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Calcutta High Court: Notice to Attend Hearing Does Not Vest Jurisdiction Upon Authority to Decide an Issue Which the Statute Does Not Approve

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The Calcutta High Court in its judgment stated that mere issuance of notice directing the parties involved to attend a hearing along with all necessary documents does not vest a jurisdiction upon the respective authority to decide the case when the statute does not even empower it to adjudicate upon. 

Facts of the case

 The writ petition was filed challenging the judgment and order dated 28.01.2020 passed by the Second bench, West Bengal Land Reforms and Tenancy Tribunal (from herein ‘the said Tribunal’) which upheld the notice dated 14.11.2003 issued under Section 57 of the EA Act directing the petitioners to exercise the option as to what land would be vested in exchange of the land to be directed as per the order of the Hon’ble Court. Due to the petitioners’ non-compliance with such directions, the concerned authorities were directed to take over possession of lands involved in the Title suit in favor of the respondents. 

Petitioner’s contention

 The counsel for the Petitioner contended that the concerned authority exceeded its jurisdiction by directing the Petitioners to exercise the option as to what land would be vested in exchange for the land which had to be divested. The counsel stated that this was contrary to the ratio laid down by the Court in the case of Rajbala Barik vs. State of West Bengal & Ors (2017) 4 CHN (cal) 190. He further argued that the order of the learned Tribunal could not be sustained in the eye of law as the same is contrary to the law laid down by the Court in the Rajbala case. 

Respondent’s contention

 The counsel for the State contended that Jana transferred the vested plots in favor of Surendra Nath Roy with a fraudulent intention and then was Mr.Roy subsequently transferred the said vested plots in favor of the private Respondents herein. He submitted that since the civil court declared the said plots and passed a decree of permanent injunction against the State, the said plots had to be divested and the result is that the interest of the State was affected. The counsel also stated that since the transfer was the plots were fraudulent in nature, the State Government had the right to take possession of land equal in area to the land which was transferred in favor of the transferee. The counsel contended that since proceedings were initiated pursuant to the liberty granted by a Co-ordinate Bench of this Court, the authority had jurisdiction to pass the order dated 14.11.2003. The counsel concluded by submitting that the learned Tribunal by a reasoned order had dismissed the original application and the same should not be interfered with by this Court.

Court’s observation

 The Court observed that the State who is defendant no. 1 in the present suit did not dispute the possession of the private respondents herein in the said land. The court further stated that it was clear from the record that the concerned District land and Land Reform Officer passed an order to divert which was the consequence of the decree passed by the Civil Court. The court also stated that the issue of jurisdiction raised by the petitioner was not settled by the Court in the earlier proceedings. The next issue that the court looked into was the reopening of the Big Raiyat proceedings and was of the view that the authority failed to appreciate that recording of the names of the private respondents in the plots in question is not a direct consequence of the execution of the deed by the predecessor-in-interest of the petitioners. Therefore, the order of divesting could not be the valid ground for reopening the Big Raiyat proceeding. 

The court further looked into the order dated 14.11.2013, stated that the EA Act does not provide for the exchange of land transferred out of the vested land with that of the retained land. Hence, the court stated that the authority acted wholly without jurisdiction in passing the said order. 

Court’s Judgement

 The High Court stated that the Order passed by the authority dated 14.11.2013 suffered from infirmity as the said order directed possession of the plots in question to be made over to the private respondents. The court further stated that the learned Tribunal mechanically affirmed the order passed by the authority without considering the aforesaid legal aspects and also misinterpreting the ratio of the Rajabala Barik case. The court, therefore, held the judgment passed by the Tribunal and the order dated 14.11.2013 under the EA Act suffered from infirmity and were set aside and quashed. 

Case: Hari Pada Jana & Ors. Vs State of West Bengal

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