2.Since time immemorial there have been common lands inhering in the village communities in India, variously called gram sabha land, gram panchayat land, (in many North Indian States), shamlat deh (in Punjab etc.), mandaveli and poramboke land (in South India), Kalam, Maidan, etc., depending on the nature of user. These public utility lands in the villages were for centuries used for the common benefit of the villagers of the village such as ponds for various purposes e.g. for their cattle to drink and bathe, for storing their harvested grain, as grazing ground for the cattle, threshing floor, maidan for playing by children, carnivals, circuses, ramlila, cart stands, water bodies, passages, cremation ground or graveyards, etc. These lands stood vested through local laws in the State, which handed over their management to Gram Sabhas/Gram Panchayats. They were generally treated as inalienable in order that their status as community land be preserved. There were no doubt some exceptions to this rule which permitted the Gram Sabha/Gram Panchayat to lease out some of this land to landless labourers and members of the scheduled castes/tribes, but this was only to be done in exceptional cases.
3.The protection of commons rights of the villagers were so zealously protected that some legislation expressly mentioned that even the vesting of the property with the State did not mean that the common rights of villagers were lost by such vesting. Thus, inChigurupati Venkata Subbayya vs. Paladuge Anjayya, 1972(1) SCC 521 this Court observed : "23. It is true that the suit lands in view of section 3 of the estates abolition act did vest in the Government. That by itself does not mean that the rights of the community over it were taken away. Our attention has not been invited to any provision of law under which the rights of the community over those lands can be said to have been taken away.. The rights of the community over the suit lands were not created by the principal or any other landholder. Hence those rights cannot be said to have been abrogated by section 3(c) of the estates abolition act. What we have witnessed since Independence, however, is that in large parts of the country this common village land has been grabbed by unscrupulous persons using muscle power, money power or political clout, and in many States now there is not an inch of such land left for the common use of the people of the village, though it may exist on paper. People with power and pelf operating in villages all over India systematically encroached upon communal lands and put them to uses totally inconsistent with their original character, for personal aggrandisement at the cost of the village community. This was done with active connivance of the State authorities and local powerful vested interests and goondas. This appeal is a glaring example of this lamentable state of affairs. Held so, the apex Court issued the following directions:-