Kochi: Kerala Government on Friday informed the High Court here that Nelliyampathy estates in Palakkad district are reserve forests and all the estate owners can only be treated as `encroachers`.
The estates were declared as reserved forest as per notification of erstwhile Cochin government in 1909 and even now it continues to be a reserve forest, P K Mohanty, Additional Chief Secretary, Forest and Wild Life, stated in counter affidavits filed on 11 petitions claiming right over Nelliyampathy as assignees of leasehold land.
Petitioners have not produced any documents to prove leasehold rights. Since there is no lease agreement between government and petitioners, the occupants can only be treated as `encroachers`, the government submitted.
Government filed separate counters in the 11 petitions running to 15,000 pages.
The Nelliyampathy issue is snowballing into a crisis in the UDF with some Congress MLAs prevailing upon the government for taking strong steps against the encroachers and to retrieve the lands whose lease period had expired.
The Thrissur Vigilance court had recently ordered a probe against Finance Minister K M Mani and Government Chief Whip, P C George on the Nelliyampathy estates land issue.
The government today alleged that the petitions had been filed with `ulterior motive` to create rights and titles in the property in dispute over which petitioners did not have any right at any point of time.
The land in question were leased out by the erstwhile Cochin government to W Smith with effect from Sept 26, 1867 and the land was forest land and the rights remained with Raja of Cochin, it was submitted.
After formation of Kerala state all the rights were transferred to Kerala government, it was stated.