Saturday, May 21, 2016

HC tells govt: appoint authorities to halt agri-land conversion

By M A Parray on May 21, 2016

Srinagar: The J&K High Court on Friday directed the government to appoint two authorities, one each in Srinagar and Jammu, for the implementation of local laws and Supreme Court directions regarding non-conversion of agriculture land as well as for freeing Kahcharie (pasture) land of encroachments.

More than 3,40,000 kanals of agriculture land has been converted for other purposes, mostly constructions, in the past four years alone, showing government’s failure to curb the alarming trend.

As soon as the hearing in a Public Interest Litigation started, a bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey suggested to advocate general DC Raina that the government may constitute the two authorities, which could be the Divisional Commissioners of each division, for implementation of the Land Revenue Act, Agrarian Reforms Act and other allied legislations, Supreme Court directions in Jagpal Singh and Others Vs State of Punjab besides orders passed by the high court from time to time.

The advocate general responded in affirmative and subsequently the court directed the government to pass necessary orders for appointing the authorities.

“The authorities shall, besides monitoring the implementation of the relevant laws, also evolve a mechanism for the protection and preservation of the retrieved land,” the court said and directed the authorities to file compliance report after every two months before the Registrars Judicial of both the wings of the High Court.

The Land Revenue and Agrarian Reforms Acts empower the revenue authorities to stop the conversion of the land for other uses such as construction of houses, etc., and take action against the violators.

“Any person would be at liberty to approach the court with the grievances or complaints that the judgment is not being implemented and or compliance report filed is not correct. On such a motion the Court may then initiate contempt proceedings against the authorities concerned,” the court said while disposing of the PIL— Human Watch (Regd) International Vs State & others, seeking implementation of the Land Revenue Act, Agrarian Reforms Act, J&K Alienation of the Land Act and other applicable legislations to stop the alarming conversion of the farmland.

Any person, the court said, would be at liberty to approach the Divisional Commissioner of each division about the violation of the laws and encroachments made in State land, Shamilat or Khacharie land.

The apex court (in the Jagpal Singh and others v. State of Punjab and others, 2011) has laid down that illegalities committed in nature of usurpation of Common Lands of the village communities cannot be regularized and the common interest of the villagers cannot be made to suffer merely because the unauthorized occupation has subsisted for many years.

It had directed the Chief Secretaries of all the States to formulate the schemes for eviction of illegal and unauthorised occupants of Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayat, Shamilat Land for the common use of villagers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Panchayat land cannot be leased for over 2 years: Punjab & Haryana HC

Written by Sanjeev Verma
Published: May 18, 2016

The division has referred the matter to the larger bench for “serious consideration” and to determine whether it is “result of colourable exercise of powers.”

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Observing that the fate of shamlat deh land (common village land), which is the primary source of income for gram panchayats in Haryana, is “at stake” due to its benefits being extended by authorities “to a particular class of persons” including unauthorised occupants, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ordered that no such land shall be leased out for more than two years.

The division bench comprising Justices Surya Kant and AB Chaudhari, while staying operation of Rule 6-A of the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Rules, 1964, as applicable to Haryana, has referred the matter to the larger bench for “serious consideration” and to determine whether it is “result of colourable exercise of powers.”

The court, in its order released on Monday, observed that the original Rule 6 of 1964 Rules mandates that the gram panchayat land is to be leased out by way of auction and it cannot be leased out for agricultural purposes for a period exceeding two years. However, authorities, through an amendment, inserted Rule 6-A in 2013, which was challenged before the High Court in a bunch of petitions, including that of Dalel Singh. Haryana government counsels were found wanting for justification of the Rule before the court decided to refer the matter to the larger bench.

The court observed that vide the impugned provisions, the gram panchayat land is permitted to be leased out, virtually free of cost, for a period upto 99 years “in favour of a class of persons including those who are in its unauthorized and continuous cultivating possession upto the prescribed cut-off date.”

The division bench framed six questions to be determined which include “whether the impugned provisions have been enacted/inserted to give undue benefit to a specific class of persons and are thus discriminatory and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution? “ Also the larger bench would determine whether shamlat deh land can be leased out without public auction.

The division bench also questioned whether the gram panchayat or the inhabitants of the village can be divested of the benefits of shamlat deh land through perpetual lease-hold rights on payment of a nominal lease amount “which is totally a farce”?

The court said that Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961, has been enacted for regulating the rights in shamlat deh and abadi deh lands with the legislative object of utilising shamat deh land for the benefit of villagers.