The Delhi High Court on Monday sought a response from the Centre over a lawsuit seeking damages for a property that was forfeited during the 1975 Emergency, Bar and Bench reported. The suit is in relation to a property in Delhi’s Kasturba Gandhi Marg, which was taken over by the central government authorities.

The suit has sought damages of Rs 2.20 crore, Rs 9.89 lakh and Rs 43.5 lakh from the Centre for the loss of market rent, outstanding maintenance charges and outstanding property tax, respectively, in connection with the illegal use and occupation of the property from May 1999 to July 2020.

The lawsuit was filed by Rajiv Sarin, Deepak Sarin and Radhika Sarin, the children of a 94-year-old man who had moved the Supreme Court in December, seeking to declare the Emergency as unconstitutional. The plaintiffs said that the Delhi government had in 1975 passed a preventive detention order against their father under the provisions of the Conservation of Foreign Exchange and Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act, 1974.

The plaintiffs’ father was then issued a showcause notice and asked to explain the sources of income, earnings, and the means through which he acquired the property concerned in the lawsuit. While the plaintiff’s father filed various replies in response to the notice, the competent authority under the Smugglers Act passed an order, resulting in the forfeiture of the property, the lawsuit said.

Later in July 1999, the Union Ministry of Labour & Employment took over possession of the property. The lawsuit claims that before the issuance of the showcause notice, the property was leased out to the Centre from time to time.

It said that the High Court had set aside the forfeiture in December 2014 but the authorities were not releasing the property to them, despite several attempts by the plaintiffs, according to PTI. The plaintiffs then got possession of the property in July 2020 after the High Court passed an order.

This High Court had directed the Directorate of Estates, the custodian of estates of the Union government, to pay arrears of rent from May 1, 1999, to July 2, 2020. The court said the amount paid would be based on the last paid rent to the plaintiffs at the rate of Rs 20,500 per month.

The court had also allowed the plaintiffs to claim further amount towards market rent, mesne profits, compensation and interest, the lawsuit said. Mesne profits refer to money paid for the occupation of land to a person with the right of immediate occupation, where no permission has been given for that occupation.

During the hearing, advocate Sidhant Kumar, representing the plaintiffs, said that the possession of the property by the government was undeniable. The High Court has also sought replies from the Directorate of Estates, Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Competent Authority under the Smugglers And Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act.

The matter has been listed before the Joint Registrar on February 26 for the completion of pleadings, service of summons and admission or denial of documents. It will come up for hearing on April 26.