In a significant judgment, a local court has asked the Tripura government to hand over Neer Mahal, the lone lake palace in eastern India, and Rudra Sagar to Maharani Bibhu Kumatporri Devi, successor of the royal family, within the next two months, according to a report in the Guwahati-based Assam Tribune.

The court has also asked the government to pay compensation of Rs 25 lakh annually with six per cent interest since 1974. In 2008, Maharani Bibhu Kumar Devi had sent a legal notice to the state asking it to hand over Neer Mahal (six acres) and Rudra Sagar (26.61 acres) as the government had failed to utilise these as per the will of the late Maharaja Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya.

The state government did not pay heed. Finding no other alternative, she filed a case before the judicial magistrate, West Tripura. In the petition, Bibhu Devi mentioned Neer Mahal and Rudra Sagar as parts of Maharaj Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya&’s personal properties. In the plea, she also claimed ownership over Neer Mahal and Rudra Sagar as those were given to her before the death of Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya by the signing of a will. “Since the state government has failed to fulfil the will of the late Maharaja — proper maintenance and promoting them as tourism spots — it must be returned,” she said in the petition.

In the course of the trial, advocate Deb Ranjan Chowdhury, who moved the case for the petitioner, claimed that Neer Mahal and Rudra Sagar were personal properties of Maharani Bibhu Kumari Devi through a will signed by the late Maharaja Kirit Bikram. Debabrata Chakraborty and Mrinal Kanti Biswas, who moved the case in favour of the state, had been claiming that Neer Mahal and Rudra Sagar were not personal properties of Maharani Bibhu Kumar Devi as claimed by her.

They also tried to establish that the government had been doing its best to ensure proper maintenance of Neer Mahal and Rudra Sagar. But after a long trial, judicial magistrate, Senior Division, Court No. 1 Govinda Das found both Rudra Sagar and Neer Mahal as personal properties of Maharani Bibhu Devi. In its verdict, the court asked the government to hand over Mahal and Rudra Sagar to Maharani Bibhu Kumari Devi within the next two months.