HC seeks Centre's reply on plea for damages to property forfeited during emergency

The Delhi High Court Monday sought response of the Centre and the Directorate of Estates (DoE) on a lawsuit seeking damages related to a property in Lutyens Delhi, whose forfeiture in proceedings initiated during the national emergency was set aside, due to its alleged illegal use for 21 years.

The suit has been filed by children of 94-year-old woman Veera Sarin, who recently approached the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional the national emergency imposed by the Congress government in 1975.

Justice Manoj Kumar Ohri issued summons to DoE, Ministry of Labour and Employment and Competent Authority Under Smugglers And Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of property) Act (SAFEMA) in the suit and asked them to file written statements.


The court listed the suit before the Joint Registrar on February 26, for completion of pleadings, service of summons and admission/ denial of documents. The matter will come up before the bench for hearing on April 26.

The suit has sought from the central government damages of Rs 2.20 crore, Rs 9.89 lakh, Rs 43.5 lakh for loss of market rent, outstanding maintenance charges and outstanding property tax respectively in relation to illegal use and occupation of a property in Ansal Bhawan, Kasturba Gandhi Marg here from May 1999 to July 2020.

Plaintiffs Rajiv, Deepak and Radhika Sarin have filed the suit against DoE, the minstry and the competent authority, in relation to their KG Marg property which was taken over by the Central government authorities.

Advocate Sidhant Kumar, representing the plaintiffs, said possession of the property by the government was undeniable and submitted that he will lead evidence to prove quantification of mesne profits, as mentioned in the petition.

The plaintiffs said they are the owners of the property which was forfeited by the authorities under (SAFEMA) in 1998 and it was leased out to DoE prior to forfeiture. The DoE stopped paying rent to the plaintiffs admittedly from May 1, 1999.

The suit said in July 1975, a preventive detention order was passed by the Delhi government against plaintiffs father under the provisions of Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act and show cause notices were also issued to him.

When he filed various replies to the notices, the competent authority passed an order resulting in forfeiture of the property, it said.

It said the forfeiture was set aside and quashed by the Delhi High Court in December 2014 and despite several attempts by Sarins, the authorities were not releasing the property to them.

Pursuant to the June 2020 order of the high court, Sarins got the possession of the property in July 2020.

This court by order dated July 28, 2020 directed Defendant No. 1 (DoE) to pay arrears of rent as per the last paid rent to the plaintiffs at the rate of Rs 20,500 per month from May 1, 1999 to July 2, 2020. This court further granted liberty to the plaintiffs to claim further amounts towards market rent, mesne profits, compensation and interest by instituting appropriate proceedings, the suit said, adding that thereafter, the present proceedings are initiated.

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