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Kerala Govt takes over Halcyon Castle; M-Far moves HC

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FORCED CHECKOUT: Tourists leaving the Halcyon Castle premises in Kovalam after the State Government took possession of the imposing castle and 28 other buildings situated in 4.13 hectares on Monday. - S. Gopakumar

Thiruvananthapuram , Sept. 27

THE State Government today took over the Halcyon Castle at the Kovalam beach resort near here from M-Far Hotels Pvt Ltd, which had acquired possession of the palace when it bought the adjoining ITDC Kovalam Ashok Beach Resort as part of the disinvestment process.

M-Far Hotels has filed a petition in the Kerala High Court against the takeover. The court is expected to consider the petition on September 28. A hotel spokesperson said the company had no option but to seek legal intervention.

According to him, the Halcyon Castle was part of the Ashok Beach Resort. The portions of the palace taken over by the Government included some guest rooms, staff areas and several other departments of the hotel, thus making it difficult for the hotel to function properly, he added.

In fact, the hotel management had written to the Chief Minister asking for more time to vacate the palace premises and relocate its operations, he explained.

Earlier in the day, Government officials led by Ms Tinku Biswal, Collector of Thiruvananthapuram, took possession of the palace and the surrounding 4.13 hectares of land, based on a decision taken by the State Cabinet on September 15.

The officials also asked the hotel management to remove all its property from within the Palace premises in 48 hours.

The Halcyon Palace, built by a member of the former royal family of Travancore in the 1930s, had recently been the subject of a dispute over ownership.

Several local groups, including political parties, have argued that the property belongs to the State Government and hence could not be transferred to M-Far Hotels as part of the disinvestment process.

Earlier this month, the State Cabinet had decided to take possession of the palace and the surrounding 4.13 hectares of land on the basis of a report submitted by a high-level team led by the Chief Secretary.

PTI adds: Revenue officials led by the Collector conducted the operation swiftly and completed the proceedings in two hours to avoid a court stay.

In its notice, the Government informed the hotel management that it was ``taking re-possession of the Halcyon Castle.''

A spokesman of the hotel, renamed Le Meridien Kovalam Beach Resorts and Spa, said: ``We have not handed over the property. It has been forcibly taken over. We are left with little choice but to take legal steps.''

The authorities pasted the takeover notice on the walls of the palace and appointed the Thasildar of Neyyattinkara taluk, Mr C. Mohan, as the receiver.

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