While ruling that the revenue record is not a document of title, a Bench of the Supreme Court has observed that even if the name of lessee is mentioned in the revenue record, such entry without any supporting documents of creation of lease does not create any right, title or interest.
"The revenue record is not a document of title. Therefore, even if the name of the lessee finds mention in the revenue record but such entry without any supporting documents of creation of lease contemplated under the Forest Act is inconsequential and does not create any right, title or interest over 12 bighas of land claimed to be in possession of the lessee as a lessee of the Gaon Sabha," the Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramanian observed.
The Bench further noted, "The land vests in the Forest Department by virtue of notification published under a statute. It was the lessee who had to assert the title on the forest land by virtue of an agreement in writing by a competent authority but no such agreement in writing has been produced. Therefore, the lessee would not be entitled to any right only on the basis of an entry in the revenue record."
The Bench was hearing a case between Prabhagiya Van Adhikari Awadh Van Prabhag Vs Arun Kumar Bhardwaj (dead) Thr. Lrs & Ors filed challenging a judgment of the Allahabad High Court which had ruled in favor of a lessee (respondents) based upon the revenue records.
In this case, a notification dated October 11, 1952 under Section 4 of the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950 was published in U.P. Gazette on October 18, 1952 to the effect that an area of 162 acres in a village shall not vest with the Gaon Samaj. In terms of Section 4 of the Abolition Act, all rights, title and interest of all intermediaries including the forest had vested in the State of Uttar Pradesh. As per Section 117 of the Abolition Act, the land of the forest can vest in the Gaon Sabha or any other local authority by a general or special order of the Government.
Under the said section, no general or special orders have been issued by the State Government for vesting any part of the land measuring 162 acres with the Gaon Sabha. On November 23, 1955, a notification was issued under Section 4 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and objections were invited in respect of the land forming part of the notification. After the notification, a proclamation under Section 6 of the Forest Act was carried out on April 28, 1968. The Gaon Sabha had put the lessees into possession of two parcels of the land on May 15, 1966 and on December 26, 1966 respectively.
Such act of grant of lease was challenged by the Forest Department but remained unsuccessful vide order dated December 10, 1969. That order passed by Sub-Divisional Officer was set aside by the Additional Commissioner on July 22, 1970. The further revision filed by the lessee before the Board of Revenue was dismissed but it was ordered to take a fresh decision after impleading the local management committee who had granted the lease to the lessee on behalf of the Gaon Sabha.
Thereafter, some pieces of land were transferred to the forest department. The name of the lessee appeared for the first time in the Khatauni prepared for the year 1407 fasli till 1412 fasli wherein the possession of the lessee was recorded from 1394 fasli to 1395 fasli in respect of 12 bighas of land.
Thereafter, the proceedings were initiated under the U.P. Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1953 by the Forest Department to rectify the revenue record from the name of the lessee to that of the Forest Department. Such an application was dismissed on July 22, 1993. The appeal against the said order was dismissed. On July 8, 2004, the Deputy Director Consolidation, in a revision under Section 48 of the Consolidation Act, set aside the order issued on July 22, 1993 and ordered to rectify the entries in favor of the Forest department. The issue reached the High Court and it ruled in favor of the respondent.
After hearing submissions of the counsels from both sides, the Bench set aside the judgment of the High Court and held that the statutory procedural requirements stand satisfied in the process of issuing notification and proclamation by the department.
The Bench referred to the case of State of U.P. Vs. Dy. Director of Consolidation & Ors and held that, "The land was notified as a reserved forest under Section 20 of the Forest Act but the respondents in appeal before this Court claimed that they were in possession of the land and had acquired Sirdari rights. This Court held that in terms of the Abolition Act, the State was the proprietor of the land and the respondents, even if they were Sirdars, would still be tenure holders."
The Bench didn't entertain the submission by the counsel for the respondent that the final notification under Section 20 of the Forest Act has not been published and ruled that the Section does not require to issue the notification for a reserved forest. There is a requirement of publication of notification but no time limit is prescribed for publication of such notification.
"Therefore, even if notification under Section 20 of the Forest Act has not been issued, by virtue of Section 5 of the Forest Act, there is a prohibition against acquisition of any right over the land comprised in such notification except by way of a contract executed in writing by or on behalf of the Government. Since no such written contract was executed by or on behalf of the State or on behalf of the person in whom such right was vested, therefore, the Gaon Sabha was not competent to grant lease in favour of the appellant."
The Court also relied upon a judgment in the case of Prahlad Pradhan and Ors. v. Sonu Kumhar and Ors wherein it was held that the revenue record does not confer title to the property nor do they have any presumptive value on the title.