Chandigarh, March 17
Putting to rest the legal controversies generated by similar instructions by the states of Punjab and Haryana on vesting shamlat and jumla mushtarka malkan land in the gram panchayats or municipal bodies concerned, the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed the same today.
Sstates’ instructions against SC verdict
- The states’ instructions are in breach of the SC’s verdict in Jai Singh’s case
- The instructions are ultra vires the constitutional right of property as enshrined in Article 31-A, and Article 300-A of the Constitution
“Executive instructions dated June 21, 2022, and August 18, 2022, issued by the state of Haryana and October 11, 2022, issued by the state of Punjab, whereby the ownership rights of the land in question are sought to be transferred in favour of the gram panchayats/municipalities, through executive fiat, are held to be contrary to the very scheme of the statute and are hereby quashed, particularly in view of the fact that these executive instructions cannot result into arbitrary cancellation of valid title over the properties,” asserted the Bench of Justice Sureshwar Thakur and Justice Kuldeep Tiwari.
The ruling came on 76 petitions against the states of Punjab and Haryana by Bhambool Singh and other petitioners. They were aggrieved by the executive instructions issued by the two state governments for the purported implementation of the Supreme Court’s judgment dated April 7, 2022, in the case of “State of Haryana versus Jai Singh and others”.
One of the questions before the Bench was whether the verdict could be assigned retrospective effect even to land otherwise saved from vestment under the previous Acts –– “The Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961” and “The Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1953”.
The Bench asserted there could not be implicit retrospectively of an amending law where substantive rights are involved, unless there was an explicit provision to give retrospective effect. Substantive rights remain unaffected by changes in the main legislation.
“It appears that the impugned instructions/letters have been issued in a most slipshod and perfunctory manner without any application of mind either to the judgment of the apex court in Jai Singh’s case or to any of the other statutes or legal principles carried in the statutory provisions,” the Bench asserted.
It ruled land ownership, continued to be shown as reserved for “common purposes” whether utilised or unutilised, would vest in the gram panchayats or the municipalities. Land proposed or shown to be reserved for common purposes, but partitioned or redistributed amongst the proprietors under the consolidation scheme were held to have never come under the gram panchayat’s management and control. In case of land sold/re-sold to bonafide purchasers after due diligence and for valuable consideration, the title or possessory rights of bona-fide purchasers would remain unaffected, except when the sale deeds in their favour was set aside by the courts of competent jurisdiction.
Land earlier shown or proposed to be reserved for common purposes but returned/ re-distributed amongst the proprietors under the orders of the revenue court/ consolidation officer where the “management” or “control” was never transferred to the gram panchayats could not automatically be presumed to have vested in the gram panchayats or municipalities.
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