The Madras High Court has suggested that instead of leasing out its landed properties to commercial establishments for rent, the Defence department can retain them with it for providing more infrastructural facilities.
Justice S M Subramaniam gave the suggestion on November 23 while dismissing a batch of writ petitions from Major C Sathia Moorthy Gopalan, proprietor of a petrol pump and two other such persons, challenging the department's action in evicting them for non-payment of rent running to several crores of Rupees for over a decade.
After considering the facts and circumstances, the judge found that the Defence department was finding it difficult to maintain its properties, which all are not in possession and leased out for some commercial purposes. Thus, the defence properties are to be utilised for providing infrastructure facilities for its own benefit.
If these are going to be leased out for commercial purposes to third parties, the department is finding it difficult even to collect the rent from such tenants or lease holders and struggling to vacate the lessees, the judge pointed out and gave the suggestion. The authorities may consider the suggestion and take a decision for disposal of such properties by following the procedures as contemplated and if necessary, by submitting a proposal to the Defence Ministry.
Contrarily, the Defence department cannot afford to litigate these commercial issues in the courts for several years, which would cause great prejudice to the public interest and to that of the Defence department, the judge added. In view of the fact that the petitioners had already enjoyed the pump sites, leased out to the Indian Oil Corporation for rent, for more than 10 years, they have no locus standi to question their eviction.
The court has to pass appropriate orders considering the public interest as the defence property is being abused by the IOC and the petitioners, the judge added and directed the IOC to stop supply of all petroleum products forthwith to petitioner pumps.
It should also vacate the premises and hand over possession of the properties to the Defence Estate Officer (DEO) by following the procedures within two months. It shall settle the arrears of rent, if necessary, by negotiating with the competent authorities of the Defence department within 12 weeks. If it fails to settle the amount, the DEO will be at liberty to initiate all appropriate actions against the IOC for recovery of dues as public debt, the judge said.
-With PTI Inputs