1. This is a landlord's petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution for quashing a notice in Form VIII of Rule 8 of the Maharashtra Agricultural Lands (Ceiling of Holdings) Rules, 1962. There is no appearance on behalf of the respondents who are the officers of the State.
2. The petitioner is an agriculturist holding land admeasuring 124.08 acres. He submitted a return under Section 12 of the Maharashtra Agricultural Lands (Ceiling on Holdings) Act, 1961. The return was scrutinised by the Sub-Divisional Officer and by his order dated 6-12-1965 the Sub-Divisional Officer held that an area of 56.08 acres as detailed in the order was surplus land with the petitioner. At the same time, a notification under sub-section (2) of Section 21 giving details of land which was declared surplus was also issued. It appears that thereafter nothing was done till the notice impugned in this petition was issued on 15-3-1967 by the respondent. No. 3, namely, Naib Tahsildar, Achalpur, notifying that possession of the land declared surplus would be obtained from him on 4-4-1967. Immediately thereafter this petition was filed, and on admission, interim stay was granted in respect of the contemplated possession being taken.
3. The petitioner challenged some of the provisions of the Maharashtra Agricultural Lands (Ceiling on Holdings) Act, 1961 but that challenge no longer survives. What is however contested is the action in issuing the notice under Rule 8 without due compliance with the provisions of Rules 10 and 11 of the rules. Under R. 10, as soon as may be, after the date on which any land is declared to be surplus land, the Collector or the authorised officer has to issue a public notice in Form X containing a list of surplus lands and the fact that they are available for distribution, and call upon persons and bodies mentioned in sub-sections (2) to (5) of Section 27 to submit to him within one month from the date of publication of the notice applications in Form XI for grant of land included as surplus land. After requisite lapse of time, the Collector or the authorised officer is required to scrutinise the applications received in pursuance of this notice and draw up a provisional statement in Form XII indicating therein each land and the applicants therefor (arranged according to the order of priority provided by Section 27). This provisional statement is again to be published along with a notice in Form XIII calling upon the persons concerned to submit to him any objections to the priorities fixed in the provisional statement. After the expiry of the period fixed in this notice, the Collector has to consider the objections or any new claims or any other suggestions received from the Registrar, Co-operative Societies and after holding necessary inquiry, amend or modify the entries in the provisional statement.
4. Then follows Rule 11 which provided for actual grant of surplus land to the persons eligible under Section 27. The Collector or the authorised officer has then to publish along with a notice in Form XIV names of persons included in the final statement, the time and place at which and the date on which the land shall be granted and calling upon all these persons concerned to remain present at that time and place to take over possession. On the date so fixed, the Collector or the authorised officer has to select persons for grant of land in the manner indicated in Rule 11 and grant the land to the person having the highest priority. Provision is also made for choosing by lot when persons have equal claims.
5. It is thus obvious that the action to be taken for obtaining land declared surplus is for the purpose of handing over land to persons who are entitled to cultivate it, after due consideration and adjudication of claims under Section 27. The rules or the scheme under the Act does not contemplate any hiatus of time between obtaining of possession by the Government officers and their subsequent allotment and grant and delivery of possession to the allottees. A similar question was canvassed in this Court in Special Civil Appln. No. 997 of 1965. D/- 25-8-l966 (Bom). In that case, the Division Bench (to which one of us, Abhyankar, J., was a party) took the view that the action under these rules, in order to effectively implement the provisions of the Act, has to be taken so as not to allow any time-lag between obtaining of possession and allotment of land to the grantees eligible for grant, the primary consideration being that the Government officers having no means of utilizing the land for agricultural purposes may not dispossess the landlord until all the necessary steps are taken to put the persons held eligible and entitled to allotment in possession.
6. In the instant ease, the procedure required to be followed under Rule 11 has not been followed and what the Naib Tahsildar has proceeded to do is only to issue a notice under R. 8 in Form VIII that possession will be taken from the landholder. In our opinion, in view of the previous decisions of this Court and the scheme of the Act and the rules this step cannot be taken in isolation. Other steps are required to be taken under R. 10 immediately after the decision declaring certain land surplus is reached. That not having been done, in our opinion, the contention of the petitioner that the notice under Rule 8 is premature is correct and must be accepted.
7. We accordingly quash that notice and direct that the respondents shall now follow the proper procedure and so take steps that there may not be any time-lag between the decision of the claims of allotment of different applicants and the actual delivery of possession to them. As there is no appearance on behalf of the respondents, though the petition is allowed there will he no order as to costs.
8. Petition allowed.