Lieutenant Commander Jayarama Nonda (65) retired after serving in the Indian Navy for 16 long years. But the officer was pitchforked into the biggest battle of his life only when he returned to his homeland in Manjeshwaram. And he is not winning the battle despite the High Court of Kerala ruling in his favour.
In 1990 -- the year Lt Cdr Nonda retired and came home -- the special tahsildar (Land Assignment) unilaterally took back one acre of land the government gave to the officer.
The reason cited was Nonda blocked passage for pedestrians that halved his property.
Nonda had shifted the 2.4m-wide pathway to the southern end of his property to stop encroachment.
Since then, for the past nearly 30 years, the officer had been running around to get back his land.
In July 2019, the High Court set aside the tahsildar's order and asked the government to restore the land to Nonda. "Even after the order, the present tahsildar has made no effort to return my land," said the officer. "A quarter of my land has been encroached now by the land mafia and officials are hand in glove with them," he alleged.
Even before the High Court, the commissioner of Land Revenue in an order in January 2017 called the tahsildar's order cancelling the land assignment illegal. "But I did not get my land back, and that is why I approached the High Court," he said.
Manjeshwaram tahsildar in-charge Reji John told Express he had sent the file for a legal opinion. When asked why was the high court order not implemented, he handed the phone over to a junior official.
Additional district magistrate N Devidas said the tahsildar's order is illegal. "But what can I do," he said, when told the officer had been running around for 30 years.
In March 1979, the state government gave Nonda one acre in Majibail village in Manjeshwaram, as he was a landless soldier.
One of the conditions for the assignment was he should maintain the walkway passing through the property for the benefit of the neighbours.
But when he found people were encroaching and dumping waste on his land, Nonda fenced the property and moved the passage to the southern side for pedestrians.
In 1988, residents of Kodda filed a complaint with the collector.
The next year, the president of a local temple committee filed a complaint with the tahsildar (LA) urging him to cancel the assignment because he blocked the passage. Without hearing him out, the official cancelled the assignment on March 26, 1990.
Nonda filed an appeal before the Revenue Divisional Officer (RDO), Kasaragod, the very next month.
After nine years, the RDO dismissed the petition in 1999, saying Nonda was not available for the hearing.
He kept approaching the sub-collector, RDO and tahsildar. With no justice in sight, he filed a revision petition with the Land Revenue Commission.
In the order in 2017, the commissioner called the cancellation illegal and brought out in haste.
But he sent the file back to the RDO, who is the Appellate Authority. The RDO, in turn, sent the file to the tahsildar, who started this whole game, for fresh consideration.
But instead, the tahsildar concluded that Nonda was not even eligible for land. The high court came down hard on the tahsildar for enlarging the scope of inquiry. "The original action was initiated on account of a blockage of passage.
If that does not exist he cannot pass an order... on a totally different grounds to hold that the petitioner was not eligible to obtain the patta," said Justice A Muhamed Mustaque in his July order.
But despite the favourable orders, the retired naval officer is stonewalled by the revenue officials.