1. The Petitioners impugn the action of the respondent authorities in transferring urban evacuee land in favour of private respondents through negotiated sales. The brief background of the case is as follows :--
Prior to the framing of the rules for the disposal of urban evacuee agricultural land on Nov. 26, 1960, the respondent authorities put to auction such evacuee lands in accordance with certain policy decisions and press notes. Private respondents were the successful auction purchasers in those auctions. Later these sales were successfully challenged by Balwant Singh, petitioner No. 1 though Civil Writ Petition No. 699 of 1960 and this Court vide its judgment dated Mar. 1, 1961 held that 'the press notes and proceedings taken under then including the sale of the property in favour of respondent No. 4 must be and are hereby quashed and an appropriate writ will issue to that effect. The Government will, however, be at liberty to take fresh proceeding under the newly framed rules referred to above.' Ass a result of this judgment the respondent authorities held all the sales made in pursuance of the press notes referred to above as void ab initio and non est, and took a policy decision contained in letters dated Mar. 10, 1961 and pr. 15, 1961(Annexures 'D and E' respectively). Vide Annexure 'D', the Regional Settlement Commissioner pointed out to the Chief Settlement Commissioner that some of the auction purchasers (hereinafter refereed to as the defeated auction after referred to as the defeated auction purchasers) who had purchased lands in auctions held in accordance with the press notes issued earlier met the Rehabilitation Minister and pointed out that since the purchase of land by them, they had entered into various transactions and commitments with regard to those lands and with the cancellation of those sales in the light of the High Court judgment in Civil Writ No. 609(supra), they had been landed in a precarious situation and the lands which are found surplus after meeting the clams of the lessees and sub-lessees under the new rules which entitled them (lessees and sub-lessees) to purchase land in their occupation to the extent of the value of Rs. 15,000/- should be transferred in their favour. In reply to this letter, the Chief Settlement Commissioner communicated vide Annexure 'E' as follows :-- 'I am directed to refer to your letter No. RSCJ /PL/77/61 dated the 10th mar., 1969 and to state that the proposal has been considered and it is felt that there should be no objection to the withdrawal of any portion of the land from the sale transaction and the sale for that portion only and nor for the whole land, to be cancelled and the rebate allowed in price for the portion thus withdrawn and calculated on the basis of the rate of which the land was auctioned. You may, therefore, take auction in these cases on the above lines and finalise the transaction under R. 87 of the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Rules 1955.'
This R. 87 reads as follows :--
'87. Mode of sale of property : Any property forming part of the compensation pool may be sold by public auction or by inviting tenders or in such other manner as the Chief Settlement Commissioner may, by general or special order, direct.'
In accordance with this rule, the land which was found to be surplus after meeting the claims of the lessees and sub-lessees has been transferred to respondents Nos. 5 to 17 through negotiated sales.
2. The challenge on behalf of the petitioners who admittedly were lessees or sub-lessees of the land in question and have been allowed to purchase land only to the extent of the value of Rs. 15,000/- in accordance with R. 34, (d) of the abovesaid Rules is that firstly R. 87 is violative of the provisions of Art. 14 of the Constitution of India as it confers unguided, uncanalised and arbitrary powers on the Chief Settlement Commissioner to transfer any evacuee a land through auction or by inviting tenders or in any other manner a she may by general or special order direct and secondly the abovenoted respondent were not entitled to get this land through negotiated sales for the reason that earlier sales in their favour had been held to be void and non est by this Court and the present sales in their favour would virtually amount to by-passing the order of this Court. The case on behalf of the private respondents besides supporting the vires of R. 87 is that the Chief Settlement Commissioner was well within his right to direct vide Annexure 'E' that the defeated auction purchasers be transferred lands after meeting the claims of the lessees and the sub-lessees in accordance with R. 87 of the Rules and the present sales are unassailable.. It is further maintained on their behalf that the instructions have been issued for justifiable reasons as the respondent authorities realised their mistake in landing these defeated auction purchasers in the situation in which they had been landed on account of the illegal press notes and the action taken thereunder by them.
3. After hearing the learned counsel for the parties at some length, I do not find any merit in either of the above noted two merit in either of the above noted two contentions. So far as the challenge the vires of R. 87 is concerned, the same has essentially to be repelled in the light of the observations of their Lordship of the Supreme Court in State of Orissa v. Harinarayan Jaiswal AIR 1972 SC 1816, wherein after considering the implications of S. 29 of the Bihar and Orissa Excise Act, 1915, which too provided for the grant of exclusive of country liquor sale by calling tenders or by auction or otherwise as the State Government may by general or special order direct, observed thus (at. p. 1822):--
'If the Government was the exclusive owner of those privileges, reliance on Art. 19(1)(g) or Art. 14 became irrelevant. Citizens could not have any fundamental right to trade or carry on business in the properties or rights belonging to the Government no could there by infringement of Art. 14, if the Government tries to get the best available price for it valuable rights. ...................Assuming that the question of arbitrary or unguided power could arise in such a case it should not be forgotten that the power to accept or reject the highest bid was given to the highest authority in the State i.e. the Government which is expected to safeguard the finance of the State. Such a power could not be considered as an arbitrary power. If that power is exercised for any collateral purposes. The exercise of the power would be struck down.'
No doubt in that case no specific challenge had been launched to the vires of S. 29 of the above noted Act, yet it is clear from the abovenoted observations that even if such a challenge had been made, the same was to be negatived. It is not in dispute that in the instant case the sales in question have the approval and seal of the Financial Commissioner (Annexure C) who exercise the powers of the Central Government.
4. In support of his second challenge that the present negotiated sales in favour of the defeated auction purchasers amounted to by-passing the order of this Court the learned counsel for the petitioners places sole reliance on a Division Bench judgment of this court in L. P. A. No. 221 of 1966(Kapur Singh v. Settlement Commr). decided on Feb. 23, 1967. In that case too he sale in favour of a defeated auction purchaser had been assailed by the petitioners who clamed themselves to be lessees on the suit land and in whose favour land to the extent of their eligibility had been transferred on the ground that the rehabilitation authorities could not transfer the land in favour of respondents defeated auction purchasers. Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of that case, the transfer in favour of the respondent-defeat auction purchasers, was set aside. On a close perusal of the judgment I find that the facts of that case have no bearing so far as the facts of the present case are concerned. In that case the general order issued in the form of Annexure 'D' had neither been brought to the notice of their Lordships nor were its implications considered. This is clear from the following observations which occur in that judgment :--
'In the present case the previous auction in favour of respondent 4 having been set aside by an order of this Court, to which reference has already been made, and the authorities not having allotted the land to the appellant under Chapter V-A of the 1955 Rules, the only course open to them was to follow R. 87 in Chap. XIV of the same rules. In other words, the authorities had either to reauction the eland or to dispose it of by inviting tenders, or to dispose the same of under any general or special order according to the directions of the Chief Settlement Commissioner. None of these three things has happened in transferring the land in favour of respondent No. 4, What has actually happened is that after the rejection of the application of the appellant the authorities have transferred the land in favour of respondent 4 not in any of the modes provided in R. 87, but quashed by the earlier order of this Court, dated Apr. 7, 1961........................Consequently there has not been a valid transfer of the land in favour of respondent 4 according to rules in Chaps. V-A and XIV of the 1955 Rules.'
As already pointed out, the facts in this case are entirely, different. Here the transfers have been made in favour of respondents Nos. 5 to 17 in accordance with the general directions given by the Chief settlement, Commissioner in the form of Annexure 'E' He was well within his rights to take such a decision. His competence to take such a decision is neither being disputed nor possibly can it be in view of the clear provisions of R. 87 reproduced above. Thus this challenge of the petitioners is equally meritless and has to be repelled.
5. In the connected Civil Writ Petition No. 1568 of 1974, Bhoja Mal (one of the respondent in Civil Writ No. 401 of 1973) a defeated auction purchaser, makes a grouse of the order passed by the Financial Commissioner in exercise of powers under S. 33 of the Displace Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act, 1954 acting as the Central Government, whereby he ordered that the land in question be transferee in favour of the petitioner at the market price and not on pro-rata basis as claimed by the petitioner in the light of instructions, Annexure P.2, which instructions are the same as Annexe 'E' in Civil Writ No. 401 of 1973. The learned counsel however, fairly and frankly concedes that the Financial Commissioner while acting under S. 33 of the Act being the Central Government, could very well alter, modify or annual the instructions Annexure P. 2. In view of this conceded position he cannot possibly make any grouse of the fact that he has ordered the transfer of the land and in his favour at market price and not on the basis of pro-rata our of the auction money. Thus apparently this petition has no merit.
6. In the light of the above discussion both these petitions fail and are dismissed but with no order as to costs.
7. Petition dismissed.