Apex court upholds Karnataka’s takeover of Devika Rani’s estate (Lead)

August 10th, 2011 - 12:04 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 9 (IANS) 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.

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