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Oct 14, 2011

Land War; Resident vs Jitendra ‘Krooman’ Chawla

Businessman Jitendra Chawla first gained notoriety in mid 2009 when it was revealed that he was developing within a reserve known as the Krooman Lagoon at the entrance to the City on the Western Highway. Public outrage put a halt to the potato chips factory but Chawla is back in the news. A husband and wife team says Chawla is now claiming property they have held for years just adjacent to the Krooman Lagoon.  News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A one-acre spread of land near mile two on the Western Highway, occupied by Ricardo and Sheila Escalante and their family, is tonight at the center of an upcoming trial in the Supreme Court.

Jitendra Chawla

The couple bought a pair of adjacent house lots behind the Krooman Lagoon a little over two decades ago.  In the years that followed they purchased two additional plots adjoined to their existing property.  To square off what was initially a trapezoidal parcel they filled and developed another portion of land, albeit without having applied for ownership.  Today businessman Jitendra Chawla, whose warehouse sits next to the Escalantes, is claiming the untitled property.

Sheila Escalante, Property Owner

“We bought these two lots of land here from 1989 and we built our houses on it and within the first two years of living here we filled in the lagoon to match the neighbors who [live] beside us from 1982.  Now we’ve maintained it for all those years and now we understand Mr. Chawla is claiming where he bought a portion of the Krooman Lagoon which includes the backyard that we have maintained for so long.  We filled in beyond our original titled land which we have maintained that same piece I’m telling you [about] for twenty-two years but he wants to get 1.7 acres behind us and instead of taking it beyond our boundary he wants to get a piece of our backyard or maintain piece, you know.”

Viewers would recall that in mid-July 2009 Chawla came under fire from residents as well as area representative Patrick Faber for the development of a portion of Krooman’s Lagoon, a nature reserve which doubles as a catchment basin.  As seen here the area remained forested for many years prior to being cleared for expansion. The matter was dealt with in court and government was ordered to compensate Chawla for having reclaimed the land.  The proprietor of Xtra House is now seeking a little over an acre and a half within the same area, land which purportedly extends into Escalante’s property.

Sheila Escalante

Sheila Escalante

“I understand he has a title for this land which he was given by the Minister of Lands, that includes the portion that we are holding on to here.”

Isani Cayetano

“My understanding is that you moved to file an injunction to stop the process as it is.  Can you speak to us on that as well?”

Sheila Escalante

“Yes, we hired a lawyer to look about our interest in the piece of land and he has suggested we file an injunction to try to curb the selling, the title issue to Mr. Chawla.  But we understand he has a title anyway.”

Despite not having the requisite land certificate Escalante firmly believes that they do have prescriptive rights; and, much like squatting, occupying land beyond a given number of years entitles the resident to the property.

Isani Cayetano

“As the occupant of this particular plot of land have you done any kind of research to find out what your rights are seeing as though while you may not have acquired the land lawfully twenty years ago, the extra piece of land we’re talking about.  Have you inquired to find out whether or not squatters’ rights in this particular case would be to your benefit?”

Sheila Escalante

“Well we understand that once we have been here over twelve years we have, I wouldn’t say entitlement to the land, but we are in a good position to apply for it and to get this land.  After twelve years it stands to reason that we will get the portion land that we want.”

Isani Cayetano

“Have you moved towards applying for the title of the land?”

Sheila Escalante

“Well we want to go ahead and do it but we’re dealing with the lawyer at the moment right now with the issuing of the injunction and depending on what we hear at the court next week Tuesday when we are to go [then] we will take further steps at that time.”

According to Escalante a team of surveyors recently conducted measurements within the vicinity; however, they failed to notify her that the property was in jeopardy of being claimed by her neighbor.  She further notes that if the Minister of Natural Resources has given Chawla the green light to purchase land within the lagoon then the ministry should proceed with the de-reserving of the area in question before surveying the remaining acreage which sits on the opposite end of the clearing. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

The Escalantes will be seeking an injunction in court on October eighteenth.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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6 Responses for “Land War; Resident vs Jitendra ‘Krooman’ Chawla”

  1. Glen Weir says:

    If the land is still part of the Krooman Lagoon reserve then no title should have been issued until the land is de-reserved. If the Ministry of land issued a title to Chawla for land in a reserve then such title is invalid. This was stated in a previous judgement from the supreme court

  2. Ricky Malthus says:

    Mr. Chawla’s claim is without merit and the courts must not entertain this insiduous, tacit theft. Mr. Chawla knows that he is stealing or attempting to steal. If we are going to use English Common Laws to adjudicate this matter, the Escalantes lived on and developed their land for twenty years and any land accretion or avulsion to their land will have been borne from them. The land is theirs and Chawla is creating a cloud on their title because he has paid his lawyer to cause uncertainty in the fickle minds of the untrained and untutored. Nice try Chawla but it won’t work this time. I just wonder where Belize get all these fake investors to come and prey on good Belizeans.

  3. Chitown says:

    Will this sort of crap ever end in Belize? Will the lands people and elected officials stop their crap? How the heck can they allow anyone to fill in a lagoon. If proper land use measures do not go into effect the flooding in Belize will get worse every year.

    All the areas that are suppose to take the runoff during a rain storm are being filled in randomly with no drainage study being done. Every time you fill a low spot the water that use to go there has to go some where else. This means more flooding for someone else.

  4. Glen Weir says:

    No wonder citizens’ homes are being flooded in Port Loyola and Fabers Road and crocodiles are appearing in residential areas. When animals habitat are encroached upon the animals move into residential areas. All this is indeed crap and driven by money.

  5. fromafar says:

    Shiela, who gave you permission to fill in a lagoon that did not belong to you i the first place… thats the kind of crap that needs to stop… no one’s entitled to crap, if thats the case, we all own land and we all know that is CRAP!!!!

  6. R Esscalante says:

    We did not fill in a lagoon. We merely developed a narrow strip of land between our boundary and where the lagoon started. There is no public road access to this strip of land.Twenty years ago this was common practice and the neighbours did the same. This stip of land that was developed by the neighbours and ourselves is around 750 square meters compared to the acres that the Government sold to Chawla.
    As a businessman Mr.Chawla takes what he can get but our problem is with GOB who sold / gave land in a reserve without respecting our rights.

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