The Kerala government, which has shown much interest to transfer Kovalam palace to Ravi Pillai Group, is yet to decide whether to file a suit to reclaim ownership of the property.
When the left Government decided to transfer the heritage property and the adjoining 4.13 hectare of land to the private hotel group, the only rider that was attached to the decision was that it could file a civil suit when it thinks appropriate to review the decision of handing over the palace.
Despite more than 18 months of transferring the whole property to the hotelier, the government is least bothered about taking a decision on filing a suit to take over the public property.
The government has in its order dated August 1, 2017 transferred the historic palace and the adjoining prime property to RP group. In the order also, it was specified that the property was being transferred with the rider that the government has the right to file a civil suit once it decides to review the decision of handing over the property.
Even the political parties and others who had widely protested against the transfer are yet to break their silence on the delay in taking a decision on the civil suit.
The government had decided to retain the right to file a suit to reclaim ownership of the property if needed only under pressure from its ally CPI. Once the palace and the land were transferred, there was a long cry for revoking the decision.
The decision to give custodial right of Palace to R P Group had already been criticised by many, especially the CPI that is an ally in the ruling Left front. Moreover, the decision is said to have been taken despite the CPI, which is holding the revenue portfolio, opposing the custodial transfer. However, the CPI had to yield to the Big Brother (CPM) who was all out to transfer the property to RP group. It is learned that the government had decided to retain the right to file a suit to reclaim ownership of the property if needed under pressure from the CPI.
Cultural, Political and even religious leaders had at that time came out against the transfer of the Palace. There was a call to cancel the decision and to retain heritage property. They had even called for a white paper regarding the transfer of the property.
Going back to the cabinet decision of July 27, 2017 when the final transfer was decided, it has to be noted that the revenue minister who is a nominee of the CPI was not present at the cabinet. All public lands come under the Revenue department.
The controversies related to the palace and the adjoining land began after the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) had sold the palace and its adjoining land to a private group. The ITDC had sold the land as part of the Centre’s disinvestment policy. After the first sale, the ownership of the palace and the land changed many hands. And the State Government had been fighting a legal battle against the transfer of the prime land at Kovalam.
The government had even floated the Kovalam Palace (Taking Over by Resumption) Act in 2004 to take over the palace and the adjoining land. When this had been challenged in the High Court, the court termed it unconstitutional and maintained that the ownership was in dispute. Later the Supreme Court also ordered in favour of Ravi Pillai group.