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HC seeks Centre’s response on plea seeking compensation

Petition alleges illegal occupation of flat in Ansal Bhawan

The Delhi High Court on Monday sought response from the Centre on a suit seeking compensation for loss of rent, profit and interest due to the alleged illegal occupation of a flat in Ansal Bhawan here by the Directorate of Estates, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs between 1999 and 2020.

The suit is collectively filed by Rajiv Sarin, Deepak Sarin and Radhika Sarin, children of 94-year-old widow Vera Sarin.

The plea stated that between 1974 and 1976, raids were conducted in the business premises of late H.K. Sarin, father of the petitioners. In 1975, the Delhi government issued a preventive detention order under the provisions of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974 (COFEPOSA).

Later in 1980, late H.K. Sarin was issued show cause notice to explain the sources of income, earnings and means by which various assets, including the property in Ansal Bhawan were acquired. The notice was issued under the Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act, 1976 (SAFEMA) on the basis of the order passed under COFEPOSA.

Prior to the issuance of the show cause notice, the property was admittedly leased out to the Government of India through the housing ministry from 1976 onwards. In 1998, an order was passed by the competent authority under SAFEMA forfeiting various properties, including the property in Ansal Bhawan.

In 1999, the Ministry of Labour and Employment took over possession of the Ansal Bhawan property as forfeited property.

Late H.K. Sarin challenged the order before the Appellate Authority under SAFEMA, which was dismissed in December 2001. He, however, passed away prior to that on October 16, 2000.

In 2014, the Delhi High Court declared the case instituted against late H.K. Sarin under SAFEMA as “nullity”. Even then, it took another three years, on July 28 last year, to get a partial compensation for the government’s “illegal possession” of the property.

It is now the case of the petitioners that since the order of preventive detention had been revoked in March 1977 and the subsequent forfeiture declared illegal, they should be compensated. They have asked the Central government to pay them ₹2.20 crore as damages for loss of rent, profit and interest arising out of the illegal possession between 1999 and 2020.

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