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Case of Holkar Trust property in Haridwar: MP Chief Secretary directed to appear before Uttarakhand High Court

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The Supreme Court of India on 11 December 2017 upheld an appeal against an order of the Uttarakhand High Court dismissing a litigation instituted to protect the property said to be belonging to the State of Madhya Pradesh on the ground that the State of Madhya Pradesh had not appeared in court even after a notice had been served in this matter.

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary BP Singh has been directed to appear in a case in the Uttarakhand High Court instituted for the protection of a property said to be belonging to the State of Madhya Pradesh.

The matter for adjudication in this case relates to the disposal of a Holkar Trust property at Haridwar by a trustee whereas the property in question allegedly belongs to the State of Madhya Pradesh.

The petitioner in this case, Vijay Singh Pal has told media-persons that Satish Chandra Malhotra, a trustee introducing himself as legally authorised to sell the Holkar properties, had allegedly sold a Kushavarta Ghat property at Haridwars, said to be worth Rs. 100 crore at a rock bottom price of Rs 50 lakh.

The Supreme Court of India on 11 December 2017 upheld an appeal against an order of the Uttarakhand High Court dismissing a litigation instituted to protect the property said to be belonging to the State of Madhya Pradesh on the ground that the State of Madhya Pradesh had not appeared in court even after a notice had been served in this matter.

A three judge Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Chief Justice of India Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, passed the order to set aside the Uttarakhand High Court order and direct the State of Madhya Pradesh to appear before the High Court of Uttarakhand at Nainital in Writ Petition (PIL) No. 105/2012. The Madhya Pradesh Government has been asked to put forth its stand by filing a counter affidavit within twelve weeks from the date of appearance.

The Uttarakhand High Court had on 19 August 2013, in response to a Public Interest Litigation filed by Vijay Pal Singh and instituted to protect the property in question, had brought on record the fact that there were two attempts to serve notice in this matter upon the Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh but as there was no evidence of service upon the respondent, the High Court had ordered and directed the State Government to serve a copy of the writ petition upon the chief secretary on 24 June 2013. Through a supplementary affidavit filed by the State Government, it was later brought on record that a copy of the writ petition had been served upon the Chief Secretary of the State of Madhya Pradesh on 19 August 2013. Despite that, the Uttarakhand High Court said in its order, the State of Madhya Pradesh, was not appearing to be interested in protecting the property, allegedly, belonging to it. Hence a two judge bench of the Uttarakhand High Court comprising the Chief Justice Barin Ghosh and Justice U.C. Dhyani dismissed the writ petition.

Significantly, the case relating to the sale of a property at Kushavarta Ghat in Haridwar also came up before the Madhya Pradesh High Court when present Lok Sabha Speaker, Sumitra Mahajan, in her capacity as Member of Parliament representing the Indore Constituency, on 18 April 2012, wrote a letter to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan complaining about sale of the Kushavarta Ghat property at Haridwar by the petitioner – Khasgi (Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Charities) Trust. This letter led to a chain of letters. The first letter was addressed by the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister to the Commissioner, Indore Revenue Division on 8 June 2012, to enquire and report to the Principal Secretary, and another letter was addressed by the Commissioner to the Collector, Indore on 15 May 2012 for the same purpose. He was to enquire and report to the Commissioner.

This chain of correspondence led to orders by the Collector and the Registrar of Public Trusts, Indore. The Jabalpur High Court Court found the Registrar’s order was of no consequence but broke up the extract of the Collector’s order into segments for better analysis, appreciation and understanding.

The operative part of the Collector’s order runs as follows:

(a) The properties comprised in the Khasgi Endowments are (according to the Collector) owned by the State Government;

(b) The Khasgi Trust does not have the right to sell the properties comprised in the Khasgi Endowments;

(c) The Supplementary Deed of Trust of 1972, which provided for sale of Trust property without prior permission of the State Government, is illegal;

(d) The Trust property is situated in different States all over India;

(e) In order to prevent illegal sale of the Khasgi Trust properties, it is necessary to get the properties comprised in Khasgi Endowments entered in revenue records in Bhumiswami rights in the name of Madhya Pradesh State Government and accordingly, the Trust property should be entered in revenue records in the name of the State Government as Bhumiswami;

(f) The Collectors in States out of Madhya Pradesh should also be informed that the properties in their States are owned by the Madhya Pradesh State Government and copies should be endorsed to them for implementation of the Collector’s order;

(g) All Sub-Divisional Officers, Revenue, the Tehsildar, Indore and the Commissioner, Indore Municipal Corporation should make entries as above and report compliance to the Collector.

The petitioners in this case contended that the two orders of the Collector and the Registrar were without jurisdiction. They were not justified by any statutory provision contained in the Madhya Pradesh Public Trusts Act, 1951 (Act No. 30 of 1951) or any other statute. The orders do not state under which provision of which Act they have passed the order. According to them, the orders violated principles of natural justice because no hearing was given before passing the orders on the question whether the Khasgi property is owned by the State Government, whether the trustees of the Khasgi Trust have the right to sell the Trust property and whether the Supplementary Trust Deed was valid. The impugned order of the Collector was also never communicated to the Trust or the Trustees. They came to know about the passing of the said order only when news items about its implementation began to be published in local newspapers. This order was also challenged as being beyond jurisdiction, as the Collector was directed by the Commissioner only to enquire and report and not to issue any directions regarding entries in revenue records or other directions which have virtually brought the Khasgi Trust to an end. The Trustees of the Khasgi Trust argued that they had the right to sell properties vesting in the Trust by virtue of clauses of the Trust Deed (clauses 3, 5, 9, 12, 14, 15 and 17) and provisions of the indian Trust Act (sections 3, 36, 37 and 38), which had been made applicable to the Khasgi Trust by express clauses contained in the Trust Deed. Sale of the Khasgi properties were made pursuant to resolutions of all trustees including State Government trustees and Central Government trustee, it was pointed out.

The respondent, the state government, denied these contentions.It was contend that the properties comprised in the Khasgi Endowments were owned by the State Government, that the sale of the Kushavarta Ghat, Haridwar property was without prior sanction of the Registrar of Public Trusts under section 14 of the Madhya Pradesh Public Trusts Act, and that this Act applied to the Khasgi Trust and that the order was within the powers vested in the Collector and the Registrar under the Madhya Pradesh Public Trusts Act.

A single Judge MP High Court Bench of Justice NK Mody passed an order in this case on 28 November 2013 which allowed the petition by Khasgi (Devi Ahilyabai Holkar Charities) Trust and said that since the orders of the Collector and registrar were without jurisdiction, they stood quashed.

The Madhya Pradesh High Court order also said: “The Khasgi Endowments are Temples, Dharamshalas, Ghats, Chhatries, Bagichas, Kunds and miscellaneous properties. They are situated in different parts of the country. They are essentially religious in nature. As such, they are in public domain and shall continue to remain in the public domain. Neither Maharani Usha Devi nor any other Trustee nor the State Government shall claim ownership of the Khasgi Endowments.”


Kushavarta Ghat , 500m from Har Ki Pauri, is one of the most famous ghats in Haridwar.

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