MADURAI: When AS Marimuthu 'sold' 59 cents of his property to the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited for just Rs 1 in 2001, it was in the hopes of ensuring a permanent tribute to his dead father. Twenty years later, on Wednesday the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court slammed BSNL for failing to construct a telephone exchange on the land as had been promised to Marimuthu. The building was to have been named after his father. The court directed BSNL to pay Marimuthu the market value of the property, along with nine per cent interest per annum from 2001 or return the property.
Justice N Anand Venkatesh noted, "The petition is a textbook example of how the instrumentality of a State (State's instrument i.e., BSNL) attempted to unjustly enrich itself, and had thereby virtually grabbed the property belonging to the petitioner, one AS Marimuthu. BSNL being an instrument of the State is bound to act reasonably and fairly in its dealings with the citizens. Having induced the petitioner to part with his property, BSNL reneged on its promise to put up a building. The net result is that the petitioner suffered a double whammy," he added.
Since the contract, entered between BSNL and the petitioner, took away the petitioner's right to property guaranteed under the constitution, the judge held that the said contract was "unfair, arbitrary and unreasonable". He then allowed the petition by directing BSNL to pay the market value of the property to the petitioner, along with nine per cent interest per annum- from 2001 to the current date or return the property to the petitioner.
Marimuthu had purchased the property in Virudhunagar in 1999 for Rs 28,520 to construct a memorial for his father. However, he gave the property to BSNL, which was searching for a suitable land to construct a telephone exchange, in 2001 for free on the condition that the building be named after his father. Since the property cannot be taken as a gift as per government policy, the petitioner received a token consideration of Rs 1 from BSNL. However, even after several years, no building was put up on the property following which Marimuthu approached the court in 2014. But no construction was made on the property even during the pendency of the case prompting the court to pass the above order.