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KDHP did not have approval for transfer of property: Govt

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KDHP did not have approval for transfer of property: Govt
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Kochi: The State government Monday informed the high court that Kanan Devan Hill Plantations did not have valid approval under Foreign Exchange Regulations Act and RBI to transfer its properties in the hill resort town of Munnar in Idukki District.

According to an affidavit filed by T J Unnikrishnan, Under Secretary, Revenue Department, the company did not have valid approval under Sect 31 of the Act (FERA) under which the foreign company cannot transfer immovable property in India without RBI's prior permission.

License was granted to the company (KDHP) in 1974 which was valid for only one year, the official stated in the affidavit filed in response to the petition by KDHP challenging the government's stay of the decision of Munnar and Devikulam panchayats allowing the company to use its nine bungalows at its estate in Munnar for tourism purposes.

Foreign company could hold the property only for the purpose of cultivation of tea and not for other purposes. In the light of express prohibition contained in license granted by RBI, license cannot in any way be regarded as approval obtained by foreign company to transfer the land.

The government had earlier informed the court that KDHP had not obtained its permission for using its nine bungalows in Idukki district for tourism purposes.

In a counter affidavit filed by Srilatha P R, Deputy Secretary, local-self government, it had been alleged that the KHDP was claiming huge extent of land on the basis of 'sham and fraudulent' documents of title and accused it of taking steps behind government's back in gross violation of orders of the state high court.

The government stated that the KHDP, which was registered in UK, was a 'foreign company' and had indulged in transferring immovable properties. This was "a direct affront to sovereignty of Independent India," it was stated.

The company has contended that the government had no power to suspend the decision of the two panchayats and nothing prevents KHDP from using the bungalows lying vacant in the plantations for tourism purposes.

The government's allegation that the company had violated the Kanan Devan Hills (Resumption of land) Act and the Kerala land reforms act were 'absolutely unsustainable', it said.

KHDP succeeded Tata Tea Ltd in April 2005 when the latter exited most of its plantations in Munnar to focus on the growth of its tea business. The company has seven extensive gardens, covering approximately 24,000 hectares.

PTI

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