1. These are two applications under Art. 226 of the Constitution by Ramprasad (No. 13/1956) and Ramdeo (No. 14/1956) against the Gram Panchayat, Bhadana and its Sarpanch Ramdhan. We propose to deal with them together as the point raised in both these applications is the same.
2. The applicants contend that the Sarpanch of the Gram Panchayat Bhadana has issued a public notice to the effect that owners of five houses in Bhadana have died heirless and, therefore, these five houses would be auctioned in case nobody appeared and preferred claims, presumably before the Panchayat, with respect to these houses.
Ramprasad applicant claims one of these houses, while Ramdeo applicant claims two of them one as owner and the other as a licensee on behalf of the owner. The applicants contend that the Panchayat has no power under the Rajasthan Panchayat Act, 1953 (Act No. 21 of 1953) to take action for escheat and, therefore the Panchayat should be forbidden from proceeding further into the matter. No one has appeared on behalf of the Panchayat to contest these applications.
3. Article 296 of the Constitution provides for property accruing by escheat or lapse or as bona vacantia. Under this Article, any property which would have accrued to His Majesty or to the Ruler of an Indian State by escheat or lapse or as bona vacantia for want of rightful owner shall, if it is property situated in a State, vest in such State and shall in any other case vest in the Union. Therefore, property, which is taken by escheat can only accrue in a place like Bhadana to the State of Rajasthan.
4. We have now to see whether the State of Rajasthan has conferred its right and powers in the matter of escheat to the Panchayat. It is enough to say that there is nothing in the Rajasthan Panchayat Act, 1953 (No. 21 of 1953) which vests in the Panchayat any property by lapse or escheat or for want of a rightful owner; nor is there any provision in the Panchayat Act which gives power to the Panchayat to take proceedings for taking property by lapse or escheat in the absence of the rightful owner.
The action, therefore, of the Sarpanch in issuing notice about these five houses on the ground that their owners have died heirless and, therefore the Panchayat has the right to sell the houses is without authority of law and the Panchayat has no jurisdiction to take any such proceedings.
5. We, therefore, allow the applications and forbid the Panchayat from taking any proceedings in the nature of escheat with respect to these five houses.As the Panchayat has not appeared to contest the applications, we pass no order as to costs.