AFTER FRIDAY’S Supreme Court verdict, the question doing the rounds is who is the real gainer and who is the loser in the ongoing legal tangle over Mahmudabad property? The answer: If round one went to the erstwhile Raja, the traders scored a victory of sorts in round two of the ensuing legal battle.
Not surprising, therefore, the jubilant traders celebrated the occasion by distributing boxes of sweets. On the other hand, for the scion of Mahmudabad the kingdom that he seemed to have regained actually eluded him.
Here’s how. Setting at rest the controversy over the eviction of pre and post 1965 tenants of Mahmudabad, the SC in its order on Friday made it clear that only those who came in possession after the property was declared as ‘enemy property’ have to vacate. “Persons claiming possession, prior to the appointment of the Custodian declaring the property of Raja of Mahmudabad as enemy property, based on duly authenticated tenancy created by the then Raja of Mahmudabad or his general power of attorney shall not be covered by this court’s judgment passed on October 21, 2005,” observed the bench comprising Justice Ashok Bhan and Justice Markandey Katju.
The apex court passed the order on the special leave petition filed by the Kohli Brothers, Oriental Motors, Amar Pratap Singh, AK Manocha and Vikram Capoor challenging their eviction on the ground that they were pre 1965 tenants of the Raja and not the Custodian.
According to sub divisional magistrate Manoj Rai, who is also the managing officer of enemy property, this would mean that only 22 out of the total 57 occupants, who were issued eviction notices, would now have to vacate their premises.
Of the six Mahmudabad properties in the State capital, the authorities have only handed over the possession of Butler Palace to its scion Mohd Amir Mohd Khan.
The remaining five include Siddique Building with 12 tenants in Astabal Charbagh, Lawrie Building with 17 occupants in Hazratganj, Mehmudabad Mansion with 14 opposite Halwasiya Market, Lal Kothi in Moulviganj with four and Imambara Malka Zamani with 15 tenants in Golaganj. The apex court judgment has come as a relief for 35 occupants. While this includes all those living in Siddique Building, Imambara Malka Zamania and Lal Kothi, in the case of Mahmudabad Mansion and Lawrie Building, nine and 13 traders in each respectively would only lose some portion of their respective premises, according to administration sources.
“Even Butler Palace with its status of an ASI protected building seems to have little commercial value for the Raja,” quipped a Ganj trader.
Lucknow’s loss for the Raja, however, seems to have been compensated gaining control over sprawling acres of scattered land once part of his father’s kingdom in other parts of the State. For instance, the Metropole Hotel in Nainital occupying 11 acres is now back in the family’s possession. In Sitapur, the Raja has already become the legal owner of the District Magistrate’s residence spread over 17 acres, the SP’s residence on seven acres and the CMO’s bungalow on 13 acres. Likewise, apart from SP’s bungalow in Lakhimpur Kheri, the scion still has a stake in huge chunk of land-holdings.
That include sugar mill on 80 acres of land, a textile mill on 30 acres, the Jawaharlal Nehru Polytechnic on 50 acres and five lakes in Mahmudabad. And though he would have to forego a large part of this property because of the land ceiling act and other related laws, sooner or later, the State Government and other occupants of the property, it appears, would have to arrive at a negotiated settlement with the royal heir to bury the hatchet.