Use Of Agricultural Land For Non-Agricultural Purposes Would Not Alter Its Nature As Agricultural Land: SC
The Supreme Court has observed that the use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes would not alter the nature of the land as an agricultural land under the Telangana Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Act, 1987.
"Since the land is agricultural land, its use for non-agricultural purposes would not alter the nature of the land as an agricultural land.", the bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Vikram Nath observed.
The Court also observed that the use of land for non-agricultural purposes would be irrelevant for statutory cancellation of the lease of agricultural lands under the said Act.
The Court was dealing with an appeal filed by a lessee challenging the order passed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court whereby the lessee i.e., Gulf Oil Corporation Limited was ordered to be evicted under the provisions of the said Act of 1987. Along with this, the Court was also adjudicating upon an appeal filed by the lessor claiming mesne profits in terms of Section 83(6) of the 1987 Act.
In this case, one Sri Udasin Mutt entered into an agreement of lease with M/s Indian Detonators, predecessor of the lessee, in respect of 143 acres of inam lands.
The lessor thereafter entered into an agreement with M/s Indian Detonators to take on lease 257 acres and 19 guntas of the inam land. The Government of Andhra Pradesh accorded sanction for lease of land to M/s. Indian Detonators Limited.
Subsequently, the lessor entered into another lease deed with M/s Indian Detonators Limited for a period of 99 years for land measuring 137 acres 19 guntas.
In 2007, the Mutt wrote to the Assistant Commissioner (Endowments) for eviction of the lessee, inter alia on the ground that a graveyard on a land measuring 20 acres has come up and thus there is a violation of the terms of the lease.
A report was submitted communicating to the Assistant Commissioner, Endowments Department that the lease deeds are without prior Government approval. The lessee was asked to remove the encroachment upon the land belonging to the Mutt.
It has been argued that the Endowments Tribunal passed a patently perverse order of eviction on the ground that the leased land was agricultural in nature and therefore, the lease deed was void as per Section 82 of the 1987 Act.
The writ petition against the order passed by the Endowments Tribunal remained unsuccessful.
Aggrieved, the lessee approached Supreme Court.
Advocate Harish Salve appeared for the lessee whereas Advocate Mahfooz Ahsan Nazki appeared for the State. Advocate Uttara Babbar appeared for the Mutt.
The Court noted that the primary argument of the counsel for the lessees is that there was no pleading that the land in question was agricultural land, therefore, the lessees were not made aware of the fact that the lease stands statutorily cancelled.
"The said argument is not tenable for the reason that the Inspector in his report dated 29.1.2008 and 16.12.2008 reported that the lands in question are agricultural lands and that lease of such lands stands cancelled.", the Court held.
The Court held that since the lessees were aware of the fact that the Mutt claims the land to be agricultural land and statutory cancellation of the lease was being averred for the reason that the leased land was agricultural, therefore, the lessees cannot complain of any violation of principles of natural justice or strict rules of pleading as is required under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
The Court further noted that there was a direction to consider the request of the lessee to consider the grant of lease under Rule 15.
"However, Rule 15 of the Telangana Charitable and Hindu Religious Institutions and Endowments Immovable Properties and other Rights (Other than Agricultural Land) Leases and Licenses Rules, 2003 will have no application to the agricultural land in view of the fact that Section 82(3) and (4) is applicable only to the land and property which is not agricultural. Since the land has been found to be agricultural, therefore, 2003 Rules would not be applicable to the land in question. Thus, the direction to consider the request of the lessee to consider the grant of lease under Rule 15 is untenable.", the Court held.
Cause Title- Gulf Oil Corporation Ltd v. The State of Telangana & Ors with Anr.