1. This writ petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India is directed against the order of the Collector, Gurgaon, dated 31st October, 1966, whereby he had dismissed the petition filed by the petitioner for review of the earlier order of the Collector dated 4th December. 1959.
2. The facts necessary for the decision of this petition are not seriously in dispute and may be stated thus. Land measuring 174 bighas 1 biswa situated in village Bhandor was originally owned byChoudhry Manohar Lal and after his death it was mutated in the name of his wife Maqtul Kaur respondent No. 4. In obedience to the wishes of Manohar Lal, his widow Maqtul Kaur adopted the petitioner as a son to her deceased husband through a registered adoption deed dated 27th July, 1952. Not realising that by this adoption the petitioner had become owner of the entire land of his adoptive father, Maqtul Kaur gifted 33 bighas of land to the petitioner out of the land situated in village Bhandor. At the tune of the adoption and this gift the petitioner was a minor. During the next three or four years Maqtul Kaur somehow developed a strain of hostility towards Ashok Kumar petitioner; and to give practical shape to these feelings of animosity, Maqtul Kaur sold about 41 bighas of land to Polu Ram, etc., in 1957 and 1958 and gifted the remaining land to her daughters on 20th May, 1958. On learning about the alienations, Ashok Kumar challenged them through a civil suit which was ultimately decreed by the Subordinate Judge First Class, Rewari, and this decree was maintained up to the High Court in Regular Second Appeal No. 161 of 1961 decided on 23rd October, 1963. The decree being for possession of the land left toy Manohar Lal, Ashok Kumar obtained possession in execution of this decree on 15th April, 1964.
3. After the coming into force of the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Act (hereinafter called the Act) proceedings were started to declare surplus area out of the land left by Manohar Lal and, as in the revenue records this land at the relevant time stood in the name of Maqtul Kaur, notice was only issued to her and in Form D only she was shown as being in possession of the land. Probably, as on account of the adoption, she had no right, title or interest left in the land, Maqtul Kaur did not put up a serious resistance in these proceedings and not only allowed an adverse order to be passed by the Collector but did not even challenge this order in appeal and thereby permitted it to assume finality. This order of the Collector was passed on 4th December, 1959. It may be mentioned at this stage that at the time the proceedings were taken the petitioner was still a minor.
4. After the termination of the proceedings under the Act Ashok Kumar obtained possession of the land in execution of the decree obtained by him and subsequently he was allotted other land during consolidation proceedings in lieu of the land that he had inherited from his adoptive father Manohar Lal. On 27th July, 1966, the petitioner received a notice under Section 24-A (2) of the Act calling upon him to select his reserve area outof the land allotted to him in consolidation proceedings and it was then that the petitioner learnt for the first time that some area out of his inherited land had earlier been declared as surplus. In the firm belief that there was no surplus area in his hands the petitioner at once filed objections before the Circle Revenue Officer and contested the notice. By order dated 22nd August, 1966, the Circle Revenue Officer held that he had no jurisdiction to hear any objections regarding the validity of the order passed by the Collector declaring the land of Maqtul Kaur as surplus and directed the applicant to approach the Collector in case he had any grievance about this matter, Having failed to obtain relief, the petitioner filed a review application and on this petition, the Collector passed the impugned order.
5. The petition was contested on behalf of respondents 1 to 3 and Shri Adhyapak Singh, Under Secretary to Government, Haryana, Revenue Department, filed an affidavit in support of the position taken by the respondents. The stand taken by the respondents is that as in the revenue records Maqtul Kaur was recorded as the owner of the land on 15th April, 1953 and was also shown in possession of the land measuring 146 bighas 16 biswas in Form D, the surplus area was correctly assessed by the Collector by ignoring the alienations made in 1957 and 1958. It was also asserted that at the time the surplus area was declared, the petitioner had no locus standi to appear in those proceedings, and under the relevant rules was not entitled to the issuance of any notice to him. It was further canvassed that, as the order declaring surplus area was passed after hearing the party who was entitled to notice, it was not open to review subsequently at the instance of the petitioner and in support of this contention reliance was placed on the observations in Hardev Singh v. The State of Punjab, 1971 Pun LJ 263. As the relevant observations in Hardev Singh's case needed elucidation in the light of the facts of the present case, the petition was referred to a larger Bench and it is in this manner that the writ petition has come up before us for decision.
6. The principal and in fact the only argument advanced on behalf of the petitioner is that as after his adoption in 1952 he had become the lawful owner of the land left by his adoptive father Choudhry Manohar Lal and Maqtul Kaur had been divested of all right, title and interest in the land, he was the 'person interested' within the meaning of Rule 6 of the Punjab Security of Land Tenures Rules, 1956 (hereinafter called the 1956 Rules) and that firstly a notice ought tohave been issued to him and secondly, if, due to lack of knowledge on the part of the concerned authorities about his rights the notice was not originally issued to him, he ought to have been heard when he applied for a review of the earlier order. Continuing the argument it is urged that the petitioner being a minor at the time of the adoption and the passing of the order declaring surplus area and not being aware of the proceedings under the Act and the passing of final order till a notice was issued to him under Section 24-A (2) of the Act, the earliest he could approach the authorities under the Act was on receipt of the notice for selecting the reserve area. In this situation, according to the petitioner, it could not possibly be held that the review petition was barred by time.
7. It is not disputed that under Sub-rule (3) of Rule 6 of the 19&6 Rules the Circle Revenue Officer has to hold an inquiry before any area is declared surplus and this inquiry has to be held 'after giving the persons concerned an opportunity of being heard'. As to who are the persons concerned, R. S. Narula, J.. as his Lordship then was, made the following observations in Hardev Singh's case, 1971 Pun LJ 283 (supra):--
'It is, therefore, manifest that notice under Rule 6 (2) has to be issued in the proceedings before the Circle Revenue Officer only to such persons whose names may be mentioned in form 'D' prepared by the Patwari or whose names may be shown in the relevant revenue records available to the Circle Revenue Officer as either vendees or donees or other transferees or tenants of the land which is proposed to be included in the surplus area of the original landowner.' It was further ruled in the above case that the Act or the 1956 Rules do not envisage any investigation by the Circle Revenue Officer as to who would be the possible persons interested in the proceedings before him and that it would be a sufficient compliance of the rules if notice is issued to the persons whose names are mentioned in Form D or whose names could be available from the revenue records.
8. Basing himself on the above observations in Hardev Singh's case, Shri H. N. Mehtani, appearing on behalf of the State, contends that in the proceedings for the declaration of surplus area notices having been issued to the persons mentioned in Form D or to the persons whose names could be ascertained from the revenue records the order passed on 4th December, 1959. was wholly unexceptionable and that the Collector is not bound to review the order subsequently at the instance of the petitioner as at the tunewhen the order dated 4th December, 1959, was passed the petitioner was not the person interested within, the meaning of Sub-rule (3) of Rule 6 of the 1956 Rules and had no right, title or interest in the property. Continuing the argument it is urged that the persons interested having already been heard when the order dated 4th December, 1959, was passed, the Collector was under no obligation to hear the petitioner and to review the order.
9. Under custom the title of a person validly appointed to be an heir relates back to the dale of appointment and the effect of such appointment is to divest the estate in the hands of the widow. In other words, from the date of adoption the widow ceases to have any right, title or interest and the ownership thenceforward vests in the adopted son. This being the position of law. though the petitioner had obtained a decree in his favour in October, 1968 and had obtained possession on 15th April, 1964, his title to the property related back to the date of adoption and he consequently was a person interested in the proceedings for the declaration of surplus area. The argument to the contrary advanced by the learned counsel for the respondent is consequently not tenable.
10. The second aspect of the argument is equally without merit. No doubt, in Hardev Singh's case. 1971 Pun LJ 283 it was ruled that it was not necessary for the Circle Revenue Officer to make an investigation to find out as to who were the persons interested, but from these observations it does not follow that if subsequently a person interested came forward, he was not to be given a hearing and the order could not be reviewed if it had been passed behind his back and without his being aware of the proceedings. All that is emphasised in Hardev Singh's case, 197,1 Pun LJ 283 is that notices must be issued to the persons mentioned in Form D or to those whose names could be ascertained from the revenue records. The observations in Hardev Singh's case do not carry the implication that merely because a person's name does not find mention in Form D or in the revenue records he was to be denied a hearing even if he himself came forward to contest the proceedings for the declaration of surplus area and was in fact a person whose interests would be vitally affected by an adverse decision in the proceedings. I am, therefore, of the opinion that the argument to the contrary of Shri Mehtani is based on a misconception of the ratio of the decision in Hardev Singh's case and is without merit. It is, however, not intended to hold that in case the Collector or the authorities under the Act formed the view that theperson interested was all along aware of the proceedings and was guilty of laches in coming forward to contest the proceedings, he would be entitled to a hearing on merits On the other hand, if the question of deliberate laches or unexplained delay in approaching the Collector after being aware of the proceedings under the Act is not involved, a person whose interests are likely to be affected by such declaration of surplus area has a right to be heard and is entitled to claim a decision on merits by approaching the Collector for this purpose notwithstanding the fact that his name is neither mentioned in Form D nor in the revenue records as a person interested.
11. For the foregoing reasons, this petition is allowed and the order of the Collector dated 31st October, 1966 is quashed. The Collector is directed to decide the surplus area case of the petitioner after giving him full opportunity of hearing. Having regard to the circumstances, there will be no order as to costs.
B.R. Tuli, J.
12. I agree.
D.S. Tewatia, J.
13. I agree.