The Bengal government on Monday transferred the leasehold rights of 1.38 acres of Pratichi in Santiniketan in the name of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, the development coming close on the heels of Visva-Bharati sending a letter threatening his eviction from his property for alleged illegal occupation of 13 decimals of land.
“We transferred the rights of land records to Amartya Sen as a legal heir of his father Ashutosh Sen. Now the question of unauthorised occupation does not arise as the said 1.38 acre-plot has been transferred in his name. We made the transfer after verifying papers submitted by Sen and conducting a hearing in which Visva-Bharati authorities were also present,” said Birbhum district magistrate Bidhan Ray.
The administrative move is important as Visva-Bharati, in a letter dated March 17, asked Sen to explain why an eviction notice would not be issued against him as he has been occupying 13 decimals without authorisation, in addition to 1.25 acres given to him on longterm lease.
The letter issued on Friday asked Sen to appear or authorise a person to appear before the varsity’s estate officer Ashok Mahato for a personal hearing on March 29 under the Public Premises (Eviction of Unauthorised Occupants) Rules, 1971, which allows the central government or its organisations to evict unauthorised occupants from public land.
Sen, now in the US, could not be reached for his comments on the letter. Sources close to him said there was no possibility, at least for now, of anyone appearing on his behalf for the proposed meeting.
Since January, the Visva-Bharati sent three letters to Sen asking him to return 13 decimals of land occupied by him allegedly without authorisation. The claim, however, was swatted away by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who said, during her visit to Birbhum in January, that an inquiry by the state government revealed Sen was the rightful lessee of the entire plot measuring 1.38 acres.
As the varsity authorities denied the claims of Sen and the state government, district authorities held a hearing on the issue to resolve the impasse. After two sessions of hearings, the land department made the provisional transfer of the entire 1.38 acres, but the official verdict was made public on Monday.
“There is no debate that Amartya Sen is the legal heir of his father Ashutosh Sen. If the father had land rights on 1.38 acres, his heir has the same. If the varsity has any problem with the quantum of land, it can apply for rectification with proper documents,” said a government official.
The official said: “But without rectifying the land records, they can’t evict Sen abruptly from that 13 decimals of land. If they use force, the state government would take legal action against those who pose a threat to the land.”
Officials said, after this transfer of rights of land records, Visva-Bharati’s plan to initiate any eviction-related action would not be legally possible.
“The varsity can harass him by sending more letters.... It can also initiate legal proceedings. But it cannot initiate eviction-related action,” a land official said.
After the state government transferred the land rights to Sen, Visva-Bharati’s estate officer and acting registrar Ashok Mahato held a news meet on Monday evening at the central administrative building of the varsity.
“We have appealed to the state government with our objections. Visva-Bharati is the owner of the land and the amount of land leased out to Sen is an issue that has to be settled between the lessee and the owner. We will go ahead to recover the illegally occupied land,” Mahato said.