KOCHI: The Kerala High Court on Wednesday quashed the order of the special officer appointed by the state government under the Kerala Land Conservancy (KLC) Act to take over the land from Harrisons Malayalam Ltd (HML) and directing the company to vacate the land.
The court held that the order of special officer M G Rajamanckam is illegal and far in excess of the powers conferred under the KLC Act and the other orders directing eviction were also without jurisdiction.
The court also pointed out that the title could not be adjudicated under the KLC Act, which was intended only for the eviction of unauthorised occupation. The title issue had to be adjudicated before a civil court. The title had to be established after adducing evidence in a properly initiated civil proceedings if the state ventures to do so. There was no need for the petitioner to approach the civil court to establish the title under the KLC Act.
The Bench also flayed the state government for not considering the legal implications of its action. The state willingly succumbed to the public outcry without looking at the legal implications. The government was not for the masses alone but it existed for each individual. The courage and conviction were lacking when on a mere public demand, arbitrary action was perpetrated. A corporate entity also contributed to the nation and constituted of the citizen at its helm and managerial staff.
“The welfare state existed for the downtrodden and the marginalised, but could not act like ‘Robin Hood’, which would be a negation of the democratic principles and blatant flouting of the rule of law,” the court observed.
The KLC Act did not confer power on the special officer to decide on the title. The officer’s order and various grounds raised to proceed under the KLC Act were not sustainable.
HML welcomed the High Court verdict. A press release said that it would be a great relief for HML and also for the crisis-ridden plantation sector in Kerala.
With the verdict, HML expects that the doubts raised on the company and its lands are clarified and put to rest once and for all, and the company will now be permitted to carry on with its normal operations without any further hindrances.
This would help HML to now focus more on growth and development of its estates, thereby protecting the interests of thousands of its employees and their dependent families, and also in creating more job opportunities in the state, it added.