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Thakur Birendra Singh Vs. the State of Madhya Pradesh and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Appeal No. 1069 (N) of 1966
Judge
Reported in(1969)3SCC489
ActsConstitution Of India - Article 226; Central Provinces Land Revenue Act, 1917 - Section 218-A; Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code of 1954 - Sections 108, 13(1), 15(3)
AppellantThakur Birendra Singh
RespondentThe State of Madhya Pradesh and ors.
Excerpt:
.....on suspicion that the petitioner was guilty of illegal extraction of timber from government forest lands, the collector of jabalpur made an order on february 19, 1953 prohibiting further cutting of timber from the said lands. the appeal preferred by the petitioner to the additional commissioner was dismissed. referring to section 15 of the act which provided for appeals, revisions and review the high court held that the record made by the compensation officer under section 13 of the act was to be treated as final under section 15(4) subject to the provisions of the first three sub-sections of section 15 but the collector was empowered to examine the record and review the orders passed by himself or his predecessors-in-office under the provisions of the said section. according to the high..........on suspicion that the petitioner was guilty of illegal extraction of timber from government forest lands, the collector of jabalpur made an order on february 19, 1953 prohibiting further cutting of timber from the said lands. the sub-divisional officer, katni enquired into the matter and submitted a report on december 20, 1958. after issuing a show-cause notice to the petitioner and giving him a hearing, the collector passed an order on june 3, 1960 by which he held in substance that (a) the petitioner with the collusion and connivance of the patwari had been instrumental in having acres 1054-02 out of an area of acres 1401-91 of land which at the time of settlement were recorded as big tree forest, scrub jungle, etc. recorded as occupied lands and as being held by the appellant as.....
Judgment:

G.K. MITTER, J.

1. This is an appeal from a judgment and order of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh on an application under Article 226 of the Constitution seeking to set aside certain orders of the Collector of Jabalpur prohibiting the appellant (the petitioner before the High Court) from cutting and removing any forest produce from over Acres 1000-00 of land in Village Sunchra, directing that the aforesaid lands had been wrongly shown in the year 1947-48 as held by the petitioner as a plot-porprietor which were to be treated as having vested in the State and the land records to be corrected accordingly, forfeiting the forest produce from the aforesaid lands which had been seized and imposing on the petitioner a fine of Rs 1000 for breach of the Rules framed under Section 218-A of the Central Provinces Land Revenue Act, 1917. The other orders challenged were those of the Additional Commissioner of Jabalpur, dated January 14, 1963 dismissing the petitioner's appeal against the earlier order of the Collector and an order, dated July 27, 1964 by the Board of Revenue dismissing the petitioner's further appeal.

2. The relevant facts are as follows. On suspicion that the petitioner was guilty of illegal extraction of timber from Government forest lands, the Collector of Jabalpur made an order on February 19, 1953 prohibiting further cutting of timber from the said lands. The Sub-Divisional Officer, Katni enquired into the matter and submitted a report on December 20, 1958. After issuing a show-cause notice to the petitioner and giving him a hearing, the Collector passed an order on June 3, 1960 by which he held in substance that (a) the petitioner with the collusion and connivance of the patwari had been instrumental in having Acres 1054-02 out of an area of Acres 1401-91 of land which at the time of settlement were recorded as big tree forest, scrub jungle, etc. recorded as occupied lands and as being held by the appellant as plot-proprietor, and (b) that the annual papers for the year 1947-48 could be corrected under Section 108 of the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code of 1954 and the record prepared under Section 13(1) of the Act could be reviewed and corrected under Section 15(3) of that Act. He also held that in extracting forest produce the petitioner had committed a breach of Rules 3, 4(a) and 4(b) of the Rules framed under Section 202 of the Act of 1917. The appeal preferred by the petitioner to the Additional Commissioner was dismissed. The appellate officer held inter alia:

“(a) The question whether or not the lands were liable to vest in the State could be reopened under Section 50 of the Madhya Pradesh Land Revenue Code of 1954 and Section 57 of the Code of 1954 and Section 57 of the Code of 1959;

(b) The Collector had the power to review the order passed by the Compensation Officer under Section 15(3) of the Act and in any event he had that power under Section 51 of the Code of 1959;

(c) Entries in favour of the petitioner in the annual papers for 1948-49 were not conclusive of the petitioner's title to the lands;

(d) The petitioner could not dislodge in spite of opportunity ‘the presumption of fraudulent entries in the annual papers for 1948-49’; and

(e) The order of the Compensation Officer based on fraudulent entries was void even without review.”

The further appeal to the Board of Revenue was dismissed inter alia on the following grounds:

“(1) Section 14(2) of the Act did not apply to the Collector's order of June 3, 1960;

(2) Section 50(2) of the 1954 Code gave power of review to the Collector;

(3) Sanction of the Board for exercising the said power was not necessary.

(4) The contention that the entries in the annual papers were not fraudulent could not be accepted;

(5) The plea that the lands should be recorded as settled with the petitioner under Section 40 of the Act could not be entertained for the first time in Second Appeal; and

(6) entries in village papers were to be presumed to be correct but they were not final.”

3. The High Court took the view that the Revenue Courts had made a wrong approach to the main question and as there were errors of law apparent on the face of the record the orders were liable to be quashed even though some of the grounds urged in support of the petition were not good. The High Court was not of the view that the annual papers for the year 1948-49 should be regarded as final nor according to it was the record prepared under Section 13(1) of the Act unchallengeable. Referring to Section 15 of the Act which provided for appeals, revisions and review the High Court held that the record made by the Compensation Officer under Section 13 of the Act was to be treated as final under Section 15(4) subject to the provisions of the first three sub-sections of Section 15 but the Collector was empowered to examine the record and review the orders passed by himself or his predecessors-in-office under the provisions of the said section. The High Court also remarked that “the plea relating to want of jurisdiction involves the question whether the Compensation Officer could be regarded as a predecessor-in-office of the Collector for purposes of provisions of the Act” and this question had not been considered by the Collector or by the two Appellate Authorities. It was further observed by the High Court that the question whether the entries in the annual papers for the year 1948-49 were fraudulent or otherwise was not material and the petitioner could not claim the lands as home-farm because they were not actually recorded as sir or khudkasht and it was not the petitioner's claim that he had brought the lands under cultivation after the agricultural year 1948-49, but before the date of vesting. According to the High Court even if the Collector were competent to review and correct the record under Section 15(3) of the Act he could not do so without considering its effect on the compensation, determined under Section 13(1) of the Act. In the opinion of the High Court the Appellate Authorities having overlooked this aspect of the matter the orders passed by the Collector or those in appeal could not be allowed to stand.

4. In the result the High Court quashed the orders, dated June 3, 1960, January 14, 1963 and July 27, 1964 directing at the same time that “the case is remitted to the Collector for a fresh decision with advertance to the observations made in this order after giving to the petitioner an opportunity of being heard”.

5. It appears to us that the High Court had gone wrong in giving these further directions. The High Court was not sitting in appeal over the decision of the Board of Revenue. The High Court should have quashed the orders without giving any further directions. It was urged before us — and not without some force — that the appellant had been compelled to come to this Court by way of special leave merely because of the observations of the High Court which the Collector and the Revenue Authorities were bound to give effect to. Once the orders complained of are quashed the matter should have been left at large without any further directions leaving the Revenue Authorities free to take any steps allowable under the law. We therefore allow the appeal making it clear that the Revenue Authorities will be entitled to take any steps for reviewing the earlier orders and making alterations in the records sanctioned by law. In doing so, they will not be bound by any expression of opinion of the High Court or the directions given by it. There will be no order as to costs.


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