Story image for Excercise from Bangalore Mirror

Authorities will have to go back to 101-year-old records to solve this mystery

It was one of the most high-profile property reclaim cases that the government had successfully fought in the Apex court. The property was the 468-acre Tataguni Estate on Kanakapura Road, earlier owned by renowned artiste-actor couple, late Svetoslav Roerich and Devika Rani. But, when it came to an ownership tussle over a 100-acre patch within the property between two government departments, the authorities had to go on a massive document hunting excercise — going back to 101-year-old records.

For the longest time, there was a question mark over the ownership of survey number 38 of the property on which sits 100 acres — whether it belongs to the forest department or the revenue department. It was assumed that the patch was under the control of the forest department, which has developed a tree park on the land that is also said to be a part of the elephant corridor. Some months back, when the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd sought land on survey # 38 for the construction of its train depot, the issue triggered a records search. After tracing down documents from 1916 the Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board could finally establish that the property belonged to them. In a subsequent letter written to the government, the Board CEO has stated that the “forest department has no right over this land”. The Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board is the custodian of Tataguni Estate, which functions under revenue department.

Namma Metro authorities had sought 15 acres on survey number 38 to construct a depot for the train line extending from Yelachenahalli to the NICE Road junction. The forest department objected it saying it was part of an elephant corridor from Bannerghatta Road to Saavandurga. The government asked BMRCL to look at land in other survey numbers and the Board authorities were caught unawares.

This is when the search began. A 1916 record showed that a chunk of 130 acres in survey number 12 was under Uttarahalli Manavarthe Kaval reserve forest — under the forest department. However, in 1952 the government okayed a petition by Roerich to allot 100 acres on this survey number. In 1954, government released 100 acres from the forest department and allotted it to Roerich at a cost of Rs 100 per acre and changed the survey number from 12 to 38.

After the take over of property by the Board, naturally, this survey number also came under the revenue department.

The 468.33-acre plantation is split into two parts. One, of the left side of the highway (from the city towards Kanakapura) is 326 .23 acres and on the right is 142.10 acres. Survey number 38 is on the right. Board chief executive officer GH Puttahalagaiah, who undertook this excercise, wrote to the govenment in the light of the BMRCL issue, detailing the whole saga.

“I have prepared a fresh set of files on Survey # 38 with all the documents. The forest department was only looking at the 1916 document and did not consider the subsequent developments on ownership. I have written to the government clarifying each and every aspect. Any decision that has to be taken on Tataguni Estate has to be moved by the Board, in concurrence with Supreme Court’s directive. The forest department can only maintain a tree part on that land,” Puttahalagaiah told BM.