutory provisions.’’
As per Section 87 of the KLR Act, once the plantations are fragmented and used for any other purpose, the protection of land ceiling given to it vanishes and the holder will have to surrender the excess land to the government.
The Land Utilisation Order prohibits conversion of land cultivated for a specific crop into other types of land. If a policy decision has to be taken on any statute, then an amendment has to be introduced through enacting a piece of legislation.
In this case, whatever decision is taken will be illegal and can be challenged before the court, legal experts point out.
The mutation issue has already kicked up a row, with the Opposition as well as some of the Congress MLAs demanding a reversal of the order.
They also alleged that the order will only lead to dilution of the KLR Act, which will have far- reaching consequences. It has been estimated that on an average 10,000 acres of plantations in each district, where there are plantations, have been sold in various capacities.