Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund (JNMF) Tuesday told the Delhi High Court that it is in “authorised occupancy” of the property at Teen Murti, and there was mala fide on the central government’s part in seeking its eviction.
The JNMF, set up in 1964, has been located at Teen Murti, once the residence of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, since 1967. Its offices are not part of the main building but occupy a set of barracks on its eastern side with a separate entry from Teen Murti Marg.
The counsel for JNMF submitted before Justice Yogesh Khanna that there was mala fide as it has been occupying the place for last 54 years and the estate officer asked it to vacate the premises within 10 days.
“From 1967 till June 2018, there is no correspondence on record which says that they (government) require this space for library and museum. Suddenly, they come up with this reason to throw us out in June 2018,” Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for JNMF, argued.
The court was hearing a JNMF petition which has sought setting aside of the estate officer’s eviction notice.
The Centre has claimed that JNMF’s petition was premature as the proceedings before the estate officer had just begun and the plea was “nothing but an attempt to stall the proceedings of the estate officer”.
It had told the high court that the land where Teen Murti Estate, which includes JNMF, is situated belonged to the government since the establishment of the national capital.
The Centre had said that JNMF was enjoying the possession of the property “in the garb” of November 1, 2018 interim order by which the court had stayed the proceedings before the Directorate of Estates.
During the hearing, Sibal said JNMF was not claiming the title or ownership of the property, its claim was of authorised occupancy.
“The government must show the reasons before the court that after 54 years I am in unauthorised occupation of the property and that it is a public premises. The government cannot function like this,” he said.
He added that the entire Nehru Planetarium, which is situated in the green surroundings of the Teen Murti House, was built by JNMF and was gifted to the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library.
He also said the estate officer does not have the power to decide the title of a property and it can only be done it the title of the property is with the government.
The JNMF has denied the claims that it was in illegal possession of the property.
The petition, filed through advocates Sunil Fernandes and Priyansha Indra Sharma, has said the estate officer’s notice was mala fide and has been issued for ulterior political motives.
It has contended that the eviction notice issued under the provisions of the Public Premises Act (Eviction of Unauthorized Occupants) Act, 1971 was arbitrary and without jurisdiction and has been issued without application of mind.
The petition has said the proceedings initiated by the estate officer are part of a larger design to efface and destroy the legacy and contributions of Nehru and create a new historical narrative.
“The impugned show cause notice has been issued in pursuance of the ulterior political motives by the incumbent central government to destroy and efface the legacy and history of the contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru.
“The legacy of Nehru is a historical fact which is now sought to be effaced by the central government led by the BJP which is totally opposed to the secular and inclusive principles which Nehru stood for,” the plea has alleged.