Thursday, August 25, 2011
News Article: Haryana : No change in user of common land without preparing utilisation plan: HC
Posted: Tue Aug 23 2011, 01:17 hrs Chandigarh:
In a landmark decision, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered that without preparing a land utilization plan no Gram Panchayat in Haryana shall change the use of village common land (shamlat deh) so that it is utilised only for the benefit of the village community.
A single judge bench of Justice Rajive Bhalla also chalked out certain guidelines which a Gram Panchayat in Haryana shall fulfil before changing the user of such land. The direction assumes significance as in the recent past there have been instances where a Gram Panchayat has been accused of entering into an agreement with a private party for changing the user of common land contrary to the laws laid down.
One such instance had recently come to light in the High Court wherein villagers of Ulhawas, Gurgaon, have accused the Haryana government and Gram Panchayat of illegally releasing common land to Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust.
The directives came while hearing a bunch of petitions filed by Baljinder Singh and others, all residents of different villages in Haryana.
The petitioners had challenged the proposal of their Gram Panchayats to auction land reserved as pasture/grazing grounds for the purpose of cultivation. The petitioners contended that as per a scheme prepared under the East Punjab Holdings Act, 1948, land reserved as grazing grounds/pastures cannot be auctioned for the purpose of cultivation.
The question that arose for adjudication was whether a Gram Panchayat can alter the user of “grazing grounds” for other usage.
Holding that a Gram Panchayat is a legal entity, capable of holding and dealing with its property, the court ruled that “land that has vested in a Gram Panchayat as shamlat deh shall be utilised by the Gram Panchayats without any restrain or fetter on its power to alter its user”.
However, the court made it clear that the power can only be exercised for the benefit of the village community and then also after the preparation of a land utilization plan.
The court said that that the Consolidation Act does not place any impediment on the right of the Gram Panchayat to change the common purpose or user of its land.
However, the court added that while preparing such a plan, a Gram Panchayat shall ensure that land is used for the benefit of the village community.
However, the court made it clear that this order shall not affect any common purpose land that has already been altered or land that has already been sold, exchanged or leased out and shall apply prospectively.