Tripura royal family loses claim to historic Neermahal

Debraj Deb
Tripura royal family loses claim to historic Neermahal
Tripura royal family loses claim to historic Neermahal

Surrounded by the picturesque Rudrasagar lake, Tripura’s ‘Neermahal’, or lake palace, was built by Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur. (Source: Wikipedia)

The High Court of Tripura has ruled in favour of the state government over a petition challenging its ownership of Neermahal, a former leisurely getaway of the state's Manikya monarchs.

Advocate General Arun Kanti Bhowmik said a division bench headed by Chief Justice AK Qureshi rejected the arguments of the petitioners — royal scion Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma and his mother Bibhu Kumari Devi — and ruled that the property belongs to the state government.

Surrounded by the picturesque Rudrasagar lake, Tripura’s ‘Neermahal’, or lake palace, was built by Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur. Commissioned by the King in 1930, the royal summer resort was built by British company Martin and Burn in nine years. The red and white palace had been the crown jewel of Tripura’s 500-year-old Manikya dynasty rule and is a favourite among tourists for decades now. Popularly known as Tripura’s ‘Lake Palace’ —it is one of the two palaces in the country surrounded by a water body. The second one is Rajasthan’s ‘Jal Mahal’.

The property was handed over to state government by the then royal scion Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya Debbarma in 1974 for maintenance and opening it to the public. In 2005, his wife Bibhu Kumari Devi and son Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma moved the court claiming they only granted "permissive possession" of the property.

Ten years later, in 2015, a civil judge's court ruled in favour of the royals and ordered the state government to hand back the property to the royal family. However, the government challenged the decision in the High Court.

Chief Justice AK Qureshi and Justice Arindam Lodh, however, rejected the plea of royals on Monday.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Advocate General Arun Kanti Bhowmik said, "The High Court has agreed to our argument that Neermahal was relinquished by the royal family. So, the state government is now the owner of this property."

Meanwhile, Pradyot in a social media post said he would not "compromise" and appeal to the Supreme Court.

"Neer Mahal — I challenge the govt to provide one Legal document to suggest that my father 'gifted' Neer Mahal to them, also I am glad that finally, the state government has admitted that no money was ever paid for Neer Mahal to my father or my family. I will challenge the matter in the Supreme Court but I must ask one question to all if the erstwhile royal family cannot protect their private property then what hope does a poor person have. Crores have been spent on legal cases, my father is no longer with me and my mother is 75 years old. Justice delayed is justice denied. I will not compromise," Pradyot wrote on his Facebook page.