When the State or its instrumentalities enter into a private contract, it is expected that they maintain a higher degree of fairness and reasonableness, Madurai Bench of Madras High Court observed while coming across a case regarding a property measuring 59 cents was obtained for just one rupee in Virudhunagar district by the BSNL.
The court was hearing a petition filed by A.S. Marimuthu. The petitioner had purchased a property in 1999 for constructing a memorial for his father who was popular in the locality. In 2001, BSNL approached the petitioner to buy the land to construct a Telephone Exchange. The petitioner agreed provided the building was named after his father.
The BSNL told the petitioner that the property could not be taken as a gift as per the policy of the government. He said that he would receive one rupee as a token consideration for conveying the property and he was more interested in the building being named after his father. However, there was no construction. He filed the petition seeking reconveyance of the property.
Justice N. Anand Venkatesh observed the petition was a textbook case on how the instrumentality of a State had attempted to unjustly enrich itself and virtually grabbed the property. No construction has come up and it has been at the proposal stage for the last 20 years.
BSNL has reneged on its promise to put up the building. The net result is that the petitioner suffered a double whammy. He has lost his property, and the building that was promised has not come up for the past 20 years, although the BSNL says (and is still saying) that it intends to put up a superstructure, the judge said.
Every citizen of this country has been vested with a constitutional right under Article 300 A of the Constitution which guarantees right to property. The State or its instrumentalities cannot expropriate the property of a citizen, the judge said and held that the contract entered into between the petitioner and BSNL was totally unfair, arbitrary and unreasonable.
The court directed the BSNL to pay the market value of the property as it stood on the date of execution of the sale deed. It was also open for BSNL to reconvey the property to the petitioner if there is no proposal to construct any telephone exchange, the judge said directing the order be complied with in eight weeks.
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