Port Wings News Network:
With the Madras High Court directing the Tamil Nadu Government as well as the Chennai Port Trust (ChPT) to return 13.93 acres land at Thiruvottiyur, where the latter had developed a parking yard for container trailers, the future of the facility aimed at decongesting the Ennore Expressway leading to the port, now hangs on balance.
Delivering the order on a writ petition filed by Ms R.Revathy, descendant of the said property, Justice C.S.Karnan of Madras High Court directed the Tamil Nadu Government and Chennai Port management to reconvey the land situated at Thiruvottiyur in favour of the petitioner within a period of three months after receiving the original compensation amount with admissible interest thereon from the petitioner.
In other words, the order has put question marks over the future of Chennai Port’s ambitious project – a state-of-the-art Container Trailer Parking Yard-cum Customs Clearance Post for port-bound containers.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE:
According to the petitioner, the said piece of land at Thiruvottiyur belong to her ancestor late T.Shanmugam, who is none other than the grandfather of the petitioner's father. Under a family partition between the said T.Shanmugam and his son Mr.T.S.Gopal registered as document No.31 of 1960, the above lands were allotted in favour of Mr.T.S.Gopal.
In the meanwhile, the Government of Tamil Nadu had notified for acquiring the said land for the Thiruvottiyur Municipality (after 2011, the said municipality has been merged with Corporation of Chennai) for the purpose of bore well water supply to the village of Thiruvottiyur and the entire procedure of acquisition was completed and an award has been passed by the land acquisition Tahsildar on April 14, 1964 for Rs.1,53,255.91. Subsequent to the acquisition only a part of land was utilized for the purpose for which the land was acquired.
The Petitioner further stated that because of replenishment of sea water, the water available in the lands is not-portable thus the Government did not proceed with the object for which the land was acquired.
She further stated in her petition that as per the Tamil Nadu Government Gazette extraordinary publishes section 48-B of the Land Acquisition Act enabling the Government for the reconveyance of lands that are acquired by the Government back to the original owners if the lands are not utilized for the purpose acquired for or any other public Convenience Act has been passed with retrospective effect.
The petitioner contended that even now the land is lying idle and respondent Municipality has not put up any building or not used for any other public purpose.
MUNICIPALITY HANDS OVER THE LAND TO CHENNAI PORT:
In the meantime, the Municipality leased out the lands to the Chennai Port Trust for using the same as Container Trailers parking yard. However, the petitioner contended that the Municipality has got no right or power to lease out the same to the Chennai Port Trust.
With the view to decreasing the congestion of container-laden trailers along Ennore Expressway and Madhavaram to the port, Chennai Port Trust on Nov 29, 2013 inaugurated its parking yard cum seal verification centre at Thiruvottiyur.
In the presence of Central Warehousing Corporation (CWC) managing director Mr B B Patnaik, the then Union Minister of Shipping Mr G K Vasan inaugurated the operations of the Thiruvottiyur Parking Yard by flagging off the first container-laden trailer to the yard.
Chennai Port has developed in the first phase the parking facility for around 250 trailers investing around Rs 6 crores. On full functioning, all Chennai Port bound laden container trailers (barring those which are cleared at CFSs) should first come to the parking yard and after verification of all the documents shall proceed to the port and there would not be any waiting of container lorries in the Ennore Expressway.
COUNTER FROM TAMIL NADU GOVERNMENT:
Reacting to the petition, the Tamil Nadu Government submitted before the HC that the land in question has been acquired as early as 1964 and the proper compensation had been paid to the land owners. After such land was acquired it was put to the proposed use of drawing bore well water for the Thiruvottiyur village. Subsequently as stated, due to the intrusion of sea water, the bore wells were abandoned. Thereafter, the lands are in the possession of the respondents herein and have been used for various public purposes from time to time.
The state government further stated that due to proximity of the lands to the first Container Terminal of the Chennai Port Trust, the lands have been leased to the Chennai Port for parking of the container trailers moving towards the said terminal. The lease deed was executed for three years from 2007 to 2010. After the said lease period ended, the fresh lease deed is to be executed and the administrative process is on.
The state government further stated that the remuneration received from the lease of the lands is being used for the public purposes and is being included in the Municipal Budget for carrying out the various activities of the Municipality under the statute, such as provision of roads, water supply, drainage, licensing, town planning, etc. The government also termed the statements of the petitioner on possession of the lands is totally false and baseless.
The state government further contented that the provision of Section 48-B of the Land Acquisition Act will come into effect only when the land in question is vested with the State Government. When once the lands have been acquired and have been vested with the requisitioning body, there is no question of re-conveyance that too when the land is being used for public purposes.
CHENNAI PORT’S CONTENTION BEFORE THE HC:
In reply to the petition, Chennai Port authorities stated that the container trailers are plying between the Port Trust and other destination places resulting in heavy traffic volume. Now, the containers are parking on the acquired land, which has been leased out to the Port Trust. The Port Trust and the Municipality are in general serving the public. After arranging these facilities the container vehicles are not parking on the road consequently traffic will not be disturbed. Now, the public vehicles are in free passage on the road without inconvenience to anyone.
RESPONDENTS GONE ON APPEAL:
When contacted, Mr C. Harichandran, Secretary, Chennai Port Trust, said that the port management as well as the Tamil Nadu Government (respondents) have gone on appeal against the verdict. “Our appeal is likely to be heard after the vacation,” he added.
WE ARE READY FOR FULL-FLEDGED OPERATION: CWC
Speaking to Port Wings, Mr.A.T.Shankar, Regional Manager, CWC, said that they are waiting for the Customs Notification to begin full-fledged operations from the Thiruvottiyur Container Trailer Parking Yard. “The day Customs gives its nod, all operations would begin from the yard,” he added.