Supreme Court: Deprivation of Property Right Only Possible According To Procedure Established by Law On 19 January 2021, the Supreme Court of India (SC) consisting of a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari, and Hrishikesh Roy while setting aside the order of the High Court (HC) and affirming the order of the Appellate Court, stated that one may be deprived of property...
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Supreme Court: Deprivation of Property Right Only Possible According To Procedure Established by Law
On 19 January 2021, the Supreme Court of India (SC) consisting of a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Dinesh Maheshwari, and Hrishikesh Roy while setting aside the order of the High Court (HC) and affirming the order of the Appellate Court, stated that one may be deprived of property rights only through the procedure established by law
The bench while dealing with the proceedings initiated under the Madhya Pradesh Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960 (Act) in the case of Bajranga (Dead) By Lrs (Appellant) v. State Of Madhya Pradesh (Respondent), stated that the respondents have violated the aim and object of the Act and not duly complied with the statutory provisions.
The SC said, "We say so as the right to property is still a constitutional right under Article 300A of the Constitution of India though not a fundamental right. The deprivation of the right can only be in accordance with the procedure established by law. The law in this case is the said Act. Thus, the provisions of the said Act had to be complied with to deprive a person of the land being surplus."
Facts of the Case
The predecessors of the appellant were bhumiswami (owners) of agricultural dry-land measuring 64.438 acres situated in Village Bagadua, MP. The land was above the ceiling limit prescribed under Section 7(b) of the Act, whereby the prescribed limit was set at 54 acres.
The competent authority had initiated the process to acquire the surplus land and the State had initiated the process of taking over possession and eviction under Section 248 of the MP Land Revenue Code, 1959.
The appellant, being aggrieved filed a suit for declaration of title and permanent injunction before the Trial Court. It was contended that the proceedings were illegal as he was left with only 54 acres of land which was within the prescribed ceiling limit as the land measuring 17 bighas and 7 biswa had been decreed in favour of one Jenobai, who was in possession by cultivation for about 20 years.
The Trial Court had held that the appellant was the original bhumiswami and the suit with Jenobai was collusive as she was the mother-in-law of the appellant and the endeavour was to prevent the surplus land from being acquired by the State.
An appeal was filed before the First Appellate Court and the judgment of the Trial Court was set aside. Another appeal was filed against the said judgment before the HC and it set aside the order of the Appellant Court noticing that no information was stated to have been provided to the competent authority giving particulars of the suit of Jenobai.
The HC held that the competent authority was not at fault in the alleged breach of Sections 11(3) and 11(4) of the Act, as the information germane for the same had not been disclosed.
An appeal was filed before the SC against the said order of the SC.
Whether the appellant had filed objections before the competent authority giving particulars of the pendency of the civil suit?
Observation of the SC
The Top Court noted that an admission by the respondents that the appellant in the return, filed as per Section 9 of the Act, mentioned the aspect of the pending suit qua the subject land.
The Bench referred to Section 11(4) of the Act and observed, "It has been stated that in case the competent authority finds that any question has arisen regarding the title of a particular holder, which has not been determined by the competent court, the competent authority shall proceed to enquire summarily into merits of such question and pass such orders as it thinks fit.
Thus, the power is vested with the competent authority to determine such conflict of the land holding. This is, however, subject to a proviso. The proviso clearly stipulates that if such a question is already pending for decision before the competent court, the competent authority shall await the decision of the Court."
Decision of the SC
The Top Court held, "The provisions of the Act are very clear as to what has to be done at each stage. In our view once a disclosure was made, the matter had to be dealt with under Section 11(4) of the Act and in view of the pending suit proceedings between the appellant and Jenobai, the proviso came into play which required the respondent authorities to await the decision of the Court. Section 11(5) and (6) would kick in only after the mandate of Section 11(4) was fulfilled.
In the present case it was not so. Even notice was not issued to Jenobai. She could have clarified the position further. The effect of the decree in favour of Jenobai is that the appellant loses the right to hold that land and his total land holding comes within the ceiling limit.
If there is no surplus land there can be no question of any proceedings for takeover of the surplus land under the said Act."