Common Purpose Lands Carved Out For Village Community Cannot Be Re-Partitioned Amongst Proprietors – SC [Read Judgment]
A two-judge Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V Ramasubramanian has held that the land reserved for common purposes as a part of agrarian reforms would stand vested in the municipality for its management and control and cannot be re-partitioned amongst the proprietors.
The Court also held that even if a part of the Sabha area is merged into the municipality, the municipality shall have control over the land so reserved for the village community which will form part of the urban area.
The Bench further in this context held –
"Such vesting is not a part of agrarian reforms but shall be on account of extension of municipal limits. When the municipal limits are extended, the residents of the Panchayat also became residents of the municipality. The common purposes of the village community prior to extension of the municipal limits would be deemed to be common purposes for which land can be utilized by the municipality."
Senior Advocate Mr. Pradeep Kant appeared for the State, Senior Counsel Mr. Manoj Swarup along with Counsel Ms. Anubha Agarwal appeared for the Proprietors before the Apex Court.
In this case, the Supreme Court was hearing a batch of appeals filed against the amendments in the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961 inserted by Haryana Act No. 9/1992 published on 11.2.1992 after the assent of the President of India.
The amendments brought by the Amending Act came up for consideration before the Full Bench of Punjab and Haryana High Court in the case of Jai Singh & Ors. v. State of Haryana (AIR 1995 P&H 243) [Jai Singh I]. The High Court had then struck down the amendments.
An appeal was then filed before the Apex Court titled State of Haryana v. Jai Singh which was accepted on 6.8.1998.
Thereafter, the Full Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Jai Singh & Ors. v. State of Haryana (Jai Singh II) examined the legality of sub-section 6 of Section 2(g) of the 1961 Act.
The batch of appeals filed before the Supreme Court were directed against the order of the Full Bench of the High Court and the order dated 8.11.2013 passed by the Full Bench dismissing the review application against the said order in the case of State of Haryana v. Vir Singh & Ors.
The Apex Court noted that the Amending Act is a part of the agrarian reform.
The Bench further held that once the land had been reserved for common purposes, irrespective of description in the revenue record, such land would vest with the Panchayat or the State. The only condition is that it should be within the permissible limits of the Proprietors.
While rejecting the argument of the Counsel of the Proprietors that the explanation enlarges the scope of common purposes for which land was reserved under the scheme in terms of the 1948 Act, the Court held that neither sub-section 6 nor the explanation is contrary to Article 300A as the land stood acquired without payment of compensation being part of the agrarian reforms, when pro-rata cut was applied on the land of the proprietors.
The Bench also added that the Panchayat is the absolute owner of the land reserved which came vested in the Panchayat with the commencement of Shamilat law.
"Thus, in respect of the land taken from the proprietors from their permissible ceiling limits, it is the management and control alone which would vest with the panchayat. The management and control include leasing of land and use of the land by non-proprietors, Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes etc. which is for the benefit of the village community," the Court observed.
The Court also held that the land vests with the Panchayat, but such land should be used for common purposes for the benefit of the village community. In this context the Bench opined –
"Such benefits to the village community is not limited to traditional benefits of the village community i.e., land for grazing of cattle, dumping of dead animals, schools and hospitals but also the activities which would be required in future, keeping in view the modernization of the village economy which will ultimately for the benefit of the village community."
The Court additionally noted that even if any land reserved for common purposes is not actually being put to any common purpose, it cannot be termed as Bachat land and thus open for the purpose of repartition amongst the proprietors sought.
"Keeping in view of the above discussions, we find that the land reserved for common purposes cannot be re-partitioned amongst the proprietors only because at a particular given time, the land so reserved has not been put to common use," the Court added.
Finally, the Bench held that Act No. 9 of 1992, the Amending Act is valid and does not suffer from any vice of constitutional infirmity.
The Court held that the entire land reserved for common purposes by applying pro-rata cut had to be used by the Gram Panchayat for the present and future needs of the village community and that no part of the land can be re-partitioned amongst the proprietors.
In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the appeals filed by the State and Panchayats and dismissed the appeals filed by the Proprietors.