1. The relevant facts which led to the filing of this writ petition are not in dispute. It is the common case of both sides that the petitioner was entitled to purchase the acquired evacuee urban agricultural land in dispute and that Chapter V-A of the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Rules 1955 (hereinafter called the Rules) applies to the land in question. It is also the admitted case of both sides that the petitioner is entitled to purchase the agricultural land in question under the proviso toe Rule 34-C of the Rules. The only dispute relates to the valuation of the said land and the resultant amount which the petitioner has to pay to the Rehabilitation Authorities. By order Annexure 'A' dated September 28, 1966, the Managing Officer fixed the price of the land at Rs.1500/- per Kanal. Petitioner's appeal against that order was partly allowed by Shri S. N. Bahl, Assistant Settlement Commissioner (in exercise of his delegated powers of Settlement Commissioner) on October 23, 1967 (Annexure 'B'). The price of Khasra number 1708/923 was maintained at Rs.1500/- per Kanal on the ground that the same had not been disturbed by the Chief Settlement Commissioner in earlier proceedings while remanding the case for revaluation of other Khasra numbers. In the remaining Khasra numbers, the price had been brought down to Rs.1250/- per Kanal. The petitioner had claimed before the appellate authority that the valuation should be fixed at Rs.400/- per Kanal at which other lands had been transferred to different persons. That contention of the petitioner was repelled by the Settlement Commissioner in the following words:--
'There is no doubt that most of these lands have got better situation but these sales/transfers took place many years back except in few cases. As such I cannot accept the contention of the appellant that this may be assessed at Rs.400/- per Kanal'.
A petition for revision of the appellate order filed by the petitioner was dismissed by Shri Sudarshan Aggarwal in exercise of his powers as Chief Settlement Commissioner on October 4, 1968 (Annexure 'C'). The solitary reason given in support of the order passed in revision was that the revisional authority did not find any ground to interfere with the order of the Settlement Commissioner which seemed to be just and fair. Petitioner's application under Section 33 of the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act, 1954 having been dismissed by the order of Central Government dated March 12, 1969 (Annexure 'D'), the present writ was filed in this Court.
2. The claim of the petitioner is that the value of the land had to be fixed as on the date of the allotment and not of the date on which the valuation is sought to be worked out. Petitioner claims to have been in possession of the land since 1952 but has in any case, been found to be in lawful possession thereof since 1955, that is, before January 1, 1956. According to the petitioner, he is not liable to pay the market value of the land as in 1966 but the price at which it could be valued in 1955. It was on that account that he had referred to previous sales which were admittedly held at about Rs.400/- per Kanal. As Annexure 'F' to the petition, a list of persons, along with copies of the sale-deeds, to whom the land had been transferred at the rate of Rs.400/- per Kanal or even less has been filed by the petitioner. The sales enumerated in Annexure 'F' are of 1961 to 1965.
3. The writ petition has been contested on behalf of the Rehabilitation Authorities. It has been admitted therein that the petitioner has been in cultivating possession of the land since Kharif, 1955. It has, however, been denied that land comprised in any Khasra number had been evaluated at the rate of Rupees 400/- per Kanal for transfer to the petitioner. It has also been denied that the entire area including that with the petitioner was assessed at Rs.400/- per Kanal or less. It has been complained that the petitioner is responsible for the present state of affairs as he has been delaying his case by filing appeals and revisions. It has been repeatedly stated that the price of the land has been correctly fixed after taking into account all valid considerations. Reference has then been made to the agreement executed by the petitioner for the purchase of the land in Khasra No. 1401/939 and to the part payment already made by him in pursuance of that agreement in respect of that part of the land measuring 11 Kanals 16 Marlas.
4. The only question to be decided in this case is as to what is the date of which the value of the land has to be paid by the petitioner. It is the common case of both sides that the value has to be fixed under Rule 34-B of the Rules. That rule states--
'For the purposes of this Chapter, all lands to which this Chapter applies shall be valued by an officer appointed in this behalf by the Regional Settlement Commissioner'.
Unfortunately, the rule does not give any indication of the time or the period of which the value has to be fixed. The argument of the learned counsel for the petitioner is that the value chargeable from the petitioner should be the market value of the land on the date on which he came into lawful possession thereof, that is, of 1952. Failing that, submits Mr. Wasu, the value should be of Kharif, 1955, since when he has been found to have been in possession as a sub-lessee. In the alternative, he claims that the land should be valued as on January, 1, 1956 as that is the qualifying date under the proviso to Rule 34-C for determining the eligibility of the petitioner to get the land transferred to him. Rule 34-C reads as follows:--
'Where any land to which this Chapter applies has been leased to a displaced person and such land consists of one or more Khasras and is valued at Rs.15,000/- or less, the land shall be allotted to the lessee:--
Provided that where any such land or any part thereof has been leased to a displaced person and the sub-lessee has been in occupation of such land or part thereof continuously from the 1st January, 1956, such land or part thereof, as the case may be, shall be allotted to such sub-lessee'.
He has emphasized the fact that the same date is referred to in the proviso to Rule 34-D (1) also. The learned counsel has then argued that in no case could the relevant date be later than November 26, 1960, when the rules contained in Chapter V-A were enforced. He submits that the contention of the Rehabilitation Authorities contained in paragraph 14 (iii) of their return is fallacious. In that sub-paragraph, it has been stated that the department is not bound to charge the price of the land as it was in the year 1950 especially when the procedure for the assessment of the value of the urban agricultural land was laid down much later under the Rules contained in Chapter V-A of the Rules framed under the Act. Counsel argues that there in no indication in the Rules against the relevant date for fixing the value being earlier than the date of coming into force of Chapter V-A. Mr. G. S. Chawla, the learned counsel for the Rehabilitation Authorities has, on the other hand, contended that the relevant date of which the value has to be determined is the date on which the transferee is held to be entitled to obtain the land in question from the Rehabilitation Authorities. The impugned orders, however, show that even this criterion was not kept in view. In fact, none of the orders shows the date of which the value has been fixed. It is, therefore, obvious that the valuation of September 28, 1966 (date of order Annexure 'A') was being fixed by the department. That would not be the relevant date even according to Mr. Chawla's contention. Eligibility of the petitioner to get the land transferred to him under the proviso to Rule 34-C must have been determined long before September, 1966 as the order Annexure 'A' shows that the dispute relating to the value of the land had been going on before that date and order Annexure 'A' was passed in post-remand proceedings consequent on a decision of the Chief Settlement Commissioner given on July 16, 1966. In these circumstances, the valuation fixed by the department without taking into consideration the date of which the value has to be fixed cannot be sustained. In reply to the illustration of sales of 1961 to 1965, contained in Annexure 'F', it has been stated in paragraph 14(vii) of the return filed by the Rehabilitation Authorities that the department has not transferred land at the rate of Rs.400/- per Kanal adjacent to the property in dispute. That is hardly a proper way of replying to the specific allegations made by the petitioner. It has merely been stated that the allegations are denied and are not correct.
5. The department should have specifically referred to each item of sale, mentioned in Annexure 'F' and contained in the sale-deeds of which copies have been filed by the petitioner, and then stated whether the sales had been made under these very rules or not and if so, what is the explanation of the Rehabilitation Authorities for the rate at which those sales were effected.
6. Mr. Wasu has referred to the Division Bench judgment of this Court in Karam Chand Thakar Dass v. Union of India, AIR 1967 Punj 85, wherein it has been held on a concession made by the counsel for the Rehabilitation Authorities, that the relevant date on which the value of the property has to be taken into account for the purposes of transfer of the urban agricultural house is the date of the original allotment of the house and not the date on which its value is fixed. Mr. Chawla has pointed out that Karam Chand's case relates to house property which is dealt with in Chapter V and the concession made by the counsel in that case was not justified in view of the provisions of Rule 34 which relates to the sale or the allotment. Learned counsel submits that Rule 32 is not applicable to sales and transfers under Chapter V-A. All these matters can be considered by the Rehabilitation Authorities while deciding the issues involved in the present litigation. Not following a uniform and just policy (consistent with the intention and objects of the Act and the Rules) in the matter of the date of which price of land is payable by a sub-lessee under the proviso to Rule 34-C would, in my opinion, open the flood gates of arbitrariness of the Rule of Law. The department must therefore first determine the relevant date.
7. Reference is then made by the respondents to the agreement stated to have been entered into by the petitioner for purchase of land comprised in Khasra No. 1401/939 for Rs.13,728.13 at the rate of Rs.1250/- per Kanal. It is argued by Mr. T. N. Bhalla, the learned counsel for the Pathankot Improvement Trust that this estops the petitioner from challenging the valuation of land comprised in that Khasra number. Mr. Wasu has submitted in reply to this that if in order to avoid losing the land the petitioner entered into an agreement for purchasing it at a certain rate, which was final so far as the decision of the Rehabilitation Authorities is concerned but was higher than the rate at which the petitioner was liable to pay under the law, he cannot be estopped from claiming that he should not be made to pay more than what he is required to pay under the Rules. I find force in this contention.
8. For the foregoing reasons, I allow this petition, set aside the impugned orders Annexures 'A' to 'D' and direct the Rehabilitation Authorities to first decide the date of which the petitioner has to pay the value of the land transferred to him and then to determined the value of the land as on that date and calculate the amount payable by the petitioner in accordance with the decision on those two points and also keeping in view the sales, if any, actually effected under the same Chapter in favour of other persons, after the coming into force of the rules contained in Chapter V-A. Mr. Bhalla submits that he would be a loser if the rate at which the petitioner is found to be entitled to get the land is lesser than Rs.1500/- as the whole land has been transferred to the Improvement Trust at Rs.1500/- per Kanal. He further admits that the land in respect of which agreement has been entered into at Rs.1250/- per Kanal has been taken out of the land transferred to the Trust. It is, therefore, clear that whatever land is transferred to the petitioner under the proviso to Rule 34-C shall not form part of the land given to the Improvement Trust and the Improvement Trust would be entitled to rateable adjustment or refund of the price of that part of land which is in possession of the petitioner and which is ultimately transferred to him.
9. Parties are left to bear their own costs.
10. Petition allowed.