Kolkata court reopens case after 173 yrs

Published on Mar 30, 2006 04:26 PM IST

A petition moved by Alok Krishna Deb, a descendent, has sent court clerks scurrying for documents that had been gathering dust.

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None | ByReuters, Kolkata

A local court is set to reopen the country's oldest pending case 173 years after it was first lodged.

The case is regarding the ownership of the thousands of acres of land, historic buildings and temples spread across the city.

In the late eighteenth century, British Governor-General Robert Clive ruled that the property should remain in the custody of Raja Naba Krishna Deb, a major Bengali royal of the Sovabazar court.

The only condition for his continued rule was that he should pay a tax of one rupee per day, a duty still being collected by the state.

The property was divided among family members after Deb and his son died.

The case first came to court in 1833, more than 20 years before the 1857 Indian Mutiny or War of Independence. Kesto Sakha Ghosh, an executor of the son's will, lodged a case in court to try to stop the sales.

After pondering over the case for over 22 years, judges appointed a British lawyer to oversee the property.

In 1862, control was passed to a "temple committee" made up of members of the Sovabazar family, British officials and leading citizens.

The committee lodged Rs 10,000, now worth about $225,000, with the court. The interest it earned was used to maintain the buildings and ensure the temples were kept in a fit state for worshippers.

The money has now gone, and a petition moved by Alok Krishna Deb, a descendent who still lives in the family palace, has sent court clerks scurrying for documents that had been gathering a thick layer of dust.

"We have asked the court's permission to sell off some portions of the property. Otherwise, conducting regular offerings in the temples and maintaining whatever is left of the estates will become very difficult," Shyamal Ganguly, advocate for the royal family, said.

"The case has been listed and will come up for hearing in a few days time," he added.

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