Supreme Court Says No Need To Grant Status-Quo on Basis of Cultivation if Land Loses Agricultural Character

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Supreme Court on 13th October 2020 heard an application against the imposition of status–quo on a piece of land. The bench held that since the property has lost its agricultural character, there is no reason to allow status-quo in favour of the petitioner of grounds of cultivation.

Brief Facts  

Respondent No. 3 was the owner of a property and sold the same to Respondent No. 4 in 1978. The petitioner claimed to be an agricultural tenant of the same and in possession and cultivation of it since 1947.

The Petitioner applied to Land Tribunal Bangalore and the application was allowed. Respondent No. 4 approached the High Court aggrieved that he wasn’t added as a defendant to the application.

The High Court quashed the order of the Tribunal and remanded the matter back adding Respondent No. 4. The Land Tribunal again looked at the fresh evidence tendered and decided against the petitioner and rejected the application.

This was appealed against by the Petitioner to the High Court who dismissed the same. An intra-court appeal was made, and the Division Bench too rejected the appeal.

After a long delay, a Review Petition was filed by the Petitioner. That too was dismissed, and hence the Petitioner approached this Court under a Special Leave Petition.

Now, this instant application had been filed by Respondent No. 4.

Respondent No. 4 sought modification or vacation of an interim order passed on 15.02.2019 by this Court. The Court in that order had directed the parties to maintain status-quo.

The issue to be considered here was whether the Petitioner had made out a case for the continuation of the order of status-quo during the pendency of the Special Leave Petition.

Arguments

The Petitioner claimed that he was a tenant in the cultivation of the property as of 01.03.1974. The claim is supported by the contention that his name is indicated in the cultivator’s Column of the RTC. Also, that such tenancy was on crop sharing basis.

Court’s Observation

The Court first focused on the delay in filing the SLP. It was noticed that the SLP was filed in 2017 after a delay of 546 days. 

While the Review Petition was filed in the meantime, but that too was after a delay of 380 days from the date of disposal of the WP. 

The petitioner herein cannot claim the benefit of an interim order from the date of disposal of the Writ Appeal on 03.12.2015. Thus, though this Court has condoned the delay, the grant of an order of status-quo at that juncture was without reference to all these aspects.

The Court then noted the Civil Suit filed by the Petitioner before the Civil Judge in Bengaluru in 2017. The suit in question sought a permanent injunction. No interim order had been granted there.

But, this conduct of the Petitioners would also disclose that the Petitioners had not agitated the matter after disposal of the Writ Appeal in 2015 had begun to agitate it again only when the Respondent No.4 was taking steps to develop the property.

Respondent No. 4 has produced documents showing that he had agreed with a developer in 2016 who was taking steps for securing an Environment Impact Assessment Certificate and appropriate registration before the Real Estate Regulatory Authority.

The aforementioned details also state that the property at this point has lost its character as agricultural property. Hence, the Petitioner continuing to cultivate the property or being in possession thereof cannot be accepted at this juncture to continue the order of status-quo.

Even if considering the case of merits the Petitioner can establish the right claimed as a tenant of 1.03.1974, the interest of the Petitioner would lie in the developed property and can be compensated.

The Bench reasoned that even on applying the tripod test, the balance of convenience to vacate the order of status-quo is in favour of the Respondent No.4.

Court’s Order

The Bench modifies the order dated 15.02.2019, and the interim order of status-quo stands vacated. But, the change in the land and the development made therein would thus remain subject to the result of the Special Leave Petition.

Click here to view the Judgement.


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