The State government on Monday submitted before the Kerala High Court that no sanction from the government was obtained by the Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company Ltd for converting its nine bungalows in Munnar for tourism purposes.
The affidavit was filed by the state in response to a petition by Kanan Devan Hills Plantation Company, challenging the order of the District Collector staying the Devikulam panchayat’s decision to grant the company licence to operate its bungalows for tourism purpose.
It submitted that the District Collector is the sole authority and custodian of the government land who can initiate appropriate action against the violators of the provisions of the KLR Act. The purported tourism initiatives can be implemented by the beneficiaries of the new amended Kerala Land reforms Act 2012 only after obtaining sanction from the District Collector and the state land board. It also submitted that the entire land in the illegal position of KDHP Company is government land.
The state submitted that the claim of the company that it was entitled to run the bungalows for tourism purposes based on the amended provision of the Kerala Land Reforms Act was illegal.
The guidelines issued by the state had made it mandatory that those who used 5 per cent of the land in a plantation area as per the amended provision had to obtain sanction from various authorities such as District Collector, State Land Board, Agricultural Department and Labour Department.
The beneficiaries of the new amended act should also give employment to the locals in the tourism initiatives in the plantation. Only 10 per cent out of 5 per cent the land permitted for other activities could be utilised for tourism purposes. As per the guidelines, the tourism initiatives should be sanctioned by the authorities based on plans and sketches along with appropriate applications made before the District Collector and the secretary of the State Land Board. Those who were in possession of forest land should obtain appropriate concurrence of the Central Government for converting the plantation area for tourism purposes.
The government pointed out the High Court had earlier directed that the final order to be passed by the Ombudsman for Local Self-governments should not be given effect without the permission of the court. However, the company was already operating the bungalows for tourism purposes. The government said that the company had misled the Munnar gramapanchayat and obtained a license.
In fact, the license was granted when the issue was pending before the Ombudsman.
The affidavit further alleged that the company was claiming huge extent of land in Munnar on the basis of a sham and fraudulent documents .
The Company which was registered in UK had indulged in illegal transfer of huge extents of government land including Munnar Town.