Judge says construction of government medical college on 25 acres will be subject to result of the case.

Hindustan Photo Films Manufacturing Company Limited, a central public sector enterprise, from Udhagamandalam has approached the Madras High Court with a claim that Nilgiris Collector has no authority to take back 292.71 acres of land in the company’s occupation without the approval of the Union Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.

Justice K. Ravichandrabaabu on Wednesday refrained from staying all further proceedings, pursuant to the redemption order passed by the Collector on February 19, since Advocate General Vijay Narayan pointed out that the State government had already laid a foundation stone for constructing a Government medical college and hospital on 25 acres.

Though the petitioner company had also sought for an injunction restraining the State government from commencing construction activities, the judge stopped short with ordering that any development activity on the property in question would be subject to the result of the writ petition and no equity could be claimed by any party at the time of final disposal.

The interim order was passed after the A-G told the court that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests had already granted approval for the construction of the government medical college and hospital under Section 2 (de-reservation of forests and using forest lands for non forest purposes) of the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980.

Earlier, Additional Solicitor General R. Shankaranarayanan, representing the petitioner company, told the court it was inaugurated way back in January 7, 1967. Then, the State government had transferred 333.30 acres of land at Wenlockdowns Reserve Forest and Brokompton Reserve Forest free of cost for the construction of the factory and residential quarters.

The company was involved in manufacturing of photo films, x-ray films, photographic printing paper, processing chemicals, magnetic tapes and so on. Over the years, about 10.65 acres of land was taken away from it and given to Small Industries Development Corporation (SIDCO) and another 120 acres was surrendered in lieu of 90 acres of forest land on renewable lease.

“Thus, the petitioner was in possession of 173.16 acres. On the contrary, the second respondent (Collector) has now ordered resumption of 292.17 acres,” an affidavit filed on behalf of the company read. The petitioner also claimed to have mortgaged all the land that was in its occupation with the Canara Bank against loans and working capital limits.

In 1995-96, the net worth of the company became negative and efforts to revive it turned futile. Hence, the Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction (BIFR) recommended winding up of the company and accordingly, the High Court took up a Company Petition in 2003. Subsequently, the petition was transferred to National Company Law Tribunal at the instance of Canara Bank.

As of now, the company had only stopped its operations since 2003 and had not been wound up. Yet, under the impression that the company was not utilising the lands for the purpose for which they had been given, the Collector had proceeded with ordering resumption of the properties, the petitioner said and urged the court to quash the resumption order.

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