Owners’ consent must to sell off common village land in Punjab: HC
Proprietors, whose land is being used as village common ground in Punjab, can’t be sold off without their consent, the Punjab and Haryana high court has held.
“However, the control and management of such land. Would continue to vest in gram panchayat or the state government till it is used or capable of being used for common purposes of the village,” observed the bench of justice Anil Kshetarpal. The high court was dealing with a plea from a sarpanch and panches of Saini Majra who were suspended by the government in January claiming that they had refused to execute orders. The elected members were initially opposed to the sale of land to private players by the government and subsequently of the view of distribution of compensation among the proprietors. The tiff had led to their suspension, which was set aside by the high court.
The land called “Jumla Malkan Wad Digar HaqdaranAraziHasabRasadRaqba” under the 1948 law had come into common land fold after imposition of pro-rata cut on the land holding of the owners at the time of consolidation of holdings.
Acquiring authority required to pay market rate of land
It would be noted here thatIn the facts of the case when the entire bureaucracy representing the state machinery was bent upon to force the elected representatives to part with the property of gram panchayat at much lesser price and in an illegal manner, such steps taken by the representatives of the gram panchayats cannot be illegal the court said to some procedural lapses on the part of elected members.
The court said that Section 42A of the East Punjab Holdings (Consolidation and Prevention of Fragmentation) Act, 1948, did not take away the title of the proprietor in the surplus land taken from them and reserved for common purposes of panchayat at the time of consolidation.
The court said that no doubt, the central and the state governments had the power under various Acts/Statutes to compulsorily acquire land in public interest even when the owner objected. However, in all such acts, the acquiring authority is required to pay the market rate. Under such Statutes, ordinarily here is a provision for determination of the market value of the land acquired through an independent agency, namely the court or the arbitrator, theCourt said.
The court said the officers of the state had no jurisdiction to compel the office bearers of the gram panchayat to act in a particular manner, which may be prejudicial to its interest which may be prejudicial to its interst’s.
The court said that it appeared that officers had practically forced or rather snatched the land in question from the gram panchayat even as the 2018 resolution of the panchayat was not to sell the land through a sale deed. What has been resolved was to consent to the acquisition of the land as per the Land Acquisition Act, the court added, however, the government decided the rate on its own.
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