Kerala HC stays DFO's eviction notice to ISRO

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Kochi, Oct 4 (UNI) The Kerala High Court today stayed for three weeks, an eviction notice issued to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) by the Divisional Forest Officer, Thiruvananthapuram, to vacate the land bought by it in Merchiston Estate to set up the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IISST).

A Division Bench, comprising Chief Justice H L Dattu and Mr Justice K T Sankaran, also stayed for three weeks an eviction notice issued by the DFO to the owner of Merchiston Estate Xavi Mano Mathew.

The Bench also issued a notice to the CBI on two public interest petitions, seeking a probe by the Central agency into the Merchiston Estate deal.

The DFO had issued the eviction notices to vacate the Merchiston Estate in Ponmudi in Thiruvananthapuram within 30 days on the ground that the entire estate fell under the Ecologically Fragile Land (EFL) category.

Challenging the DFO's notice, Dr B N Suresh, Director, IISST, had sought a court direction to the Kerala Government and the Forest department not to obstruct setting up of the IISST at the land bought by ISRO in Ponmudi from Mr Mathew, MD, Southern Field Ventures Limited.

In a PIL seeking a CBI inquiry into the Merchiston Estate deal, petitioner B Raghunathan Nair of Thiruvananthapuram also sought quashing of the order, dated June 12, 2007, of the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Thiruvananthapuram, denotifying an area of 24.40 acres of the estate as EFL.

Another PIL, filed by K S Sekharan of Thrissur, contended that as ISRO was a Central agency, a Central agency should investigate the matter. The vigilance inquiry ordered by the Kerala Government in the matter was not sufficient as the State itself was an accused, he submitted.


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