Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Gwal Pahari land row: After losing ownership battle, Gurgaon civic body to challenge lower court order

Sukhbir Siwach|The Indian Express| April 27, 2018

Days after losing the legal battle for ownership rights over land worth thousands of crores, the Municipal Corporation Gurgaon (MCG) has decided to challenge the decision of a lower court before the District and Sessions Court.
There has been a four-decade-long battle between government bodies and private owners over the possession of 464.6 acres of land situated in Gwal Pahari Gram Panchayat (now MCG) area close to the Gurgaon-Faridabad road. Gurgaon Civil Judge (Senior Division) Prashant Rana on April 16 had restrained the MCG and the Haryana government from interfering in the peaceful  ownership, possession, construction and use of the suit lands by the plaintiffs (private owners). Further, the plaintiffs were “declared to be owners in possession over their respective suit lands”.
Stating that the order would be challenged, MCG commissioner Yashpal Yadav toldThe Indian Express Thursday that the appeal is likely to be filed next week. According to the MCG, the predecessor Gram Panchayat (Gwal Pahari) was in possession of the common land and now it vests in the corporation.
“The process to draft our appeal is underway. We will tell the court that this is the land of the MCG as it was left as Shamlat Deh (common land) by the villagers way back in the early sixties. Nobody from the original shareholders or village residents of that time challenged the status of this common land. Its status can’t be challenged today,” Yadav added.
The MCG has been claiming that the 464.6 acres of land was earmarked for charand (grazing ground) at the time of consolidation proceedings in 1964-64. However, the court had observed that the “no such government direction has been placed on record which authorised the consolidation officers to earmark 464.6 acres of land out of 1302.5 acres total land of village, for the purpose of a charand”. “In the adjoining state of Punjab, in similar rule… the maximum limit of area to be earmarked for charand was 4 acres,” said the court.
But the MCG officials claim that land area to be left for the common purposes depends on the residents of the village including original landowners. “As per consolidation act, a committee was constituted and the decision for usage of the land was taken by the villagers,” Yadav claimed.
The court of the senior division civil judge had stated, “… the land… is not a Shamlat Deh which could have vested in Gram Panchayat Gwal Pahari, at any point of time or which could have vested in the Municipal Corporation, Gurugram, at any point of time. Thus the defendant MCG has no right, title or interest in the said land, which is owned and possessed by the plaintiffs by way of registered sale deeds, mutations and jamabandis in their favour, which have remained unrebutted during the course of trial.”
However, in their appeal MCG officials are going to challenge these observations. “The issue here is whether the land belongs to Shamlat Deh. Here the ‘title’ of the land is to be decided. In our point of view, this aspect can’t be decided on the basis of only registered sale deeds,” said Yadav.
Quoting revenue records, the court of the senior division civil judge had observed that “the land was described as Shamlat but was never used… for the benefit of the village community…”
“Since the land had changed its agrarian character, after coming in the municipal limits, it is essential that all the stakeholders in the society, including the state and its departments, must realise that a 464.6 acres grazing ground is not required in the heart of the NCR, where the suit land is located,” the court had further further observed. However, MCG officials argue that it depends on the original owners of the land who had spared this land for common purposes whether they want to change the character of the land.
In its appeal, the MCG is likely to challenge those observations of the lower court in which it had observed that “(High Court) order dated 5.2.2010 which reopened the litigation, has been obtained by the petitioner Gram Panchayat, by playing fraud upon the Hon’ble High Court…”
Yadav said, “The MCG did not hide any thing before the Punjab and Haryana High Court at any stage. In our petition, we will challenge the remarks made by the lower court in this regard.”

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