VS Achuthanandan termed the decision as unfortunate.

Kerala govt hands over custodial right of Kovalam Palace to RP Group evokes criticism
news Controversy Saturday, July 29, 2017 - 11:35

Finally, after years of legal battle and debates, the Kerala government has decided to hand over custodial right of Kovalam Halycon Palace and adjoining 4.13 hectares of land to RP Group of companies.

The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday.

“The decision was taken on the basis of the High Court directive and legal advice received”, a press release said.

History

The palace under the ownership of the erstwhile Travancore royal family was taken over by the government in 1962.  In 1970, the palace and adjoining land was handed over to the Tourism department of the Union government. Asoka Beach Resort of India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) functioned here till 2002. 

In 2002, the union government sold the palace and the land to Leela Ventures as part of disinvestment. In 2004, the government had issued an order, on the request of the royal family, to preserve the palace and the land as a heritage site, by taking them over. Prior to this, Leela Group had sold the asset to Mfar group. 

But the High Court in 2005 quashed the government order to take over the asset. Subsequent to this, the government in August 2005 brought in a law to take over the palace. The High Court in 2011 declared this law as null and void. Although the government filed a special leave petition in 2016, the High Court rejected that also. 

The RP Group later took over the palace and the land from the Mfar group. The RP Group had filed a petition for contempt of court against the government for not handing over the land as per the High Court order.

"The government under this circumstance sought the advice of the legal department. The department as well as the advocate general opined that there is no scope for further appeal as the special leave petition was also rejected by the court. The decision to hand over custodial right of the the palace and the land was taken considering all these aspects, resting the right to file a civil case in the appropriate court in case it decides to review the petition,” the press release said.

Criticism

However, the government’s decision has evoked criticism from various corners.

Former Chief Minister and chairman of the State Administrative Reforms Committee VS Achuthanandan termed the decision as unfortunate. 

The CPI (M) veteran has been leading the agitation to retain the palace under government ownership, for years. “There is a possibility that the ownership would reach the private party in the future, though the palace was handed over with ownership rights resting with the government," Achuthanandan said in a statement on Wednesday.

Senior leader and former president of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee VM Sudheeran said that the cabinet decision amounted to an unabashed surrender before private interests.

“The legal opinion was given without considering public interest,” he said. 

 

 

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