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Deprivation of right to property can only be in accordance with the procedure established by law: SC

Thus, the power is vested with the competent authority to determine such conflict of the land holding. This is, however, subject to a proviso. The proviso clearly stipulates that if such a question is already pending for decision before the competent court, the competent authority shall await the decision of the court. (Para 23)

Bajranga (Dead) By Lrs. V/S The State Of Madhya Pradesh & Ors

Civil Appeal No.6209 Of 2010

Decided 19th January, 2021

A Three-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Hrishikesh Roy decided on the case of where Appellants have assailed the High Court Order.

The predecessor-in-interest of the appellant (now represented by 1 the LRs) was the bhumiswami of agricultural dry land measuring 64.438 acres situated in Madhya Pradesh. He was, thus, stated to be holding land in excess of the ceiling limit prescribed as per Section 7(b) of the said Act, whereby a holder along with his family of five members or less could hold a maximum amount of 54 acres of land. In furtherance of the aforesaid, the respondents herein initiated the process of taking over possession and eviction under Section 248 of the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code, 1959 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘said Code’) (the provision has since been deleted). The appellant being aggrieved by the final order dated 30.3.1979 filed a suit for declaration of title and permanent injunction before the Court of Civil Judge Class-II, Sheopur Kala, District Morena. It is the say of the appellant, as per averments in the plaint, that the proceedings to recover land from him were illegal as he was actually left with only 54 acres of land which was within the prescribed ceiling limit in view of the fact that the land measuring 17 bighas and 7 biswa in Survey No.77 had been decreed in favour of one Jenobai, who was in kabza kasht (possession by cultivation) of the land for about 20 years.

From the Appellant’s side there was pleaded to be an admission about the disclosure about the factum of the suit filed by Jenobai in the returns and, thus, the respondents herein were required to wait for the outcome of the suit and should have also invited objections from Jenobai. The decree in the civil suit between the appellant and Jenobai was, thus, submitted to be binding on the competent authority. The information about the pendency of the suit between Jenobai and the appellant had been furnished to the competent authority, and post decree of the suit the appellant had been left with only 54 acres of land. Thus, there was no reason to initiate proceedings to take possession of the disputed land. The appellate court noted the admission in the written statement filed by the respondents herein, that in the return filed by the appellant there was disclosure of the factum of Jenobai being in possession of Survey No.77 land as also of the pendency of the suit, being Suit No.319A/75 between her and the appellant. That being the factual position, Section 11(3) of the said Act mandated that the copy of the draft statement ought to have been served on Jenobai as she was an ‘interested person’ in the land.

On the other hand, the Respondents herein reiterated that the suit filed by Jenobai was a collusive one and the object of the institution was to circumvent the provisions of the said Act. In this behalf, it was submitted that the suit under Section 11(5) of the said Act can only be instituted within three months from the date of Section 11(4) order, the date of which is not mentioned. However, even if the date of the subsequent order under Section 11(6) passed on 31.3.1979 is considered, the period of three months elapsed as the suit was filed on 31.8.1979/3.9.1979 (there is some discrepancy qua the dates as recorded in different proceedings). Further under Section 11(5) of the said Act, a suit can only be filed for setting aside the order under Section 11(4) of the said Act but no such prayer was made.

On hearing the parties, the court observed:

The aforesaid factual matrix is, thus, to be examined in the context of the provisions of the said Act. The preparation of the statement of land held in excess of ceiling limit under Section 11 of the said Act has to be on the basis of information given in the return under Section 9 of the said Act, or the information obtained by the competent authority under Section 10 of the said Act after making an enquiry. In terms of Section 15 11(3), the draft statement is to be published and served on the holder, the creditor and “all other persons interested in the land to which it relates.” Once a disclosure is there that Jenobai had filed a suit, there has to be mandatorily a notice to her as otherwise any decision would be behind her back and would, thus, violate the principles of natural justice. (Para 22)

Further, the Court concluded:

The provisions of the said Act are very clear as to what has to be done at each stage. In our view once a disclosure was made, the matter had to be dealt with under sub-section (4) of Section 11 of the said Act and in view of the pending suit proceedings between the appellant and Jenobai, the proviso came into play which required the respondent authorities to await the decision of the court. Sub-section 5 and thereafter sub-section 6 would kick in only after the mandate of subsection 4 was fulfilled. In the present case it was not so. Even notice was not issued to Jenobai. She could have clarified the position further. The effect of the decree in favour of Jenobai is that the appellant loses the right to hold that land and his total land holding comes within the ceiling limit. If there is no surplus land there can be no question of any proceedings for take over of the surplus land under the said Act. (Para 29)

The impugned order was set aside and the appeals were allowed.



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