THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At a time when handing over the Kovalam Palace and the property to Ravi Pillai Group is creating headache for the state regime, a government order issued in 1970 says only the possession rights have been given to the Union Tourism Ministry, which means the ownership still rests with the government.
The GO issued on July 18, 1970 (a copy of which is with Express), says: “The government hereby sanctions the possession of the Kovalam Palace and the adjacent property, measuring 43 acres, acquired for the Kovalam project being handed over to the Department of Tourism, Government of India, with immediate effect pending finalisation of the terms and conditions of transfer.”
Here’s the bummer: No one in the Revenue Department is aware whether the terms and conditions mentioned in the GO have been framed or not. Revenue Minister E Chandrashekaran said he could not comment on the issue as the Cabinet needed to take it up. But he said the department would retrieve pieces of government land from encroachers or with private parties.
Despite the Advocate General’s latest opinion that the Kovalam Palace should be handed over to the RP Group, many officers said a hasty decision should not be taken. The Revenue Minister is learnt to have communicated to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan that a civil suit could be filed for establishing the government’s ownership of the property.
The officers said despite having documentary evidence of the ownership of the land, the previous governments too had failed in taking over the land. “The previous governments had wasted precious time when the title of the land is with the state as per the 1970 government order.”
The land was assigned to the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) in 2000 through an order of the then District Collector when the original GO that upheld the ownership of the land was still in vogue. This assignment resulted in the palace and the surrounding land falling into private hands when the Centre decided to disinvest the property.