.IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE FOR RAJASTHAN AT JODHPUR ORDER
Sushil Kumar & Anr.
versus Special District Judge-I, (Pong Dam Oustees Cases).Sr.Ganganagar & OtheRs.S.B.CIVIL WRIT PETITION NO.383/2014 Under Article 226 & 227 of the Constitution of India.
Date of Order: January 21, 2014.
PRESENT HON'BLE Mr.JUSTICE P.K.LOHRA, J.
Mr.B.S.Sandhu, for the petitioneRs.*** BY THE COURT: Petitioners have ventilated their grievances in the instant petition against the impugned order dated 13th of August 1998 (Annex.9) passed by the fiRs.respondent as well as order dated 9th of May 1992 (Annex.6) passed by the Sub Divisional Officer, Raisinghnagar and has prayed for annulment of both these ordeRs.Besides the aforesaid main prayer, the petitioners have also craved for other ancillary reliefs.
Scorning the checkered history of the case, the brief facts essential for appreciating the afflictions of the .petitioners are that the petitioneRs.father was an agriculturist owning agricultural land in Himachal Pradesh, which was acquired for the purpose of constructing Pong Dam reservoir and in benefit thereof State of Rajasthan allotted him the land in Indira Gandhi Canal Area by treating him a pong dam oustee in the form of compensation.
As compensation, he was allotted 25 bighas of land in 6 BGD Tehsil Vijay Nagar, Murabba No.143/337 alongwith a land of plot in Abadi Area of 6 BGD.
The possession of the land was taken over by father of the petitioners and he started cultivation on 25th of July 1973.
It was also averred in the petition that father of the petitioners with his family members started residing at the allotted land and continued to deposit irrigation charges as well as land revenue with the respective departments.
In support thereof, KhaSr.Girdawari of Samvat 2040-43 i.e.years 1984-85 and the mutation entries made in favour of the petitioners is also placed on record.
The crux of the matter is that as per the version of the petitioneRs.the local residents were not happily placed with the arrangements made by the State Government to settle Pong Dam Oustees and one resident Bhoop Ram Bishnoi made an attempt to dispossess the petitioner by threat and coercion and finally succeeded in .encroaching over the land of the petitioneRs.The alleged act of encroachment was immediately reported by the petitioners to the Superintendent of Police and District Collector but no heed was paid.
However, as per petitioneRs.assertion, ultimately the land was grabbed by the said Bhoop Ram and on the pretext of some false agreement in gross violation of the relevant rules got regularization of the aforesaid land in his favour by depositing a sum of Rs.2,25,000/-.
The regularization order dated 9th of May 1992 was passed by the third respondent.
Being aggrieved from this sort of illegal action of Bhoop Ram, the petitioners approached from pillar to post i.e.Collector and the Commissioner, Pong Dam Oustees, by submitting various representations but all in vain.
During this period, when the petitioners were fighting for their rights, the Hon'ble Apex Court rendered a judgment in case of Pradesh Pong Bandh Visthapit Samiti versus Union of India [(1996) 9 SCC749, whereby the Hon'ble Apex Court ordered establishment of Special Court and to review all cancellation of allotment subsequent to 01.01.1992.
The Apex Court rendered the judgment while considering the hardship caused to the oustees and the manner in which the State of Rajasthan proceeded to cancel the allotments to extend the benefit .of the same to other local residents.
Hon'ble Apex Court, while taking note of cancellation of allotments to oustees subsequent to 01.01.1992, issued directions for reviewing the same by the District Judge to be nominated by the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court.
Relevant Para 27 of the judgment reads as under: 27.
The Chief Justice of the Rajasthan High Court shall nominate, within 6 weeks of receipt of a copy of this order, one or more District Judges for the purpose now set out.
The notion of regularising the Rajasthanis in occupation of lands allotted to oustees saw the light of day in 1992.
Therefore, the cases of all cancellations of allotments to oustees subsequent to 1-1-1992, shall be reviewed by the District Judge.
Notice that he shall be so doing shall be given to the oustee allottees concerned personally, by registered post at the last known address and through the agency of the Himachal Pradesh Government.
Public notice that all such cases are to be reviewed by the District Judge shall be published in two newspapers printed in the vernacular and having circulation in Himachal Pradesh, particularly in the Kangra region; also in two newspapers printed in Hindi and having circulation in Rajasthan, particularly in the Indira Gandhi Canal Colony area.
Costs in regard to the individual and public notices shall be borne by the State of Rajasthan.
For the purpose of such review the State of Rajasthan shall produce before the District Judge the entire record pertaining to each such allotment and cancellation.
Even though the oustee-allottee concerned may not appear, the District Judge shall review his case.
Where the District Judge finds that an oustee-allottee has committed a breach that invites the forfeiture of his land, he shall so record.
Where the District Judge finds to the contrary, whether or not the oustee- allottee appeaRs.he shall so record.
The District Judge shall also record, should he so find, that the oustee-allottee was forced to leave the land because of lack of irrigation or other essential facilities such as water, roads, schools and medical assistance and/or because of coercion, intimidation or trespass.
The District Judge shall send his reports to the committee now mentioned.
The reports shall be binding upon the oustee-allottees .and the State of Rajasthan.
The District Judge shall complete the task allotted to him as soon as is reasonably possible and, in any event, within 18 months of beginning it.
Making serious allegations against the so called agreements, in favour of Rami Devi or Premi Devi, allegedly executed on 29th of September 1988 and 1st of September 1989, the petitioners have averred that the agreements are false and spurious with a specific plea that the fiRs.petitioner who is shown to be one of the executants of the agreement was minor on 29th of December 1988.
Be that as it may, the fact remains that the petitioners feeling disgruntled by the order dated 01.01.1992 submitted a revision petition before the fiRs.respondent in the year 1998, which was registered as Revision Petition No.12/1998.
The fiRs.respondent by the impugned judgment dated 13th of August 1998 (Annex.9) dismissed the revision petition.
In the verdict, the learned Special District Judge has held that the land was transferred in favour of respondent Rami Devi and she is cultivating since long, therefore, no indulgence can be granted to the petitioneRs..Assailing the order passed by the SDO, Raisinghnagar and the impugned order dated 13th of August 1998 (Annex.9).the learned counsel for the petitioner Mr.B.S.Sandhu has urged that the SDO Raisinghnagar has not at all cared to examine the alleged agreements while regularizing the land in favour of respondent and the learned Special District Judge while rejecting the revision petition of the petitioners has also not appreciated the lis involved in the matter in proper perspective.
Mr.Sandhu would contend that from the very inception the agreement to sale was void as one of the signatory of agreement to sale that is the fiRs.petitioner was minor at that time but this vital aspect has not been taken care of by the SDO Raisinghnagar as well as by the learned Special District Judge and therefore both these orders are vitiated and are liable to be set at naught.
Learned counsel for the petitioner has further argued that both the impugned orders are void and therefore, cannot be sustained.
I have heard learned counsel for the petitioners and perused the materials available on record.
At the very outset, the instant petition suffers .from the vice of inordinate delay and laches because the petitioners have challenged the order passed by the SDO Raisinghnagar after more than two decades and furthermore the order passed by the fiRs.respondent is also assailed after a lapse of more than one and half decades.
From the facts averred in the petition, it is amply clear that the petitioners have not been able to explain the inordinate delay in assailing the impugned ordeRs.The so called explanation for inordinate delay and laches tendered by the petitioner in Para 11 of the writ petition is absolutely vague, cryptic and unspecific.
Such explanation of delay is thus not per-se acceptable in the backdrop of the facts of the instant case.
Admittedly, after 13th of August 1998 when the revision petition of the petitioners was dismissed by the Special District Judge, the rights of the rival party vis-a- vis the land in question was finally determined and crystallized.
Against the order dated 13th of August 1998 the petitioners have aproached this Court after lapse of a more than 15 years for which there is no plausible explanation forthcoming from the pleadings.
It is trite that delay defeats the equity and an incumbent who is not vigilant about his rights cannot be granted indulgence by .this Court in exercise of extraordinary jurisdiction.
In Maqbool Fatma (Smt) v.
Deputy Custodian General, (1996) 5 SCC493 the Hon'ble Apex Court while examining the effect of delay and laches vis-a-vis a displaced person under the Administration of Evacuee Property Act, 1950 has held that even if there is no period of limitation prescribed under Section 7, an incumbent approaching the revisional Court after 14 years cannot be granted any relief and he is liable to be non-suited solely on the ground of delay and laches.
The Hon'ble Apex Court has held as under in Para 4 of the verdict: 4.
It is seen that the petitioners had slept over the rights over the property well over 14 years by which time even the persons in possession had perfected their title by prescription.
Under those circumstances, a person who was not diligent in exercising his rights and allowed third party rights to accrue, cannot be permitted to agitate the right after an inordinate delay.
The revisional authority has rightly declined to interfere with the order after inordinate delay.
Though revisional power was given to the revisional authority without limitation, it is settled law that the revisional powers should be exercised keeping in view the rights of the parties and the effect of exercise of the revisional powers and all other relevant facts.
Under these circumstances, we cannot hold that the High Court was not justified in dismissing the writ petition.
In yet another decision in case of Municipal .Council, Ahmednagar v.
Shah Hyder Beig, (2000) 2 SCC48 while examining delay and laches in entertaining writ petition, Hon'ble Apex Court has held that when no period of limitation is prescribed for an aggrieved party to seek remedy under Article 226 for determining period of limitation, filing of civil proceeding ought to be a guiding factor.
The Hon'ble Apex Court, while examining the true purport of extraordinary equitable jurisdiction enshrined under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, made following observations in Para 14 of the verdict: 14.
The High Court has thus misplaced the factual details and misread the same.
It is now a well-settled principle of law and we need not dilate on this score to the effect that while no period of limitation is fixed but in the normal couRs.of events, the period the party is required for filing a civil proceeding ought to be the guiding factor.
While it is true that this extraordinary jurisdiction is available to mitigate the sufferings of the people in general but it is not out of place to mention that this extraordinary jurisdiction has been conferred on to the law courts under Article 226 of the Constitution on a very sound equitable principle.
Hence, the equitable doctrine, namely, “delay defeats equity”.
has its fullest application in the matter of grant of relief under Article 226 of the Constitution.
The discretionary relief can be had provided one has not by his act or conduct given a go-by to his rights.
Equity favours a vigilant rather than an indolent litigant and this being the basic tenet of law, the question of grant of an order as has been passed in the matter as regards restoration of possession upon cancellation of the notification does not and cannot arise.
The High Court as a matter of fact lost sight of the fact that since the year 1952, the land was .specifically reserved for public purposes of a school playground and roads in the development plan and by reason therefor, the notification to acquire the land has, therefore, been issued under the provisions of the Act as stated above.
Lastly, the learned counsel has laid stress on the fact that the impugned orders are void.
I am afraid, this argument too cannot come to the rescue of the petitioners because it is trite that a void order need not be set at naught if the party does not approach the Court within a reasonable time.
Reliance in this behalf can be profitably made to a decision of Hon'ble Apex Court in case of State of Rajasthan v.
D.R.Laxmi, (1996) 6 SCC445 The Hon'ble Apex Court held in Para 10 of the verdict as under: 10.
The order or action, if ultra vires the power, becomes void and it does not confer any right.
But the action need not necessarily be set at naught in all events.
Though the order may be void, if the party does not approach the Court within reasonable time, which is always a question of fact and have the order invalidated or acquiesced or waived, the discretion of the Court has to be exercised in a reasonable manner.
When the discretion has been conferred on the Court, the Court may in appropriate case decline to grant the relief, even if it holds that the order was void.
The net result is that extraordinary jurisdiction of the Court may not be exercised in such circumstances.
It is seen that the acquisition has become final and not only possession had already been taken but reference was also sought for; the award of the Court under Section 26 enhancing the compensation was also accepted.
The order of the appellate court .had also become final.
Under those circumstances, the acquisition proceedings having become final and the compensation determined also having become final, the High Court was highly unjustified in interfering with and in quashing the notification under Section 4 (1) and declaration under Section 6.
Thus, viewed from any angle, I am not inclined to entertain this writ petition which suffers from the vice of inordinate delay and latches and consequently the same is hereby dismissed summarily.