Kochi (Kerala) : The Kerala High Court Tuesday refused to stay a satellite survey ordered by the state government to determine the landholding of Tata group firm Tata Tea and Kannan Devan Hill Plantations.
Justice Padmanabhan Nair also asked the state government to file an affidavit in three weeks regarding the survey.
The government had in November asked the Hyderabad-based National Remote Sensing Agency to do an aerial survey of the two companies' properties in Idukki district.
The two companies said in their petition that a survey had been conducted in 2002, concluding that their landholding was within legal limits and hence a second survey was not required.
They argued that they were not taken into confidence before the second survey, which was in violation of the Surveys and Boundaries Act.
The tea-growing area of Munnar in Idukki district has a long history dating back to 1877 when J.D. Munroe, a British national, bought it from the Poonjar royal family near Kottayam under a permanent and perpetual grant.
In 1895, it was bought over by a British company, James Finlay & Co, which held it till 1977 when the Kerala assembly under the Kannan Devan Hills Resumption Land Act took over the land under the Land Reforms Act.
After keeping the excess land of more than 70,522 acres, the government gave the balance of 58,000 acres to Tata Finlay Ltd, which was acquired by Tata Tea in 1983.
After visiting Munnar when he was leader of opposition during 2001-06, Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan had said the state government must take back the land to which these companies do not have the right and ordered the survey.