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Bairisetti Subbaraju and ors. Vs. Commissioner of Survey Settlements and Land Revenue Records, Hyderabad and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtAndhra Pradesh High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 10091 of 1983
Judge
Reported inAIR1985AP329
ActsAndhra Pradesh Muttas (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Regulation, 1969 - Sections 4, 4(4), 4(5), 8 and 9
AppellantBairisetti Subbaraju and ors.
RespondentCommissioner of Survey Settlements and Land Revenue Records, Hyderabad and ors.
Appellant AdvocateV. Jagannadha Rao, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateGovt. Pleader for Excise
Excerpt:
property - suo motu enquiry - sections 4, 4 (4), 4 (5), 8 and 9 of andhra pradesh muttas (abolition and conversion into ryotwari) regulation, 1969 - writ filed to restrain respondents from proceedings with suo motu revision taken up at instance of divisional forest officer (dfo) - petitioner claiming 'ryotwari patta' on ground that lands in question are agricultural lands - no material before settlement officer to show that lands in question consist of forest growth or that they are not agricultural lands - suo motu enquiry in that respect felt by director of settlement - lands in question personally inspected by commissioner of survey where it was found that earlier report of dfo and district collector were not correct - and wrong to say that lands in question were cultivated - suo motu.....order1. this writ petition was filed by 9 petitioners for the issuance of a writ in the nature of prohibition to restrain the commissioner of survey, settlement and land records, respondent 1 and the director of settlement, survey and land -records, respondent 2 from proceeding with the suo motu revision taken up at the instance of the divisional forest officer, kakinada, respondent 3. it may be stated that it is only respondent 1 that is proposing to take proceedings.2. the facts leading to the writ petition may be briefly stated as follows:- the land which are of an extent of hec. 134-92 (ac.village, yellavaram taluk, east godavari district and formed part of kota mutta. these lands were granted on yearly leases to the petitioners by the muttadar in the year 1960. the mutta was.....
Judgment:
ORDER

1. This Writ Petition was filed by 9 petitioners for the issuance of a writ in the nature of prohibition to restrain the Commissioner of Survey, Settlement and Land Records, respondent 1 and the Director of Settlement, Survey and Land -Records, respondent 2 from proceeding with the suo motu revision taken up at the instance of the Divisional Forest Officer, Kakinada, respondent 3. It may be stated that it is only respondent 1 that is proposing to take proceedings.

2. The facts leading to the writ petition may be briefly stated as follows:- The land which are of an extent of Hec. 134-92 (Ac.village, Yellavaram Taluk, East Godavari District and formed part of Kota Mutta. These lands were granted on yearly leases to the petitioners by the Muttadar in the year 1960. The Mutta was abolished and taken over by the Government under the provisions of A.P.Muttas (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Regulation 1969, A.P.Regulation 2 of 1969 (hereinafter called the Regulation) After abolition the Settlement Officer, Muttadari Abolition, Peddapuram, initiated suo motu enquiry for the grant of ryotwari pattas under S.8 of the Regulation. At the time of preliminary enquiry by the Special Tahsildar, Muttadari Abolition, Addatheegala, it was found that the petitioners were in occupation of the lands in question. All the petitioners are non-tribals. During the enquiry by the Settlement Officer, the petitioners claimed to be in possession of the ands and cultivating the same with dry crops. They filed the lease deeds as well as tax receipts for Faslis 1370 to 1381 in respect of the lands in their possession. The Settlement Officer without holding any further enquiry and without either inspecting the lands or issuing notices to the appropriate authorities i.e., the Forest Authorities or the Revenue Tahsildar held on the basis of the evidence produced by he petitioners that the petitioners were in continuous possession and enjoyment of the lands for the periods of eight years prior to the notified date and that they are entitled to ryotwari patta. Accordingly orders were passed 25-11-1974 and 27-11-1974 granting pattas. All the petitioners were issued ryot pass books for these lands. These lands were also the subject matter of the proceedings under the A.P.Land Reforms and Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings and Reforms Act.

3. Inasmuch as the lands were adjacent to the Dummukonda Reserve Forest and there is the thick forest growth consisting of various timber yielding trees, viz., Maddi, Yegisa, Revadi, Mamidora, Yerrakarra, Konda Thangedu, etc., over the entire extent and the lands in question were never cultivated and the lands were sloppy and the lands having the gradient more than 10% cannot be granted on patta in view of the prohibition contained in S.7 of Regulation, the District Forest Officer brought these facts to the notice of the Director of Settlements in the year 1975. Thereupon Sri K. Chandraiah, I.A.S., Director of Settlements, addressed letters dated 27-8-76 to the Collector, East Godavari District, the District Forest officer, Kakinada and the Tahsildar, Yellavaram, East Godavari District informing them that the lands were granted on Ryotwari Patta by the Settlement Office and requesting them to have necessary enquiries conducted in the cases and to report urgently whether any interest of the Government are involved which call for suo motu interference by the Director of Settlements and cancellation of the pattas already granted by the Settlement Officer. The Deputy Tahsildar, Adda Teegala, but his letter dated 9-12-1976 has reported to the Director that there are no timber yielding trees except fruit bearing trees in this land. In his report dated 4-2-77 the District Forest Office, Kakinada has stated that the area in question has been inspected survey number-wise and found that there are no timber yielding trees except fruit bearing trees and that the Forest Department has no objection for the grant of patta. In his letter dated 23-6-77 the Collector, East Godavari basing on the reports of the Deputy Tahsildar and District Forest Officer, referred to above has stated that there appears to be no need for taking any action in the matter. After receiving these reports Sri Md. Ziauddin, I.A.S., Director of Settlements addressed a letter dated 24-8-1977 to the Secretary to Government, Revenue Department, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad submitting that the Government by Memo, dated 24-5-78 replied that the leases granted in favour of non-tribals prior to amended Regulation I of 1970 are not hit by L.T.R.I. of 1959 and such lessees are entitled to for Ryotwari Pattas under S.8 of Regulation II of 1969 provided other conditions laid down therein are fulfilled and thus be sought for clarification on these points. In the meanwhile the Government in G.O.ms.No.832 Food and Agriculture (For III) Department, dated 8-11-1977 appointed a team consisting of Forest & Survey and Settlement Officers, to inspect the area and submit its report regarding the lands. This team submitted its report dated 20-6-1978 which inter alia mentioned that the land are situated abutting the Dummukonda Reserve Forest at a distance of25 chains, that the lands in question consist of full of forest growth with trees aged about 50 to 60 years, that the average height of the trees is about 25 metres, that there was no sign of cultivation on the ground since a very long time, that the area of which pattas were granted are sloppy with more than 10% gradient and that ryotwari pattas ought not to have been granted for this area. The District Forest Officer Kakinada through letter dated 17-9-1978 brought to the notice of the Director of Settlement, the contents of the report of the team and requested that appropriate suo motu action may be taken to cancel the pattas. But Sri P. Kasturi Reddy, Joint Director, who was in charge Director of Settlements by his communication dated 25-10-1978 informed the Settlement Officer, Rajahmundry that in view of the circumstances reported by the departmental officers i.e., the reports of Deputy Tahsildar dated 9-12-76, the District Forest Officer, Peddapuram dated 22-6-77 and the Collector dated 23-6-1977 and in the light of the clarification issued by the Government in Memo dated 24-5-1978, further action leading to the taking up of suo motu revisional enquiry was dropped. A copy of this was marked to the District Forest Officer, Kakinada. The District Forest Officer after receipt of this communication addressed a letter dated 4-11-1978 to the Director informing his that his action was not justified in view of the inspection report of the team and requested him to set aside his order dated 25-10-1978 and revise the orders granting patta. He has also addressed a similar letter dated 4-11-1978 to the Commissioner of Survey, Settlement and Land Records to take up suo motu action and set aside the order. He has also submitted reminders to he Commissioner.

4. While so, the petitioners herein submitted applications to the Collector (under the provisions of A.P.Private Forest Preservation Rules, 1978) for permission for felling the trees over the lands in question. When the Collector did not pass orders, they filed W.P.Nos. 9259/81 and 9260/81 and obtained a direction that the Collector should dispose of the application. The Collector by order dated 4-8-1982 rejected the application on the ground that S.12, Forest Conservation Act, prohibits the grant. This was challenged in W.P.No.5473 of 1982 and this court by an order dated 23-11-1982 allowed the writ petition and directed the Collector to issue the permits. Consequently the Collector issued orders dated 14-12-1982 permitting the petitioners to fell the timber. Against the orders dated 23-11-1982 in W.P.No. 5473 of 1982, a W.A.No.40 of 1983 was filed by the District Collector and the District Forest Officer. A Division Bench of this Court disposed it of on 7-9-83 and maintained the order of the single Judge subject to the condition that the writ petitioners pay the regeneration charges to the District Forest Officer as fixed by him in accordance with the Rules.

5. The Divisional Forest Officer, apart from reminding the Commissioner, submitted a fresh representation dated 3-9-82 requesting the Commissioner to initiate suo motu revision against the grant of pattas. Ultimately Sr. S.N.Achanta, I.A.S., Commissioner in CSS & LR's Ref.No.L4/969/82 dated 9-11-1983 issued notices to the petitioners herein informing them that he proposed spot inspection of survey Nos.32 to 40 and 43 of Perikivalsa village on 26-22-1983 in connection with the suo motu proposals dated 3-9-82 submitted by the Divisional Forest Officer, Kakinada against the order of the Director dated 25-10-1978 and the petitioners were requested to be present at the time of the inspection.

6. After receiving this notice this writ petition was filed. Pending the disposal of the writ petition, the petitioners filed W.P.M.P. No.13759 of 1983 to direct respondent 3 to issue transport permits in pursuance of the judgment in W.A.no.40 of 1983. By an order dated 23-11-1983 respondent 3 was directed to issue transport permits. The petitioners also filed W.P.M.P. No.13760 of 1983 to stay all further proceedings in pursuance of suo motu proceedings of respondent 3 dated 3-9-1982. By an order dated 8-12-1983 interim stay was granted.

7. The Commissioner visited the village and inspected the lands in question on 27-11-1983 and thereafter by Memo No.14/969/82 dated 3-12-1983 he passed an order suspending the order of the Settlement Officer pending result of suo motu enquiry being taken up. It is useful to extract the contents of this Memo:

'The Commissioner of Survey, Settlements and Land Records visited Parkivalasa village and inspected lands in question on 27-11-1983. The inspection revealed that the land contains a very dense virgin forest rich in valuable timber species like Maddi, Brrakarra, etc. The forest in this land which is contiguous with the Dummukonda Reserve Forest to the north and to the East, and unreserved forest to the south is as dense as the reserve forest and in some places denser. The same species of timber present in the reserve forest are present in the land in question. The report of the D.F.O. that there was no timber in the lands in question is clearly false. The girth of some of the trees has been got measured and it is found that the trees are 75 years old. The timber is said to be worth at least Rs. 25 lakhs. There are hills and streams in the lands. The gradient of the land is definitely higher than 10% and in places approaches 30-40%. A detailed survey has been ordered.

Except in a few cents, where there were citrus trees, there is no cultivation whatsoever in this land which is 360 acres and 55 cents in extent. To say that the land is cultivable is the travesty of truth and the land has been described by the surveyors as a minor circuit fields and they did not subdivide it. It has been noted into the relevant Fair Land Register that the land was Nala indicating that it was unfit for cultivation. There is prohibition for giving pattas in respect of the land exceeding 10% gradient and the action of the Settlement Officer in having given pattas in the area which is predominantly covered by thick forest and high hills is patently illegal. Even Sri Ramasivaiah the General Power of Attorney Holder admitted that only trees can be raised and no cultivation can take place.

The grant of pattas in the minor Circuit fields in Perikivalas is illegal besides being fraudulent. The order of the Settlement Office, Rajahmundry, is, therefore, suspended, pending result of suo moto enquiry being taken up.'

8. The petitioners filed W.P.M.P.No.15476 of 1983 to suspend the order of respondent 1 dated 3-12-1983 aforementioned and by an order dated 12-1-1983 it was suspended and it was further ordered that the petitioners were directed not to transport the forest produce until further orders. Against this order in so far as it is against the petitioners, the petitioners filed W.A.No.1216 of 1983. By an order dated 20-1-1984 a Division Bench permitted the petitioners to remove the timber and fuel already felled on their furnishing Bank guarantee in a sum of Rs. 18 lakhs. They were directed not to fell any further timber pending disposal of the writ petition. On furnishing the Bank guarantee the respondents were directed to issue transport permits. Against this order the District Forest Officer filed S.L.P.No.3682 of 1984 and by an order dated 5-4-1984 the Supreme Court directed the writ petitioners to give an additional Bank guarantee of Rs. 3 lakhs and disposed of the S.L.P.

9. The affidavit filed in support of the writ petition does not contain all the facts narrated above, but the petitioners filed material papers containing documents which reflect most of the aforesaid facts. The learned Addl.Advocate-General who appeared in this case for the respondents handed over the entire record relating to the case to enable me to know all the facts relating to the case. From the material papers furnished by the writ petitioners and from the counter-affidavit and also the entire record handed over to me by the learned Advocate-General, I gathered all the facts narrated above.

10. The first contention of Sri V. Jagannadharao, the learned counsel for the petitioners, is that the Regulation does not enable the Director and the Commissioner to exercise suo motu powers of revision in matters relating to the grant of ryotwari patta by Settlement Officer under S.8. According to him S.9 provides for an appeal against such an order to the Director and from the order of Director further appeal to the Commissioner and there is no specific provision providing for revision of such an order. He contends that by implication the revisionary jurisdiction conferred on the Director and the Commissioner under sub-ss.(4) and (50 of S.4 cannot be exercised in respect of judicial orders like granting of pattas, but it is only to control the subordinate authorities on the executive and administrative sides. I find it difficult to accept this contention. Such a contention is not supported by any provision of the Regulation nor such an exclusion can be inferred. Appeal and revision are two distinct and separate powers and remedies and one cannot exclude the other. Both these powers and remedies are provided in the Regulation as S.9 and sub-ss. (4) and (5) of S.4 and they should co-exist without any conflict to achieve the purposes indicated in clear terms in those provisions. Appeal is normally filed by a party to the proceeding or a rival claimant whereas revisionary powers are conferred to set right the illegality committed in passing the orders and also to set aside such orders. Even in cases where the orders in appeal have become final, it is still open to the authorities to exercise suo motu revisionary powers if the facts and circumstances of the case warrant. Otherwise the very provision conferring such power becomes otiose. Suppose no appeal is preferred against the order of the Settlement Office, then it becomes final; but at later point of time if it is brought to the notice of the Directors or the Commissioner by a person interested in the subject matter that the order of the Settlement Officer is patently illegal or is otherwise vitiated, the Director or Commissioner can certainly invoke the revisionary powers and set right the illegality. Likewise even if no appear or an application invoking the revisonary jurisdiction is filed against the order of the Settlement Officer which is illegal and if the Director or the Commissioner comes to know of such an illegality at a later date and if it is felt that the illegality should be corrected and consequently be set aside, it is competent for them to exercise suo motu the revisionary powers and set aside such an illegal order. It is, therefore, clear that the revisionary power cannot be confined only to orders of administrative nature. Such a power can be exercised to correct any order passed by the subordinate authority, be it administrative or judicial. The legislature in its wisdom felt it necessary to confer such powers on the Director of Settlements or the Commissioner of Survey, Settlements and Land Records in the larger interests of justice. If the argument of Sri Jagannadharao is accepted, it would nullify the effect of such a provision. Both appellate and revisionary powers should be read harmoniously and they co-exist and do not exclude each other. The only condition that was imposed by the legislature on the Director of Settlements or the Commissioner of Survey, Settlements and Land Records for the exercise of the powers under sub-ss.(40 and (5) is that they should not pass any order adversely affecting any party without giving an opportunity to such party of making a representation. This is the condition precedent for the Director of Settlements or the Commissioner of Survey, before cancelling the order passed by the Settlement Officer or the Director of Settlements as the case may be under sub-ss.(4) and (5) of S.4 These are wholesome provisions incorporated by the legislature with the sole intention to prevent miscarriage of justice occasioned by the illegal order passed either by the Settlement Officer or by the Director of Settlements as the case may be.

11. In the instant case the Divisional Forest Officer was not a party to the proceedings before the Settlement Office, nor that the Regulation requires that he should be made a party. The Settlement Officer has granted ryotwari patta inter alia on the basis of the statement of the petitioners that they are cultivating the lands with dry crops. But on inspection by the team of officers appointed by the Government and also by the Commissioner himself this statement is found to be false. There is rich virgin forest timber growth over the entire extent. There was no sign of cultivation at any time. The lands were sloppy with more than 10% gradient. If that be so S.7 prohibits the grant of ryotwari patta under S.8 by the Settlement Officer. In the present case no appear was either filed or pursued. Allowing the pattas to stand would be against public interest. It is to meet such a situation that a provision like, sub-s.(4) or cl.(iii) of sub-s.(5) of S.4 conferring revisionary jurisdiction on the Director of Settlements or the Commissioner is enacted. The fact that a Division Bench of this Court by an order dated 20-1-1984 in W.A. No. 1216 of 1983 directed the petitioners to furnish a bank guarantee in a sum of Rs. 18 lakhs which was later modified to Rs. 21 lakhs by the Supreme Court for transporting the timber felled in a portion of the lands also gives an estimate of the forest growth over the lands. These facts would prima facie establish that the reports of the Deputy Tahsildar, Divisional Forest Officer, Collector and Revenue Divisional Officer which stated that there are no timber yielding trees except fruit bearing trees, did not reflect the existing state of affairs. Basing on such reports the Joint Director who was in charge of the post of Director dropped further action on 25-10-78. Now the Commissioner is seeking to exercise the revisionary power which undoubtedly vests in him. It is always open to the petitioners to participate in the enquiry and support and sustain the orders of the Settlement Officer. Hence the first contention is rejected.

12. The learned counsel for the petitioners contends that it is highly arbitrary and unjustified that the suo motu enquiry is started after such a lapse of time as it would cause hardship and injustice to the petitioners. He relied upon a Division Bench decision of this Court in Kodanda Rao v. Govt. of A.P.(1982) I An WR 41.

13. In that case the Director of Settlements issued a notice dated 5th February, 1974 stating that under the powers conferred upon his under S.5(2), A.P.(Andhra Area) Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, which will be referred as the Estates Abolition Act, he has taken up suo motu revisional enquiry regarding the lands in respect of which patta was granted to the appellants. The appellants raised a preliminary objection that in view of the fact that earlier revision petition filed by the Collector was dismissed, he had no jurisdiction to take up suo motu enquiry under S.5(@0 of the Act. The Director of Settlements by his order dated 13th June, 1974 in R.P.No.84 of 1973 negatived the appellants' contention and proposed to proceed further in exercise of his suo motu revisional powers. Against that order, the appellants preferred a further revision to the Commissioner of Survey, Settlements and Land Records, Andhra Pradesh. The Commissioner dismissed the petition inC.P.Ms.No.150 of 1977 dated 1st June, 1977 holding that the Director of Settlements could exercise the suo motu powers of revision and that there was nothing to exclude the case in question. Hence the Writ Petition No.1000 of 1978 was filed against the proceedings of the Commissioner of Survey and Settlements and the Director of Settlements. The writ petition was dismissed by Jeevan Reddy, J. observing:

'It is no doubt true that even the power of revision.................for which no period of limitation is prescribed has to be exercised within a reasonable time (vide: State of Gujarat v. P. Raghav: : [1970]1SCR335 ), but what is a reasonable period depends upon the facts of each case. This aspect was not urged before the Director of Settlements. It is for the Director to take into consideration the said aspect at the time of passing final orders in the matter.'

It is against this order of Jeevan Reddy, J. that Writ Appeal No.357 of 1978 was filed. The Bench consisting of Madhava Reddy, J. (as he then was) and Reghuvir, J. observed:

'that they must be held that the exercise of revisional jurisdiction suo motu beyond the reasonable time cannot be sustained. In both these cases, after an enquiry under the provisions of the Estates Abolition Act, the Settlement Officer, who is the competent authority, granted pattas as early as in 1960 in one case, and in 1959 in the other case. In these cases pattas in respect of agricultural lands claimed to be under personal cultivation of the appellant and petitioners respectively are sought to be disturbed. One case, it is sought to be disturbed in exercise of the suo motu powers after a lapse of nearly fourteen years and in the other case, after a lapse of nearly two decades. It is well known that pattas are granted in respect of agricultural lands under the Estates Abolition Act only upon a finding that they are ryoti lands and that they are personally cultivated by the persons claiming pattas. Such lands are not left fallow but they are cultivated by the

The lands are improved year after year. Some times considerable expenditure is incurred to transform what are unyielding barren lands into fertile tracts. Often times, what was a dry land is converted into wet by hard labour and sinking of heavy capital. The rights in respect of such lands having been settled by grant of pattas and the persons granted pattas being in possession, acquire valuable rights. Even under the provisions of the Limitation Act, persons in possession acquire title by adverse possession after a lapse of five years. In such cases,if pattas granted more than twelve years ago by the competent authority are sought to be disturbed and the pattas are sought to be granted to some others, it would have been unsetting effect on the rights of the parties in regard to immovable property. It would work great hardship and result in grave injustice to the persons in possession who have been granted pattas in recognition of their rights to the same by dint of personal cultivation. It is not as if the persons aggrieved by the grant of pattas to the petitioners had no remedy of their own. They could have filed a revision petition-which in the opinion of the rule making authority could be exercised within thirty days of the order. In other words, the legislature did not think it advisable to give a longer period of time to disturb the patta already granted. Of course the said period of limitation of thirty days cannot apply to the exercise of suo motu powers under S.5(2) by the Director of Settlements. But nonetheless, it gives an indication as to the time within which any aggrieved party could have filed a revision. The question is one of granting pattas to the petitioners and other respondents. There is no reason why the respondents who have slept over the matter, should now be allowed to get patta even if they were entitled to it after a lapse of twelve years within which period all rights to the lands are lost under he provisions of S.28, Limitation Act. Further it would be seen that the order granting patta was passed by the competent authority after enquiry at which all parties interested could be present and make their representation. The exercise of revisional jurisdiction suo motu must be exercised to advance the cause of justice and not to upset settled rights, more so in cases where an earlier attempt was made to question the order granting patta by way of revision and which was rejected by the Director of Settlements himself. It cannot be deemed to be exercise of the revisional jurisdiction within a reasonable time, if the same is sought to be invoked three years after the dismissal of the earlier revision. It cannot be ignored in this context that the orders granting or refusing pattas made by the settlement officer are marked not only to all the parties concerned who made a representation before him during the enquiry but also to the Director of Settlements . That order specifically notifies them that it is subject to the revision by the Director of Settlements and the same may be filed within thirty days. Thus, it is not as if the Director of Settlement has no notice of the orders of the Settlement Officer granting pattas. They are not merely brought to his notice; they are communicated to him. The communication of the orders to the Director of Settlements is evidently to enable him to consider if the order is to be revised in exercise of powers to act suo motu under S.5(2) of the Act, even if any party does not file a revision petition. That being so, it must be presumed that the then Director having considered the question did not think it a proper case to exercise the suo motu power. After successive Directors of Settlements have failed to take any action to revise the order, taking up proceedings under S.5(2) after lapse of over one decade in case over nearly two decades in the other cannot be deemed to be exercise of the revisional power within a reasonable time.'

14. This ruling cannot be applicable to the case on hand, as it is rendered with reference to the peculiar facts of that case and infirmities from which that case has suffered.

15. In the case on hand, the Forest Authorities were not the respondents in the proceedings before the Settlement Officer. The petitioners claimed ryotwari patta on the ground that the lands in question are agricultural lands. There is no material before the Settlement Officer to show that these lands consist of forest growth or that they are not agricultural lands. Though Sri K. Chandraiah, I.A.S., Director of Settlements felt that this matter requires a suo motu enquiry, his successor did not proceed with the suo motu enquiry on the ground that the reports of the District Collector and the District Forest Officer show that the lands did not contain forest growth and that they are agricultural lands. But after the inspection by the team, the true facts as to the lands in question came to light. Hence, the District Forest Officer wrote to the Director of Settlements that there is thick forest growth in the lands in question and they requested the Commissioner of Survey, Settlements and Lands Records to have personal inspection. Thus the matter assumed importance and took a turn. Sri Acganta, I.A.S., Commissioner of Survey , Settlements and Lands Records had given notice to the petitioners and conducted personal inspection in the presence of the representatives of the petitioners and gave his inspection report which reveals that the earlier reports of the District Forest Officer and the District Collector which were prior to the inspect made by team are not at all correct and are travesty of truth. The inspection report of Sri Achanta, which is available, reveals the actual physical features of the lands in question. If all these are appreciated in their proper perspective, I have no hesitation to say that there is satisfactory prima facie material for suo motu enquiry. There is a continuous correspondence after the Settlement Officer granted pattas without prior enquiry. The reports of the District Forest Officer and the District Collector at one stage are not based on actual facts and are misleading. The actual facts revealed both by the inspection reports of the team appointed by the Government and of Sri Achanta clearly establish that there is a thick forest growth with the trees, the particulars of which are given above in detail in the lands in question and there are hills and streams in these lands and the gradient of the land is higher than 10% and there is no cultivation in the area of Ac.360-55 cents in extent and to say that the lands are cultivated is travesty of truth. Hence , I hold that the proposed suo motu enquiry is necessary and it is within the reasonable time, and I find no substance in the contention raised by the counsel for the petitioners.

16. Having regard to the above reasons, I hold that the impugned order for the suo motu enquiry is well in accordance with law, and the Commissioner of Survey, Settlements and Land Records has got the power and jurisdiction to proceed with the suo motu enquiry.

17. The Commissioner of Survey, Settlements and Land Records is directed to inform the petitioners as well as the Forest Officer and the Divisional Forest Officer and the concerned Revenue authorities through notice fixing the date of enquiry and give opportunity to the petitioners as well as the forest and other concerned authorities to produce such evidence as they deem it necessary and dispose of the matter in disposed of accordingly. In the circumstances, no cost. Advocate's fee Rs.500/-.

18. Before parting with the matter, I would like to observe that pending disposal of this writ petition, the petitioners were directed to furnish the Bank guarantee in a sum of Rs.21 lakhs by this Court and Supreme Court for enabling them to obtain transport permits to carry the timber that was felled by them in a portion of the land in question. If the petitioners had already furnished the requisite Bank guarantee and transported the timber, it is just and necessary for me to direct that the petitioners should renew and keep alive the Bank guarantee for a sum of Rs.21 lakhs till the disposal of the proceedings before the Commissioner of Survey, Settlements and Land Records. If ultimately the Commissioner sets aside the pattas granted by the Settlement Officer in favour of the petitioners, the Government is at liberty to enforce the Bank guarantee.

19. Order accordingly.


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