Brief facts of the case
The Petitioners who are the residents of Village Sarsad, Tehsil Gohana, District Sonepat encroached on the land owned by the Gram Panchayat. In the year 2000, in the state of Haryana, the Respondent framed a policy for the sale of panchayat land in unauthorized possession.
The Respondent even amended the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Rules, 1964 (1964 Rules), and issued notification dated 1.8.2001 in this regard. After this, in the year 2008, Rule 12(4) was added which authorized Gram Panchayat to sell its non-cultivable land in Shamlat Deh to the inhabitants of the village who have constructed their houses on or before 31.03.2000.
As per Rule 12(4) of the 1964 Rules, the land must be non-cultivable, should not obstruct the traffic and passer-by and the illegal occupation/ construction shall be up to a maximum of 200 square yards, then only the same can be regularized/sold.
The application of Petitioner- Joginder with illegal occupation of 757.37 and Petitioner- Karamveer with illegal occupation of 239.48 square yards, was rejected. The Order passed by the competent authority was a challenge before the High Court. The High Court dismissed the said writ petition. Hence, this special leave petition was filed before the Supreme Court by the original Petitioners.
Argument by the parties
The Counsel for the Petitioner submitted that both the competent authority and the High Court have misread and misinterpreted Rule 12(4) 1964 Rules. The bar under Rule 12(4) will be applicable only in the case the construction area was more than 200 square yards. Thus, even if the total area was more than 200 yards i.e., construction area plus open space, the same is required to be sold under Rule 12(4).
The competent authority had no specific finding as to how much was the constructed area and how much was an open area. Rule 12(4) does not specify anything about the area on which houses are constructed and only creates a limit of 25% open space of the constructed area up to a maximum of 200 yards.
The High Court had erred by relying on the Supreme Court in the case of Jagpal Singh vs. the State of Punjab. The reason being that in the case of Jagpal Singh, the Supreme Court did not consider Rule 12(4) of the Rules 1964.
Observation by the court
The Court rejected the interpretation submitted by the counsel of Petitioner because it may happen that somebody has put up construction on 195 square yards and is in illegal occupation of 500 square yards area, in that case, though he has encroached about 700 square yards, he will be entitled to purchase the land under Rule 12(4), which is not the intent of the Rule.
The limit of 200 square yards was set, so that a small area of the lands occupied illegally can be regularized/sold.
As observed in the case of State of Odisha vs. Bichitrananda Das, an applicant who seeks the benefit of the policy must comply with its terms. In the present case, the policy culminated in Rule 12(4) contained a certain stipulation that needs to be satisfied, but the Petitioner does not satisfy one of them i.e., the illegal occupation by them was more than 200 square yards. Thus, rightly held by the High Court and competent authority that Petitioners are not entitled to the benefit of provisions of Rule 12(4).
In the case of Jagpal Singh, the Supreme Court came down heavily on the trespassers who illegally encroached the Gram Sabha/ Gram Panchayat land by using muscle/money powers and in collusion with the officials and even with the Gram Panchayat. The Court observed in this decision that “ such kind of blatant illegalities must not be condoned” and “even if there is a construction, it should be removed, and possession handed back to Gram Panchayat”.
Such illegalities should not be regularized as the Gram Sabha land is for the common use of villagers of the village.
The decision of the court
Given the above observations, the prayer of the Petitioners for regularization of their illegal occupation of the panchayat land cannot be accepted.
According to the reasons stated hereinabove, the present Special Leave Petition was dismissed.
Click here to read Joginder Singh v. State of Haryana.
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