The Calcutta High Court emphasized the obligation of the state to safeguard the property rights of citizens.

The Court was considering a Second Appeal filed by the State against the order of the Appellate Court that directed for restoration of possession to the Plaintiffs and payment of damages by the State.

The Court noted that the State had illegally evicted the Plaintiffs from the property during the court proceedings. The Court directed the State to compensate for unlawfully taking possession.

The Bench of Justice Siddhartha Roy Chowdhury observed, “State is supposed to protect the citizens and respect their right of property which is being considered as constitutional right… Therefore, the State has incurred the obligation to pay damages for unlawful possession of the property”.

Additional Government Pleader Pantu Deb Roy appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Rwitendra Banerjee appeared for the Respondent.

A Second Appeal was lodged with the High Court, contesting the Appellate Court's reversal of the Trial Court's judgment and decree.

Sri Achinta Roy @ Achinta Roy Ghatak Choudhury and his siblings initiated a lawsuit asserting that the deceased mother was the rightful owner of the disputed property. In response to a State notice on May 10, 1999, claiming ownership and demanding an explanation for unauthorized occupation, the Plaintiffs, fearing eviction, filed a suit seeking a declaration of title and a permanent injunction.

The Court noted the Plaintiffs' contentions, observing that their mother's name was recorded in the LR operation's Record of Rights (ROR), while Azizur Rahaman Khan's name was in the RS ROR. Following the mother's 1987 demise, the Plaintiffs, acknowledged as legal heirs by the State, asserted their ownership.

Furthermore, the dispute emerged in 1999 when the State claimed ownership, arguing that Section 8A of the West Bengal Public Land Act barred the suit and vested jurisdiction in the Collector.

Relying on the preponderance of probability, the Court affirmed that the Plaintiffs' mother legally acquired the property from the State through an auction purchase. The Bench observed that she had possession throughout her lifetime, with her name duly updated in official records by fulfilling obligations like paying rates and taxes.

Conversely, the State failed to present evidence, oral or documentary, challenging the presumption favouring the plaintiffs. The Court emphasized that while this presumption is a presumption of law, allowing the court to assume accuracy under specific legal conditions, it is not absolute and can be contradicted by evidence.

Additionally, the Bench noted that the presumption favouring the accuracy of the record of rights entry is grounded in a meticulous preparation process involving public notice, notification, and hearings, remaining valid until disproven by evidence.

Despite the State claiming that the subject matter exceeded civil court jurisdiction, the Court held that the State's actions permitted the Plaintiffs to approach the civil court under Section 9 of the CPC. Furthermore, the Court also noted the civil court's jurisdiction and the State's failure to contest the presumption of correctness.

The Court noted that even if the State's claims were true, the State made no effort to return the property to the original owners or challenge supportive prior rulings.

Accordingly, the Court disposed the Appeal.

Cause Title: State of West Bengal & Ors. v Achinta Roy @ Achinta Kumar Roy Ghatak Choudhury

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