SC upholds Karnataka decision to acquire Roerich estate

Wednesday, 10 August 2011 04:43

       The Supreme Court on Tuesday put an end to the 17-year-old litigation over the Karnataka government's decision to acquire 137 acres of Tatgunni Estate near Bangalore belonging to Rabindranath Tagore's grand niece and famous actress Devika Rani Roerich. Most of the acquired land was part of the 470 acres allotted to the Roerichs - Russian-born Svetoslav Roerich to whom Devika was married -- for cultivation of linaloe in 1954.

A part of it was first sold by Svetoslav Roerich to K T Plantation in 1991. Later another portion was sold to the same company by Devika. When the Roerichs were ailing, vested interests started claiming ownership over the land through forged wills and the state government decided to acquire it to set up the Roerich gallery by purchasing their paintings and valuables.

The court directed that the land acquired be utilised for setting up the Roerich gallery. While Svetoslav Roerich had been awarded many international awards and the Padma Bhushan by the Indian government for his contribution as an artist and painter, Devika Rani was the first recipient of the Dada Saheb Phalke Award for her contribution to motion pictures.

A constitution bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia, M K Sharma, K S Radhakrishnan, Swatanter Kumar and Anil R Dave repelled all challenges to the Karnataka government's decision to take over 137 acres of land sold to K T Plantation by withdrawing exemption granted for the land used for cultivation of linaloe under the Land Reforms Act.

While dealing with the state government's right to acquire property, the constitution bench also laid down important guidelines which would apply to all other state governments facing a tough situation relating to farmers' agitations against acquisition of agricultural land.

Even though right to property is not a fundamental right, the citizens and even foreigners have a right to just and fair compensation whenever the government acquired their property, which could only be for public purpose, said Justice Radhakrishnan who authored the judgment for the bench.

"Public purpose is a pre-condition for deprivation of a person from his property under Article 300A of the Constitution. The Right to claim compensation is also inbuilt in that Article," the court said.

"When a person is deprived of his property, the state has to justify both the grounds which may depend on scheme of the statute, legislative policy and purpose of the legislature and other related factors," it said.

The bench said: "We also order that the land acquired be utilised only for the purpose for which it was acquired."

The Times of India | Aug 10, 2011

 

Devika Rani’s estate to get a facelift

A Supreme Court order today upholding Karnataka government’s acquisition of the over 450-acre estate in Bangalore belonging to yesteryear actress Devika Rani and her Russian painter husband Svetoslav Roerich has paved the way for giving a massive facelift to the estate by the state government.

“Today is a big day for us. A constitution bench headed by none other than Chief Justice SH Kapadia himself has upheld the verdict given by the Karnataka HC in favour of the state government,” Mujeeb Ahmed, chief executive officer of The Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board, told this reporter.

He said the state government wanted to convert the sprawling estate into a “painters’ paradise”. Explaining the concept, Ahmed said: “The plan is to refurbish their residence and the adjoining studio, with all the trappings of the days when the famous couple lived there. Some choice works of Roerich will be displayed in the studio alongside charts describing his activities and ideals. A few studios, pergolas developed in the vicinity may impress artists to pursue their creative urge. There will be an international centre for creative arts besides a few galleries for exhibitions, guest rooms and dormitories for artists to sojourn. Facilities will be created for holding artist camps, demonstrations, and slide shows, all with an eye on promoting creative pursuits in arts. All this will surely make it a veritable painter’s paradise.”

In its heydays, the estate had received visits from eminent personalities like Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr S Radhakrishnan, Alexei Kosygin and Andrei Gromyko. Roerich passed away in 1993 when he was 89, while Devika Rani died in 1994. Both have been buried in the estate. The childless couple had neither left a will nor had named any heir.

Since 1996, the legal battle for rights over the property is going on. A private company, KT Plantations, and Mary Joyce Poonacha, who was a personal assistant to Devika Rani, claimed shares in the estate. They challenged in the Supreme Court after the Karnataka High Court upheld the acquisition of the estate by the state government. The matter was pending before the Supreme Court since 2004.

“Due to the litigation, the estate was closed to visitors, Mujeeb Ahmed said and added that waiting to be displayed in the studio are 210 of Roerich’s paintings, stored now at the Venkatappa Art Gallery in the city.

However, only 21 pieces remain from the couple’s legendary and well-documented jewellery collection. What happened to the other 319 pieces is not known.

Besides a bungalow and a studio, the Tataguni estate also has an 11-acre lake which is maintained by the Lake Development Authority.

Shubhadeep Choudhury

The Tribune, Bangalore, August 9

 

Apex court upholds Karnataka's takeover of Devika Rani's estate

New Delhi, Aug 9 : The Supreme Court Tuesday upheld a Karnataka law taking over the 370-acre estate of Russian painter Svetoslav Roerich and his actress-wife Devika Rani Reorich, who was the grand niece of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

The apex court's constitution bench of Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia, Justice Mukundakam Sharma, Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan, Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice Anil R. Dave, while upholding the acquisition of the Roerich estate, ordered that the land thus acquired should only be used for the purpose for which it was been taken over.

Upholding the constitutional validity of the Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate (Acquisition and Transfer) Act, 1996, the court said that one of the fundamental principles of a democratic society inherent in all provisions of the constitution was that any interference with the peaceful enjoyment of possession should be lawful.

Besides the Roerich estate acquisition law, the court also examined the legal validity of Section 110 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961.

Valued around Rs.1,000 crore, the 370.19-acre Roerich estate is called Tatgunni. It is located at B.M. Kaval village of Kengeri Hobli and Manvarthe Kaval village of Uttarhalli Hobli, Bangalore South taluka.

Of the 370.219 acres, 100 acres were granted to Roerichs by the Karnataka government in the year 1954 for linaloe cultivation. Linaloe is an aromatic and essentially oil yielding plant that was introduced in India from Mexico in 1920.

The Reorichs escaped the provisions of Land Reforms Act on the grounds that they were cultivating linaloe which was exempted under the law.

The land owners sold parts of the estate over the decades and one of the transactions was disputed.

In 1996, the Karnataka government passed the Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate (Acquisition and transfer) Act, taking over the estate for preserving and protecting paintings and other valuables of the Roerichs, and set up a Roerich Art Gallery and Museum.

Roerich died in 1993 while Devika Rani died in 1994.

The Supreme Court said: "Let the message be loud and clear, that the rule of law exists in this country even when we interpret a statute."

"Deprivation of property may also cause serious concern in the area of foreign investment, especially in the context of international law and international investments agreements," the court observed.

The court said that the rule of law, as a principle, was not an absolute means of achieving the equality, human rights, justice, freedom and even democracy and it all depended upon the nature of the legislation and the seriousness of the violation. --IANS

 

 

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