NEWS STATES TAMIL NADU
‘Court can see why farmers are agitating in the country’
Mohamed Imranullah S.
CHENNAI 25 DECEMBER 2020 01:22 IST
UPDATED: 25 DECEMBER 2020 01:22 IST
Corporate companies manipulate system, states HC
Observing that corporate companies manipulate the “system” to work against poor litigants, the Madras High Court said it was able to see why farmers were agitating across the country, fearing harassment at the hands of corporate giants when contract farming becomes inevitable due to the new farm laws.
Dismissing a civil revision petition filed by Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), Justice G. Jayachandran wrote: “It is high time that corporate companies, more particularly public sector undertakings, change their attitude and conduct while dealing with individual landowners for commercial purpose. They have the duty to dispel the mistrust prevailing among the public by restraining themselves from filing frivolous petitions with an oblique intention of making the counterpart fall in the vicious cycle of litigation… The suffering of the respondents herein is index of the largescale apprehension across the country.”
Coming down heavily on BPCL for not vacating a property taken on lease in 1963, the judge said if the reasons cited by the company were accepted, it would be looked as “audacity” of a mighty corporate squatting on the land of meek landowners, bent upon litigating to tire the landowners and submit to their might.
“Article 227 [High Court’s power of superintendence over all courts under its jurisdiction] of the Constitution cannot be abused in this manner,” the judge said, expressing distress over the way in which the High Court Registry, too, aided the corporate company to file the present revision petition, despite the latter suffering from defects. Pointing out that the present revision had been preferred against an order passed by a sub-court in an interlocutory application (IA) in 2017, the judge said that a wrong IA number had been mentioned throughout the revision petition.
“The Registry of this court should have returned the papers for defective filing. Surprisingly, contrary to the normal course, the passing clerk was kind enough to correct the error in pencil and passed the papers, fit for hearing. Further, the Registry did not print the correct initial of the respondent counsel in the cause list who had entered caveat,” the judge said.
“By printing the name of the counsel as Ravi with a wrong initial, ‘S’, instead of ‘V,’ an ex-parte order was passed on April 19, 2018, in favour of the revision petitioners. When the respondents came to know about the ex-parte order, they immediately filed a petition for restoration of the civil revision petition. Then, with all alacrity, the Registry raised the point of maintainability of the restoration petition. Only after the due intervention of the court, the revision petition was restored on file. These facts are highlighted, with a very heavy heart, to place on record and deprecate how corporate companies are able to manipulate the system, ” the judge said.
“If this is the attitude of corporate companies, this court is able to see the reason why farmers are agitating across the country, fearing harassment at the hands of corporate companies, when contract farming becomes inevitable for them, in due course, on the implementation of the new farm laws,” the judgment read.
Explaining the details of the case before him, the judge pointed out that S.K. Kannaiah Naidu had leased out his land to Burmah Shell Oil Storage and Distributing Company India Limited, in 1963, for a period of 30 years. Subsequently, Burmah Shell merged with BPCL and the landlord died during the lease period.
However, his legal heirs authorised his widow Saraswathi Ammal to receive the rent. When the lease ended in 1993, BPCL filed a suit for specific performance on the basis of an automatic lease renewal clause in the agreement. The suit got dismissed in 2009. Nevertheless, BPCL continued to occupy the premises.
Subsequently, Saraswathi Ammal also died and the legal heirs issued a quit notice, demanding BPCL to vacate the property and handover vacant possession on or before December 31, 2014. On the other hand, BPCL insisted on renewing the lease forcing the legal heirs to file a civil suit in the High Court in 2014.
In the suit, the landowners demanded past damages at the rate of ₹66,000 a month, from 2012 to 2014, and future damages at ₹4 lakh a month being the estimated market rent for the property. In 2015, they filed another suit before a sub-court in Ponneri for the recovery of the possession of the property.
BPCL filed an application to reject the plaint, but the sub-court refused to do so, in 2017, and hence the present revision petition.