Church wins property dispute, gains three-star hotel
Mangaluru: The Catholic Church in Mangaluru, southern India, has won a major civil case when a local court ordered a three-star hotel to surrender the building and the appurtenant land within 30 days.
In the landmark judgment on February 15, Pushpalatha, the third additional senior civil judge of Mangaluru civil court, also directed the hotel owners to pay compensation and interest to St Antony Charity Institutes for continuing to occupy the property even after the expiry of the lease period.
St Antony Charity Institutes manages an ashram for the poor, downtrodden, destitute and orphans in Mangaluru, a port city in Karnataka state. It provides free food, shelter, clothing and medicines for the ashram residents.
It had on September 23, 1961, leased out 1 acre and 70.5 cents of land for a period of 50 years on an annual rent of 852 rupees with a condition that the lessee is entitled to put up structures but liable to surrender the property together with buildings or other improvements after 50 years.
It also contained a clause that “lease can be renewed for a further period as may be agreed between the St Antony Charity Institutes and the tenant, in case tenant is agreeable to pay fair and reasonable rent.”
Immediately after the lease expired, on October 10, 2011, St Antony Charity Institutes filed the suit for possession. The tenant had filed another suit for the lease renewal for another 50 years promising to pay “reasonable rent” of 50,000 rupees a year.
After the oral and documentary evidences from both the parties, the matter was decided in favour of St Antony Charity Institutes. The court upheld the case of St Antony Charity Institute and dismissed the tenant’s suit.
The disputed property is in downtown Mangaluru, just 2 km from the Mangalore Railway Station. The Moti Mahal Hotel has 90 rooms with multiple Food and Beverage outlets.
Judge Pushpalatha directed the tenant to surrender vacant possession of the property along with the building within 30 days and also directed to pay compensation.
Fr Onil D’Souza, current director of St Antony Charitable Institutes, has welcomed the order stating that it is victory of orphans and destitute of St Antony Ashram.
The judgment is a major boost for the Church in India that owns prime properties in most cities in the country. Many have leased out part of their properties to business establishments.