Friday, August 31, 2012

HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT ALLAHABAD


(Judgment reserved on 22.11.2011)
(Judgment delivered on 01.03.2012)

Court No. - 30

Case :- SECOND APPEAL No. - 1444 of 2000

Petitioner :- U.P.Avas Evam Vikas Parishad, Lko. And Another
Respondent :- Lajja Ram
Petitioner Counsel :- K.P.Upadhyaya,R.K. Jain,R.P.Singh,Suneet Kumar,U.N. Sharma,Vivek Saran
Respondent Counsel :- Rajiv Mishra,Ajit Kumar,Ashutosh Srivastava,Awadhesh Srivastava,Madhu Tandon,Manu Saxena,Menu Saxena,P.K. Sinha,Prem Chandra

AND

Case :- SECOND APPEAL No. - 1445 of 2000

Petitioner :- U.P.Avas Evam Vikas Parishad, Lko. And Another
Respondent :- Mahavir Prasad
Petitioner Counsel :- K.P.Upadhyaya,Murli Dhar,R.K. Jain,R.P.Singh,Suneet Kumar,U.N. Sharma,Vivek Saran
Respondent Counsel :- Rajiv Misra,Ajit Kumar,Ashutosh Srivastava,Manu Saxena,Menu Saxena,Prem Chandra


Hon'ble Sibghat Ullah Khan,J.

Heard learned counsel for the parties.


These Second Appeals have been filed by same set of defendants i.e. U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Parishad and its Estate Management Officer in two suits. Plaintiff in each suit was different. Second Appeal no.1444 of 2000 arises out of O.S. no.418 of 1997 filed by Lajja Ram. Second Appeal No.1445 of 2000 arises out of O.S. No.415 of 1997 which was filed by Mahaveer Prasad. Both the suits were decreed on 2.5.1997 by Civil Judge (S.D.) Ghaziabad. Against the said decrees defendants appellants filed Civil appeal no.105 of 1997 and 106 of 1997 which were dismissed by 2nd A.D.J. Ghaziabad through judgment and decree dated 13.9.2000 hence these second appeals.

These Second appeals were dismissed on 18.4.2003. Thereafter review petitions were filed which were also dismissed on 13.09.2007. Thereafter modification applications were filed which were also dismissed on 5.11.2007. Thereafter defendants appellants carried the matter to the Supreme Court where it was ultimately registered as Civil Appeal no.1184 and 1281 of 2008. Supreme Court set aside the orders dismissing the Second Appeals and the applications and directed the Second appeals to be heard afresh on merits through order dated 8.2.2008 which is quoted below.

"Considering the peculiar circumstances highlighted by Mr. K.K.Venugopal, learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants, we set aside the impugned orders of the learned Single Judge of the Allahabad High Court in Civil Miscellaneous Review Application No.107324 of 2003 in Second Appeal No.1445 of 2000 and in Second Appeal No.1445 of 2000 and direct the second appeal to be heard afresh on merits. We make it clear that we have not expressed any opinion on the merits of the case.


The civil appeals are allowed. No costs."

Thereafter, through order dated 17.5.2010 following three substantial questions of law were framed in these appeals:-
  1. Whether, when the notification for acquisition issued by the U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Parishad was describing the land acquired on the basis of boundaries the claim of the plaintiff-respondent that the plots in question were not duly identified for acquisition could entitle them to an injunction against the U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Parishad?
  2. Whether, after notification for acquisition of land has been issued under the U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Adhiniyam, the courts below could grant permanent injunction to the plaintiff-respondent without notification having been challenged or set aside by any competent court of law and as such the plaintiff-respondent were not entitled to the permanent injunction or any other relief granted by the courts below?
  3. Whether, the plaintiff-respondent could maintain the suit after enforcement of the UPZA & LR Act and the U.P.Avas Evam Vikas Adhiniyam and acquisition notification particularly when no declaration was sought under Section 9 (Sic. 229-B) of the UPZA & LR Act or under the relevant provision of U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Adhiniyam prior thereto?
    The following substantial questions of law are also involved and have thoroughly been argued by learned counsel for both the parties.
  4. Whether notification under Section 117 (6) of U.P.Z.A.&L.R. Act dated 5.8.1983 directing resumption of the land in dispute alongwith other plots of Gaon Sabha can be ignored, set aside or treated/declared to be void particularly when no such prayer was made in the plaint?
  5. Whether the relief which has been granted by the lower appellate court can legally be granted particularly when such relief was not even claimed in the plaint?
  6. Whether the entry of the name of father of the original plaintiff in each case in the revenue records is no entry in the eye of law and whether the entry even if made is legal?
  7. Whether the entry of the name of the father of the plaintiff in each case in the revenue record is a result of fraud and manipulation and in any case whether any such entry was ever made?

The matter in Second Appeal no. 1444 of 2000 relates to agricultural land comprised in following khasra plot numbers:

1. 387  1-5-0 (Pukhta)
2. 388  1-5-0 (Pukhta)
3. 389  1-5-0 (Pukhta)
4. 390  1-6-0 (Pukhta)
5. 391  4-1-0 (Pukhta)
6. 392  4-11-0 (Pukhta)


13-13-0(Pukhta)(about 8 acre)

The land in dispute is situate in village Makanpur pargana Loni Tehsil - Dadri and District Ghaziabad. Plots in dispute in Second Appeal no.1445 of 2000 are plot no.527/3 area 1 bigha and plot no.527/4 area 1 bigha 15 biswas situate at village Prahlad Garhi Pargana Loni, Ghaziabad. The relief claimed in the plaint was that the defendants should be restrained from interfering in the possession and use of the plaintiff in each case over the land in dispute and from demolishing the construction standing thereupon. Thereafter plaint was got amended and it was further prayed that defendants must be directed to grant permission to the plaintiff for constructing multi-storied buildings with 3.5 F.A.R.(Floor Area Ratio). In the alternative it was prayed that plaintiff was entitled to get equal value land as land in dispute had been taken possession of the defendants.

The case taken up by the plaintiff of O.S. no.418 of 1997 in the plaint is that initially Sri Ragunath Sahai father of the plaintiff was owner in possession of the property in dispute and after his death said right was inherited by the plaintiff and in this manner plaintiff and his father were owners and possession over the land in dispute for 50 years and that the name of plaintiff's father was entered in the revenue record from 1359 fasli to 1366 fasli (1.7.1952 till 30.6.1959). It was further pleaded that due to fault of the lekhpal the name was not continued thereafter in the revenue record. In O.S. no. 415 of 1997 it was pleaded that name of Om Prakash father of the plaintiff was entered in the revenue record as owner from 1359 to 1362 fasli and due to mistake committed by Lekhpal the name was deleted in the subsequent years.

Defendants filed written statement stating that name of the plaintiff's father was never recorded in the revenue record not even during 1359 to 1366 (or 1359 to 1362) fasli as alleged by plaintiff and that the land in dispute had been acquired under Land Acquisition Act and through order dated 15.8.1989 possession was delivered to the defendants and that non impleadment of State of U.P. was fatal. Defendants filed copy of the award given by Special Land Acquisition Officer.

In order to show that name of plaintiff's father was recorded in the revenue record for 7 years (from 1359 fasli to 1366 fasli) plaintiff filed copies of Khataunis. Similar khataunis for 1359 to 1362 fasli were filed in the other suit.
Regarding the plea of acquisition the trial court held that in the documents pertaining to Acquisition plots in dispute were not mentioned.

The contention of learned counsel for the appellant is that as the land did not belong to any private person and it was gaon sabha land hence there was no question of Acquisition and therefore it was resumed under Section 117(6) of U.P.Z.A.L.R. Act. The said provision is quoted below:

The State Government may at any time, (by general or special order to be published in the manner prescribed), amend or cancel any declaration, notification or order ) made in respect of any of the things aforesaid, whether generally or in the case of any Gaon Sabha or other local authority, and resume such things, and whenever the State Government so resumes by such thing, the Gaon Sabha or other local authority, as the case may be, shall be entitled to receive and be paid compensation on account only of the development, if any effected by it in or over that things:

Provided that the State Government may after such resumption make a fresh declaration under sub-section(1) or sub-section (2) vesting the thing resumed in the same or any other local authority (including a Gaon Sabha), and the provisions of sub-sections (3),(4) and (5), as the case may be, shall, mutatis mutandis, apply to such declaration.

The order of resumption was passed on 5.8.1983 and it was in respect of 21 plots total area 27.47 acres including 6 plots in dispute. Similar order was passed in respect of plots in dispute in the other suit.
Lower appellate court framed some additional issues and remitted them to the trial court for being decided. Trial Court through order dated 31.5.1999 decided the said issues. The main issue was as to whether property in dispute was property of Gram Sabha/State of U.P. which was resumed and handed over to the defendants. Under the said issue trial court mentioned that the name of plaintiffs father was entered through order dated 24.4.1955 (1362 fasli). The trial court held that it was not proved that the land was acquired or its compensation was paid to the plaintiff. In respect of seven years entries in favour of the appellant's father, respondent contended that they were forged and fictitious and it was specifically argued that in case the entries had in fact been there then there was absolutely no reason for their discontinuance. The emphasis of the lower appellate court was also on the fact that numbers of disputed plots were not mentioned in Section 4 and 6 notifications. Section 4 and 6 land acquisition Act notifications are equivalent to Section 28 and 32 of U.P. Avas Evam Vikas Adhiniyam. The land was acquired for Vasundhara Housing Scheme.

Even in most of the revenue records of 1359 to 1366 fasli filed by plaintiffs in the main column banjar was recorded and in the remarks column the name of plaintiff's father was recorded as Patta Dawami Istamrari (permanent) holder.

The contention that as name of the plaintiff's father was recorded from 1359 to 1366 fasli hence it proved ownership/title and it must further be presumed that it was negligence and fault of the lekhpal that the name was not recorded in the subsequent years is extremely shaky as well as risky for the plaintiff. It can also be
very well said that the entry of plaintiff's father's name for 7 years was a fault which was corrected afterwards. It is impossible that father of plaintiff would have remained silent for more than 40 years even though his name was not continuing in the revenue record.

Plaintiff did not file the alleged pata. The sole basis of the claim was entry in the revenue record for 7 years. If the plaintiff is basing his claim only on the entry and insisting that entry must be taken to be correct then absence of entry will also have to be taken as correct. A person who is not recorded in the revenue record for more than 40 years before filing of the suit, can not maintain the suit like the present one in the civil court.

In any case as the entry was discontinued and as apart from the entry no other evidence was brought on record by the plaintiff to establish his title, plaintiff could not assert any claim over gaon sabha land. The fact that the land in dispute was recorded as gaon sabha after 1366 fasli was quite evident from the resumption order. The courts below very conveniently ignored this aspect. If the land in dispute had not been recorded in the revenue record as gaon sabha land there was no question of passing resumption order under Section 117 (6).

The decree passed by the lower appellate court in O.S. no.418 of 1997 is quoted below:

"The appeal is hereby dismissed with costs through out. The judgment and decree of the learned lower court passed in O.S. No.418/97 Lajja Ram Vs. U.P. Avas Vikas Parishad, Ghaziabad is hereby confirmed with the modification that the appellant shall grant equal value land to the plaintiff in lieu of disputed property or the appellants shall grant atleast 12 times (twelve times) of the disputed land to the plaintiff in Sector-8 in lieu of disputed property.

Contempt petition case No.8/99 is hereby allowed and U.P. Avas Vikas Parishad through opposite parties is held guilty of defying the order of the Court by raising multi-storeyed buildings in the disputed land during the appeal. In accordance with the provisions of order 39 Rule 2(A) C.P.C. the property of Avas Vikas Parishad be attached for one year and sold for making compliance of order of the Court. Opposite parties Shri N.C. Pardhan and Shri S.C. Jain are hereby committed and sentenced to civil prison for a period of one month each. Since Avas Vikas Parishad is a local body of U.P. Government and since the opposite parties are the Officers of Avas Vikas Parishad, hence, it is further ordered in the interests of justice that the punishment mentioned above shall not be executed, if Avas Vikas Parishad restore the property in suit in the previous position by demolishing the entire constructions and vacating the land or in the alternative by granting 12(twelve) times of the disputed land in Section-8 within three months from the date of this order. If the property in suit is not vacated as mentioned above or in the alternative, the 12 times land is not granted to the plaintiffs in Sector-8 then the punishment awarded above shall be enforced and in that case, the respondent will be entitled to get the order enforced through court on the expenses of Avas Vikas Parishad. Avas Vikas Parishad is further directed to pay the costs of the contempt proceedings to the applicant/plaintiff".

The manner in which the suit has been decreed and appeal has been dismissed by the lower appellate court is utterly shocking to the judicial conscience. The courts below gifted valuable property of Gaon Sabha to the plaintiff.

The revenue documents which have been filed by the plaintiff disclose horrible state of affairs. In copy of khatauni of 1359 fasli in the main column the property is entered as banjar. At the end it is mentioned that over khasra no.392 there is possession of Raghunath Sahai since three years before through Patta Dawami Istamrari (permanent patta). The hand writing of this entry is quite different from that of the entry in the main column. Thereafter the next document is khatauni of same year with regard to other plots containing similar entry and thereafter there is additional entry that on certain plots the name of Ganpat Rai son of Chiranji Lal who is in possession on the basis of Patta Dawami Istamrari should be entered. In the other khataunis of 1359 fasli similar thing is mentioned in respect of Raghunath Sahai. These entries do not contain the name of the officers or name of the case in which the said order was passed or the date of the same. These remarks column entries are not signed by any one. In another copy there is reference to some order passed by Hakim Elaqa dated 24.4.1955 directing that the name of Raghunath Sahai should be entered as siradar.
The alleged Patta Dawami Istamrari has not been filed. In case there had been any such patta in existence then by virtue of Sections 15 and 17 of U.P.Z.A.&L.R. Act name of plaintiff's father would have been entered in the revenue record immediately as sirdar on Zamindari Abolition. Banjar vests in gaon sabha after Zamindari Abolition and no one can get any right over gaon sabha land unless it was allotted to him by gaon sabha.
The case of the plaintiff that he was paying land revenue is also ridiculous. Plaintiff did not bothere about entry of his name in the revenue record but continued to pay the land revenue. It is impossible. The entry in the khatauni of 1359 fasli to the effect that name of plaintiff's father should be entered is baseless. Invariably whenever such entry is made it is written therein that such thing is to be done as per order of officer concerned and the name of the officer, name of the case and date of decision is mentioned which all are missing from the khatauni of 1359 fasli filed by plaintiff.

Accordingly, it is stark forgery and manipulation. The Provision of presumption is provided under Section 114 of Evidence Act, which contains some illustrations also. The said section along with illustrations (e) & (f) is quoted below:

"114. Court may presume existence of certain facts.- The court may presume the existence of any fact which it thinks likely to have happened, regard being had to the common course of natural events, human conduct and public and private business in their relation to the facts of the particular case.
The Court may presume-

(e)that judicial and official acts have been regularly performed;
(f)that the common course of business has been followed in particular case;"

If the presumption of entry in favour of plaintiff's father for four or seven years is to be presumed then presumption of correctness of discontinuance of entry for 40 years will also have to be drawn.
Life of law has not been logic, it has been experience (O.W. Holmes). This principle applies with greater force on presumptions and human conduct. I have heard and decided hundreds of matters pertaining to agricultural land and my experience is that Gaon Sabha property has been looted by unscrupulous persons on a very large scale by manipulation in the revenue records and forging of orders particularly of consolidation courts. The modus operendi is that a very old entry or copy of order is produced like a rabbit from the hat of a magician and its resumption or recording is sought.

Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No.1132 of 2011, Jagpal Singh and others Vs. State of Punjab, in Para-20 observed as follows:

"20. In Uttar Pradesh the U.P. Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1954 was widely misused to usurp Gram Sabha lands either with connivance of the Consolidation Authorities, or by forging orders purported to have been passed by Consolidation Officers in the long past so that they may not be compared with the original revenue record showing the land as Gram Sabha land, as these revenue records had been weeded out. Similar may have been the practice in other States. The time has now come to review all these orders by which the common village land has been grabbed by such fraudulent practices."


In Dina Nath Vs. State of U.P. 2009 (108) R.D. 321, I held that not making any efforts for getting the name of the petitioner entered in the revenue records on the basis of alleged patta by Gaon Sabha for 29 years proved that no patta was executed. I issued directions to all the Collectors to reopen all such cases where names of private persons were entered in the revenue records over Gaon Sabha land. Matter was carried to the Supreme Court in the form of S.L.P. (Civil) C.C.4398 of 2010 Dina Nath Vs. State. The Supreme Court decided the matter on 29.03.2010 and quoted almost my entire judgment in inverted commas and approved the same.

Accordingly, it is held that whenever a person comes along with the case that Gaon Sabha land was allotted to him or some order was passed by any Court in his favour declaring his right over Gaon Sabha land or some revenue entry was in his favour long before but during last several years his name is not recorded in the revenue records then an irrebuttable presumption amounting to almost conclusive proof must be drawn to the effect that allotment order or entry is forged.

Accordingly, substantial questions of law numbers 3,4,5 and 6 are decided in favour of the appellants and against the respondents. Both the Second Appeals are allowed with exemplary cost of Rs.5 lacs in Second Appeal No.1444 of 2000 and Rs.1 lac in Second Appeal No.1445 of 2000. Decrees passed by the Court below are set aside and both the suits are dismissed. It is further directed that a First Information Report shall immediately be lodged against the plaintiffs for malicious prosecution and manipulation in the official records.

Severe stricture is passed against the Judge of the trial court as well as of lower appellate court for passing extremely illegal and unjust judgments and decrees. A copy of this judgment shall be placed in their service records and be also sent to Hon'ble the chief Justice to consider as to whether disciplinary proceedings are warranted against them.

Epilogue:-

During arguments in these appeals learned counsel for the appellant stated that Sri Moti Goel son of Lajja Ram plaintiff in one of the suits who also appeared as witness in the said suit had usurped various Gaon Sabha properties of District Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar. Accordingly, it appears to be a fit case where a public interest litigation (P.I.L.) should be registered and Collectors of both these Districts should be directed to submit the reports regarding those cases where similar things happened and Gaon Sabha properties were usurped by unscrupulous persons and those cases where properties had been acquired/ resumed, these persons managed to get the compensation.

Accordingly, office is directed to place copy of this judgment before the Bench hearing Public Interest Litigation matters.

Order Date :- 1.3.2012
vkg

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Periphery properties: Punjab fails to get immediate relief from Supreme Court


RAGHAV OHRI : Chandigarh, Sat Aug 25 2012, 01:31 hrs

Desperate for a stay on the order passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court on setting up a Judicial Tribunal to probe the alleged illegal properties owned by high ups, the Punjab government failed to get any immediate relief from the Supreme Court. 
 
A senior lawyer, arguing on behalf of the Punjab government requested a division bench of the Apex Court to stay the operation of the High Court order as the said order has made Punjab’s revenue and civil courts defunct. However, the Bench refused to grant stay or any immediate relief today. Putting queries, the Supreme Court today asked the Punjab government to return with response next week. 
 
The Apex Court pointed out to a deficiency in an affidavit filed by the Punjab government in its special leave petition (SLP). The Bench objected to the affidavit filed by the Financial Commissioner, Revenue. The Bench observed that the affidavit, to support the SLP, should have been by the Principal Secretary to Punjab government. 
 
Counsel for Punjab government requested the Bench to grant stay as an interim relief till the next date of hearing. The Bench however declined the request. In its SLP, the Punjab government has taken the plea that after the High Court’s order of setting up a Judicial Tribunal, its (Punjab) Revenue and Civil Courts have virtually become defunct. 
 
The Punjab government has further stated that the High Court order has adversely affected the transfer of common land in the State. So much so that some of the government projects have also been affected, the State has submitted in its SLP. 
 
The State has further stated that statutory bodies, like the Revenue Commissioners, have stopped entertaining cases and appeals pending before them after the High Court’s order. Punjab has further submitted that the High Court’s order, has put complete stay on registration of sale deeds regarding shamlat deh land. 
 
As an immediate relief, the Punjab government had demanded that the High Court’s order should be stayed immediately so that the Revenue Court and Civil Courts can adjudicate disputes pertaining transfer/ sale and alienation of common land. 
 
On May 30, a division bench of the High Court had set up a Judicial Tribunal today to find out the alleged illegal properties owned by high-ups in the city’s periphery and other parts of Punjab. In an embarrassment to the Punjab government which had been investigating the case for the past five years, the High Court had expanded the scope of investigation from city’s periphery to other districts in Punjab where village/ common land has been grabbed or sold by high-ups/ private persons. 
 
Significantly, the High Court had also included jumla mushtarkan malkhan land other than shamlat / forest/ nazool land which were already under the HC scanner. In 2007 the Court had directed the Punjab government to conduct an investigation and submit a report. Even after conducting the probe and submitting several status reports, the High court had observed, no “tangible progress” was shown and no “tangible” action was taken against the culprits.



© 2012 The Indian Express Limited. All rights reserved

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Water bodies disappearing fast in rural areas


Smriti Kak Ramachandran
NEW DELHI, August 26, 2012


In Panipat’s Dadlana village in Haryana, a water body has shrunk to half its size as the other half has been converted into a 50-bed hospital. In nearby Sonepat district, Khewra village has converted an existing water body into a toilet block that incidentally remains unused.


Even as the focus is on fast disappearance of water bodies from the urban landscapes, water conservationists have sounded an alarm about the vanishing water bodies in the rural areas. What was considered an urban phenomenon -- grabbing water body land for other uses -- is now being reported from rural areas where activists allege the violations are being carried out by government agencies as well. 
 
“During our surveys in the villages of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh we found a lot of water bodies that were manmade have been encroached upon by the Government itself. They have drained out the water and converted the land into a plot for schools, dispensaries, and other construction activities,” says Manoj Misra of non-government organisation Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan. 
 
Pollution, neglect and indifference, alleges Mr. Misra, are the reason why no attempts have been made to restore the water bodies that are not just a source of water, but also sustain bio-diversity and help in ground water recharge. In some villages surveyed by the YJA, some of the water bodies that have not been encroached are filled to the brim with refuse, plastics and construction debris.

“In 2011, a Supreme Court Bench of Justice Makandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra in what is commonly known as the Jagpal Singh Case, given a very clear direction to all the State Governments in the country that they should prepare schemes for eviction of illegal, unauthorised occupants of Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayat, Poramboke, Shamlat land and these must be restored to the Gram Sabha, Gram Panchayat for the common use of the village, but we are yet to see an effective laws being framed or steps taken to implement the judgment,” Mr. Misra says. 
 
The YJA has already shot off a letter to Union Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh to issue directions for protection, preservation and restoration of water bodies in the rural areas. “We are aware that to find effective statutory solution, it is the Rural Development Ministry that can step in and ensure the implementation of the Supreme Court directions. The Wetland Rules from 2010 of the Ministry of Environment & Forests are of little help to such water bodies, therefore, to prevent such deleterious tendencies on the part of local vested interests, it is for the Rural Development Ministry to take action and monitor the implementation status of this judgment in the interest of the security of village common lands including village water bodies,” says Mr. Misra.

“Under MNREGA scheme large a number of new water bodies are being encouraged but what is happening to the earlier water bodies seems to be of little concern to most,” Mr. Misra adds.


Copyright © 2012, The Hindu


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sabarkantha village fights for its pastures


Parimal Dabhi : Hadiyol, Sabarkantha, Tue Aug 28 2012, 06:10 hrs

Villagers of Hadiyol near Himmatnagar in Sabarkantha district are up in arms against the state government for taking back 27 acres of land from the village panchayat to set up a medical college.
 
The district revenue department had given this gauchar (pastoral) land to the panchayat in 1983-84 for residential purpose for Hadiyol, a village of around 5,000 population. It had made 480 plots on it to construct homes for villagers on demand. In 2007, 32 dalit families applied for plots and were allocated the same with a condition that they have to complete building within two years. 
 
However, in December last year, the government took back the entire piece of land for breaching these conditions. The same land was subsequently allotted for the construction of a government medical college. 
 
This decision did not go down well with the villagers who have been ardent supporters of the ruling BJP. They are now protesting against the move and the person leading them is the sarpanch and a BJP member, Ketan Patel. 
 
I am very disappointed with the government for taking back the land without any notice... I am a BJP member, but I will fight this matter out in the interest of villagers,” Patel said. “We do not have enough pastoral land in the village and now we want to get the land – excluding the 32 plots allotted to dalits — converted back into gauchar land,” he added. 
 
The villagers have submitted a memorandum to the district collector and are contemplating various ways to deal with any move to start work for the proposed college. 
 
The lot of 32 dalits who have been allotted plots is more vociferous in their protest. “We were given the land in 2007. And some of us have done significant construction while spending personal money on getting the plots surveyed and clearing the shrubs. And now, the government is taking back the land. People like me have invested their entire life’s earning for house on these plots,” said Narandas Pandya, a dalit allottee. 
 
The government has given two reasons for taking back the land. For the 32 plots given to dalits, it said the condition to build homes in two years was violated. The remaining land has been taken under Government Management as the land was given under the condition that the government could take back the land, if unallotted, at any point of time, for any purpose. 
 
Some villagers have challenged the Revenue Department’s order to taken their plots under government management at the appellate level. And the concerned appellate authority has stayed the said order. 
 
Resident Additional Collector M J Thakkar said, “The Gram Panchayat was given the land in 1983-84 and for around 27 years, they did nothing with the land. And now, when the land is allotted for the medical college, people are objecting.” 
 
Minister of state for home Praful Patel, who represents this part of Sabarkantha as MLA, said, “I have definite information that Congress is motivating public protest in the village. However, I am not convinced that a BJP member who is a sarpanch of the village is leading the protest. I know him very well.”

© 2012 The Indian Express Limited. All rights reserved

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ramesh Kumar And Others vs State Of Haryana And Others on 23 August, 2011


IN THE HIGH COURT OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA AT CHANDIGARH. LPA No. 1144 of 2011 (O&M)
Date of Decision: August 23, 2011
Ramesh Kumar and others ...Appellants
Versus
State of Haryana and others ...Respondents

CORAM: HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE M.M. KUMAR JUSTICE
HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE GURDEV SINGH

Present: Mr. Mahavir Sandhu, Advocate, for the appellants.
Mr. Aman Chaudhary, Addl. AG, Haryana, for respondent Nos. 1 to 3.
Mr. Satish Chaudhary, Advocate, for respondent No. 4.


1. To be referred to the Reporters or not?
2. Whether the judgment should be reported in the Digest? M.M. KUMAR, J.



1. The instant appeal under Clause X of the Letters Patent is directed against an interlocutory/interim order dated 2.6.2011 passed by the learned Single Judge. The writ petition, namely, CWP No. 1343 of 2011, has been admitted but the interim orders staying utilisation of land for allotment of 100 Sq. Yards plots was vacated. The controversy raised in the instant appeal is whether the land in question could be regarded as shamilat deh within the meaning of Section 2(g) of the Punjab Village Common Land (Regulation) Act, 1961 (as applicable to the State of Haryana) [for brevity, 'the Act']. LPA No. 1144 of 2011 (O&M) 2


2. Mr. Mahavir Sandhu, learned counsel for the appellants has placed on record additional documents (Annexures A-1 to A-4) and have asserted that the land cannot be regarded as shamilat deh because it is not being used for village common purposes. According to the learned counsel the land is mutated in the name of individual Patti Holders, some of whom are the appellants. He has drawn our pointed attention to the revenue record in the form of Khasra Girdawaries (A-1) pertaining to the period 16.10.2007 to 15.3.2011; Mutation Hadbast No. 298, Tehsil Jagadhri, District Yamuna Nagar (A-2, A-3 and A-4). He has also cited the provisions of the Act to argue that until and unless a piece of land is used for village common purposes, it would be excluded from the definition of shamilat deh.


3. Mr. Aman Chaudhary, learned Additional Advocate General, Haryana, has, however, pointed out that the writ petition has been admitted and no written statement could be filed before the learned Single Judge. He has, however, placed reliance on the Division Bench judgment of this Court rendered in the case of Gurmukh.
Gurmukh Singh and another v. State of Haryana and others (LPA No. 1322 of 2009, decided on 8.1.2010) as also judgment of Hon'ble the Supreme Court rendered in the case of Jagpal Singh and others v. others, 1123.
State of Punjab and others, AIR 2011 SC 1123



4. In view of the above, we direct the respondent State of Haryana to file reply to the writ petition within a period of four weeks and place on record all the relevant revenue record to enable the Court to decide whether the land in question could be regarded as shamilat deh or not. The stay matter is relegated back LPA No. 1144 of 2011 (O&M) 3 to the learned Single Judge to decide afresh after taking into consideration the documents which may be brought before the learned Single Judge by way of replication by the appellants. The parties shall maintain status quo as it exists today.


5. The appeal stands disposed of. (M.M. KUMAR)

JUDGE (GURDEV SINGH)
SINGH)
23, 201
August 23, 2011 JUDGE P. Kapoor

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pushpendra Singh And Ors vs L.G. Of Delhi & Ors on 28 March, 2012


HIGH COURT OF DELHI: NEW DELHI

Reserved on: March 20, 2012
Pronounced on: March 28, 2012
W.P. (C) No.2525/2003

PUSHPENDRA SINGH AND ORS ... Petitioners Through: Mr.Shahzad Khan,Advocate

Mr. Mukesh Kumar Verma, Advocate for Petitioner No.16 & 19.
versus
L.G. of Delhi & Ors. ... Respondents Through: Mr.Ashutosh Shahi and Ms.Sonia Arora, Advocates.
CORAM: HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE SUNIL GAUR

ORDER
28.03.2012

1. Vide Notification of 2nd April 1996, (Annexure P-1), issued by the Revenue Department of Government of NCT of Delhi by invoking Section 154 of the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, the uncultivated land of Gaon Sabha (specified in column III and Annexure 'A' to 'N' annexed to Notification, situated in Southern Ridge in respect of Villages mentioned in Column 'II' of table appended to the Notification as surplus land and excluded the same from vesting in Gaon Sabha) was placed at the disposal of Forest Department of Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi.

2. A corrigendum in the aforesaid Notification is sought by the petitioners to exclude Khasra  No.435 situated within the Revenue Estate W.P. (C) No.2525/2003 Page 1 of Village Neb Sarai, Tehsil Mehrauli, New Delhi by way of this writ petition.

3. It is asserted in this petition that the predecessor of petitioners were allotted residential plots of land under Government's 20-Point Program in Khasra No.435 of Village Neb Sarai, Tehsil Mehrauli, New Delhi being landless villagers and they had raised pucca construction over the said land in the year 1974-75 and the petitioners have been in continuous and uninterrupted possession of their houses on the land in question and petitioners further asserted that they have been provided Ration Card, Election Identity Cards, Electricity, water and telephone connections at the residential addresses of the petitioners on the land in question. Petitioners expressed ignorance about the aforesaid Notification (Annexure P-1) and it was in January 2003, they claim to have learnt about it, when representative of the respondents had visited the site in question and had threatened to demolish the houses of the petitioners. This had led to filing of the present writ petition.

4. The stand taken by the respondents in the counter affidavit is that the petitioners are in illegal occupation of the land in question as they have no title documents in their favour to establish their claim upon the land in question and in compliance of the orders of 25th January, 1996 and 13th March, 1996 of the Apex Court in W.P.(C) No. 4677/1985, titled as M.C.Mehta vs. Union of India and Ors., vide impugned Notification, the land in question has been transferred to the Forest Department. It is specifically denied by the respondents that the land in question was ever allotted to petitioners under Government's 20-Point Program as claimed by them.

5. In the rejoinder filed by the Petitioners, the stand taken is that W.P. (C) No.2525/2003 Page 2 even if the Petitioners have illegally occupied the land in question, there is specific provision under the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, for eviction of such occupants and the reliance placed by the respondents upon the decision of the Apex Court in M.C.Mehta (supra) is misplaced as the subject land in view of the revenue record, i.e. Khasra Girdawari of the year 2001-2002, (Annexure P-9) indicates existence of gair mumkin chaar diwari, kamre, and johar and the photographs (Annexure P-8 & Annexure P-11) indicates the existence of old constructions at the spot.

6. It is pertinent to note that Petitioner No.16 and 19 with their C.M.No. 2019/2012 under Section 151 of CPC have placed on record copy of Representation (Annexure G) made by them in February, 2012 to first Respondent and copies of the applications filed by them under the Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 seeking Bhumidari rights on the land under their occupation and copies of the orders (Annexure B to Annexure F) to highlight that where proceedings under Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 were initiated by the land owners, protection against forceful eviction of such occupants from the said land has been granted by different Benches of this Court.

7. Upon hearing learned counsel for the parties and on perusal of the material on record and the decisions in Prataprai N.Kothari vs. John Braganza, IV(1999)SLT 351; Jagpal Singh & Ors. vs. State of Punjab & Ors., 2011(2)SCALE 42; W.P.(C) No.4687/2010 titled as Bhagat Singh & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Anr, rendered on 16th July, 2010; LPA No.267/2011, titled as Shree Hazur Baba Sadhu Singh Ji Maharaj Trust vs. Union of India & Ors., rendered on 11th November, 2011, as well as orders passed in W.P.(C) No. 11919/2009 titled as Smt.

W.P. (C) No.2525/2003 Page 3 Bhateri & Ors. Vs. The Deputy Commissioner (South) & Ors, rendered on 24th September, 2009; W.P.(C) No. 11901/2009 Hukan Chand & Ors. Vs. Dy.Commissioner (South) & ors., rendered on 17th November, 2009; W.P.(C) No. 5600/2008 titled as Jai Bhagwan & Anr. Vs. Govt. of NCT of Delhi & Anr., rendered on 18th August, 2010; W.P.(C) No. 4065/2011 Dr.Devendra Kumar vs. MCD & Anr., rendered on 3rd June, 2011; and W.P.(C) No. 4902/2011 Surender Singh and Anr. Vs. Govt. of NCT of Delhi & Ors., rendered on 20th July, 2011, what emerges is that the assertion of the petitioners that their occupation upon the subject land is legal in the capacity of being allottees of the subject land under the Governments 20 Point Programme remains unsubstantiated as there is no document on record indicating that the petitioners are allottees of the subject land under Governments 20 Point Programme. In view of the denial by the respondents of petitioners being allottees of the subject land under the Governments 20 Point Programme, it was incumbent upon the petitioners to place on record documentary proof to substantiate their claim of being allottees of the subject land under the Governments 20 Point Programme. Even the Representation (Annexure P-10), does not indicate that any proof of petitioners being allottee of the subject land under the Governments 20 Point Programme was filed alongwith the said Representation. Similar is the position in respect of the belated Representation of February, 2012 (Annexure G) by petitioner No.16 & 19, and the revenue record i.e. Khasra Girdawari of the year 2001-2002 (Annexure P-9) relied upon by the petitioners indicates the ownership of the subject land being that of Gram Sabha and it does not establish the possession of the petitioners on the subject land.

8. After having deliberated upon the submissions advanced in the W.P. (C) No.2525/2003 Page 4 light of the decisions cited, this Court is of the considered view that once the subject land has been declared surplus and has been excluded from vesting in the Gaon Sabha, vide impugned Notification (Annexure P-1), resort to proceeding under Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954 cannot be made. So far as reliance placed upon orders (Annexure B to Annexure F) is concerned, it would suffice to say that the impugned Notification (Annexure P-1) does not appear to be the subject matter of the said orders.

9. In the aforesaid view of the matter, it would be pointless to now call upon the respondents to decide petitioners representations (Annexure P-10 and Annexure G) as the stand of the respondents on merits already stands disclosed in their counter affidavit. Last minute effort of petitioners No.16 & 19 to retain their possession on the subject land by belatedly filing application under Section 74 of Delhi Land Reforms Act, 1954, as late as in January, 2012 is misconceived as in the face of Notification (Annexure P-1), the subject land stands excluded from vesting in the Gaon Sabha and has been already placed at the disposal of the Forest Department in the year 1996 and challenge to it by the petitioners in the year 2003 on the plea that they had no knowledge about the impugned Notification is hardly valid.

10. The documentary proof, i.e., Voter Identity Cards, Ration Cards, allotment of house numbers by MCD to the Petitioners' houses, (Annexure P-2 to Annexure P-6), relied upon by the petitioners, does not indicate their possession upon the subject land. Otherwise also, Apex Court in Jagpal Singh & Ors. vs. State of Punjab & Ors., 2011(2)SCALE 42, has reiterated that long duration of illegal occupation on the Gram Panchayats land or huge expenditure in making W.P. (C) No.2525/2003 Page 5 construction thereon must not be treated as justification for condoning/regularization of the illegal occupation thereon.

11. In a somewhat similar matter, the Division Bench of this Court in W.P.(C) No. 4687/2010 titled as Bhagat Singh & Ors. Vs. Union of India & Anr, rendered on 16th July, 2010, has dealt with the quashing of the Notification (Annexure P-1) in question, and upon finding the petitioners therein to be encroachers on the Government land, had refused to quash the Notification in question while noting as under:- "It is thus apparent to us from the aforesaid Notification that it is in pursuance to the orders of the Hon'ble Supreme Court that uncultivated surplus land falling in the „Ridge area was declared as surplus and excluded from vesting in the Gaon Sabha being placed at the disposal of the Forest Department."

12. A Division Bench of this Court in LPA No.267/2011, titled as Shree Hazur Baba Sadhu Singh Ji Maharaj Trust vs. Union of India & Ors., rendered on 11th November, 2011, had noted that the land of Village Neb Sarai in question, vide the Notification (Annexure P-1) in question had placed the waste land of the Gaon Sabha at the disposal of the Forest Department to be maintained as Forest area pursuant to the directions issued by the Apex Court in W.P.(C) No. 4677/1985, titled as M.C.Mehta vs. Union of India and Ors., and had repelled the claim of the occupants of the said land for regularization while holding as under:- "Thus, in addition to the reasons given by the learned Single Judge, in law, for the reasons aforenoted, the appellants would have no case pertaining to the lands comprised in Khasra Nos.16, 18, 24, 26, 27, 39, 40, 41 and W.P. (C) No.2525/2003 Page 6 142 Village Neb Sarai which have rightly been declared as waste lands, vested in the gaon sabha and being common pasture/forest lands in the past have been declared as reserved forest pursuant to directions issued by the Supreme Court."

13. In the light of the afore-noted authoritative pronouncements of the Apex Court and Division Bench of this Court, and in view of the fact that the status of the petitioners upon the subject land remains unauthorized, there is no justification whatsoever to exclude the subject land from the operation of the Notification (Annexure P-1).

14. Consequently, finding no merit in this petition, I dismiss it with no orders as to costs.

(SUNIL GAUR)
JUDGE
March 28, 2012
pkb
W.P. (C) No.2525/2003 Page 7

http://www.indiankanoon.org/doc/15978348/ 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Set aside land for plantation: HC


TNN | Aug 21, 2012, 01.19AM IST

HYDERABAD: Stressing on the need to protect the common property resources of villages, justice L Narasimha Reddy of the high court has directed the district collector of Chittoor to instruct tehsildars to earmark 1% of the total land in a village or 10 acres of land for grazing and plantation purposes.

The court also asked the principal secretary, revenue, to consider the feasibility of implementing this directive across the state. The judge passed this order after hearing a writ plea filed by Ch Veeraiah of Chittoor district who urged the court to safeguard 11 acres of public land that was being used as a common property resource (CPR) in Chenakavaripalle village of Sodum mandal.

The judge directed the authorities against alienating public land to any party and asked them to put in place protective measures around the land. The authorities were directed to file their replies within four weeks.

The High Court order has been attached below.



http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-08-21/hyderabad/33302425_1_public-land-writ-plea-plantation

Copyright © 2012 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Our revenue, civil Courts are defunct: Punjab govt


Raghav Ohri : Chandigarh,
Wed Aug 22 2012

Periphery properties: Punjab moves Supreme Court against High Court order, says no transfer of common land is taking place

Stating that the revenue and civil Courts in the State have become virtually defunct after the Punjab and Haryana High Court set up a Judicial tribunal to probe properties allegedly owned by high-ups in the city’s periphery and in the State, the Punjab government has moved the Supreme Court. In a detailed special leave petition (SLP), the Punjab government has stated that the said order of the High Court has adversely affected the transfer of common land in the State. So much so that some government projects have also been affected, the State has submitted in its SLP.

The State has further stated that statutory bodies like the Revenue Commissioners have stopped entertaining cases and appeals pending before them after the High Court’s order. Punjab has further submitted that the High Court’s order has put complete stay on registration of sale deeds regarding shamlat deh land. The SLP, which is likely to come up for hearing before the apex Court later this week, demands quashing of the HC order passed on May 25.

As an immediate relief, the Punjab government has demanded that the High Court’s order should be stayed immediately so that the Revenue Court and Civil Courts can adjudicate disputes pertaining transfer/sale and alienation of common land. It might be mentioned here that the SLP was filed by Punjab in the Supreme Court last Friday but could not come up for hearing since the government had made Financial Commissioner Revenue (FCR) as the petitioner. Objecting to FCR being made the petitioner, the Supreme Court had asked Punjab to change the petitioner.

Further, the State has submitted that after five years of investigation, a senior Punjab Police official has already submitted his report with regard to land illegally occupied by various high ups and that there is no requirement for setting up a Judicial tribunal. Punjab has added that the setting up of a Judicial Tribunal by the High Court was beyond the scope of the petition filed before it.

Meanwhile, as directed by the High Court, the Punjab government has issued a notification providing premises to the Judicial TRibunal headed by Justice (retd) Kuldip Singh. The Tribunal will function from a building in Sector 17. The Tribunal has also been given staff to begin its probe. Though the State was given two weeks time, on May 30, to provide infrastructure, the Punjab government had not done so for over three months. An application was then filed in the High Court, a fortnight back, demanding contempt proceedings against Punjab for not complying with Court directions.

A notification providing infrastructure was passed today by the State government. Also, an application was filed by litigants whose cases are pending before Revenue Commissioners. The litigants sought clarification on the orders passed by the High Court. The litigants have submitted that the Revenue Commissioners and other statutory bodies are not entertaining the property dispute cases pertaining to common village land after the High Court directions. The High Court has issued notices to Punjab asking it to respond by within two weeks.

http://www.indianexpress.com/news/our-revenue-civil-courts-are-defunct-punjab-govt/991267/0

Land grabbers eye water body; admin unmoved


Kathua, Aug 5: A historical water body is at the very of extinction in this township as the land gabbers are openly encroaching the public property that too under the very noose of the local administration.

Locals said that if the encroachment remains unchecked, the water body (a pond) in Taraf Tajwal village will soon disappear. Situated in the township the part of the water body has already been encroached and some residential buildings have also come up during the last few years.

The water body in the shape of a pond covers an area of around seven kanals and comprised under Khasra No 300 of village Taraf Tajwal in Ward Number 11. On the northern side of the pond, there is a road which connects Ward Number 10 with 11, while. On the eastern and western side of the pound the encroachments are physically visible. The encroachers have either construction residential houses or converted the public land into their private fields.

He said that some years back during rainy season huge amount of water converged into pond and started overflowing into nearby houses of locality. “On the demand of locals a drain was constructed on southern side of the pond which restricted the water flow. This created dry portion of land near the pound giving an opportunity to some musclemen to encroach upon the public property”, another local resident alleged.

He further said that around half a dozen new houses including a two storey building has been constructed on west side of the pond illegally, with active connivance of revenue officials.

“The land grabbers have strong political links and are also hand in glove with revenue officials due to which no action has been taken against their nefarious designs to encroach water bodies”, a senior citizen of the area said.
He further alleged that the district administration was apprised about the matter but no action was taken.


When contacted Assistant Commissioner (Revenue) Kathua, Puneet Sharma however assured that the matter would be looked into and if any encroachment was found on the water body same will be removed.


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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Will Jagpal be another Godavarman?


By Ritwick Dutta
24 Dec 2011
Unlike the Supreme Court order on forest in T. N. Godavarman Thirumulpad Vs Union of India case, the order with respect to common land in Jagpal Singh Vs Union of India is largely unknown and hardly any initiative has been taken by concerned groups including NGOs.

n 1996, the Supreme Court passed a landmark order on forest: expanding the definition of forest from areas declared as forest in government records to an all encompassing term which includes all areas which satisfy the dictionary meaning of forest. The court directed that in all areas which are forests, irrespective of ownership and classification, no forest land can be diverted for ‘non forest purposes’ without the prior approval of the central government.

The case titled as T. N. Godavarman Thirumulpad Vs Union of India triggered series of action across the country. The forest departments got a new lease of life, as well as added responsibility. However, what was significant was the role of NGOs, concerned individuals in using the Godavarman judgment in protecting areas of vital ecological importance. Thus, a retired Range officer fought and succeeded in stopping the Kudremukh Iron ore Company from destroying the Western Ghats, while NGOs in Mumbai succeeded in sending the Forest Minister and additional Chief Secretary to Jail for one month for allowing saw mills to operate in violation of law. Even after a decade and a half the Godavarman case continues to be heard on a weekly basis by the Supreme Court and continues to spring surprise: the action against mining in Bellary by the ‘Reddy Brothers’ is the most recent court’s action.

The Supreme Court directed for speedy eviction of all encroachments and stated that long years of occupation and investments made should not be the reason for regularization of encroachment of common land.


In January 2011, the Supreme Court passed an order which had the potential to be as important (if not more) than the Godavarman judgment. This relates to the Supreme Court’ judgment in Jagpal Singh Vs Union of India where the Supreme Court observed the need to protect ‘common lands’ across the country, whether in the form of ponds, grazing grounds, Ramlila grounds, graveyards etc.

mmon use by the village community at large and could not be used for commercial purposes, but unfortunately, a combination of ‘muscle power, political power and money power’ has led to the usurpation of this common land by private vested interests. The Court directed for speedy eviction of all encroachments and stated that long years of occupation and investments made should not be the reason for regularization of encroachment of common land. In view of the importance of the issue, the Supreme Court following the Godavarman model decided to monitor the implementation of the order.

It is surprising that unlike the Supreme Court order on Forest, the order with respect to common land is largely unknown and very limited initiative has been taken by concerned groups including NGOs (barring few), in ensuring that the order is implemented in letter and spirit. Jagpal Singh’s judgement offers immense scope in protecting not only the common land, but also the lives and livelihood of people who depend on common land. Over the last few years, some of the most intense environmental struggles have been over common lands. The struggle to save the wetlands of Naupada and Sompeta in Andhra Pradesh from the thermal power plants, to protection of riverine islands in Assam from the dams in Arunachal Pradesh have all centred on the need to protect the common lands. Unfortunately, in most of the battles, the local communities have been unaware of the ruling of the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s order on Common Land in Jagpal Singh’s case has as much, if not much wider scope than its orders on Forest Conservation. However, it is for communities and Civil Society Organisations to work together to get it implemented, since neither the State nor the Corporate sector can be expected to be its champion.

Only time will tell whether Jagpal judgment turns into another Godavarman! Now it’s up to Civil Society how it grabs the opportunity to make it into another historic judgment and expands its implementation and impact. Little initiatives can save our precious common lands.

© Copyright 2009, All rights reserved with d-sector

Monday, August 13, 2012

Haryana orders removal of encroachments on village common land

PTI | 08:08 PM,Aug 03,2012


Chandigarh, Aug 3 (PTI) Haryana government today asked all Deputy Commissioners in the state to ensure that village common lands were freed of encroachment. In a written communication, Chief Secretary P K Chaudhery said the common lands were reserved or earmarked for other common purposes, vested in Gram Panchayats, as per the provisions of the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulations) Act,1961. He said in some villages, lands reserved for such purposes have been or were being encroached upon. Such lands are meant for use of inhabitants of the village and should not be allowed to be encroached upon by any person or group, he said.



http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/haryana-orders-removal-of-encroachments-on-village-common-land/1035240.html 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Disputes over common village land between Jats and Dalits build up tension in a Haryana village


T.K. RAJALAKSHMI
in Hisar
FRONTLINE: Volume 29 - Issue 12 :: Jun. 16-29, 2012

A playground, a public space and redistribution of common village land. These are the three elements in a dispute that has driven a wedge between the landless and the landed communities in Bhagana village in Haryana's Hisar district. When this report was written, on June 4, some 125 Dalit and Backward Caste families, including women and children, had been squatting on the premises of the district secretariat at Hisar for some 10 days, braving the sweltering heat. Some of them had their livestock with them. They claimed that they felt unsafe in their homes at the village. It is a peaceful protest, and the administration does not deny it. “They have a right to protest,” says Deputy Commissioner Amit Kumar Aggarwal, who is also a qualified doctor.
The dispute in Bhagana began in 2011 when the gram sabha of the village panchayat decided to distribute 280 acres (one acre is 0.4 hectare) of land in and around the village, including the common village land called Shamlat land, among the residents. The move, according to informed sources, was in response to the Haryana government's announcement that 100 square yards of land would be allotted to every BPL (below poverty line) family. But that announcement had been made before the Congress returned to power for a second term. No State government initiative on distributing land in Bhagana village, however, materialised, and the gram panchayat decided to take matters into its own hands last year.
The common village land was distributed in proportion to the land that the residents already owned. This meant that the Dalit families, which were mostly landless, ended up with less than 100 square yards each. They were also asked to deposit Rs.1,000 as registration fee. Karamveer, a Dalit youngster studying for a bachelor's degree in business administration, said: “We gave it willingly but learnt later that there was no registration fee for BPL families.” The dominant caste group in the village, most of its members belonging to one family, managed to corner most of the redistributed land. Karamveer's father was a daily wage worker, and the young man, too, works on farms.
In February this year, the socially and numerically dominant Jat community in the village decided to lay claim to a playground that the Dalits had used for years. On February 23, the Jats uprooted the trees that the Dalits had planted around it and levelled the seating arrangements they had installed. The Jats claimed that the playground was also part of the common village land. The Dalits felt otherwise. “Our children used to play football here. They were trained by some of our youth. The adjoining area was greened and there were seating arrangements, too, for spectators. We used to hold sports events regularly for the children,” said Karamveer.
When the Dalits made a representation to the government, the Jats were angry and allegedly ordered a social and economic boycott of them. A Dalit resident said: “The shopkeeper in the village was told not to sell to us; the common village pond was denied to our buffaloes.” The Dalits also alleged that despite the administration providing security (a posse of policemen have been posted at Bhagana), a young man called Shamsher was beaten up only because he dared to ask for the wages for the work he had done.
The dominant community is in no mood to relent. “We told them that their children can play in the stadium of the school. Why should they have a separate playground? Yes, we divided the Shamlat land and gave the poor families 100 square yards each. We decided that those who owned one acre of land would get 60 square yards from the Shamlat land. We wanted to divide the playground land as well. That they did not allow,” said a member of the Jat community.
The Jats contend that their population has grown and land is scarce, but “those people”, meaning the Dalits, keep on getting land. “They wanted to make an Ambedkar Chowk in the middle of the village. Today they are making a chowk. Tomorrow they will sit on our lands,” said Raja Choudhary. The Jats of Bhagana vehemently deny that they engineered a social boycott of the Dalits.
Another bone of contention is a 250-square-yard piece of land in the middle of the village. The Dalits and some members of Backward Castes went to court under the banner of the Ambedkar Welfare Samiti claiming that the land was theirs as they had been using it. The gram sabha won the case in the court after the land records were dug up. As per the land records, it was called Ahlaan Paana Chowk. Immediately afterwards, the Jat-dominated gram sabha built a wall around the piece of land and put up a sign that announced Ahlaan Paana Chowk. The wall sealed off entries to at least two Dalit homes. This happened in mid-April.
A Dalit youth from the village said, “The common land in the middle of the village can belong to anyone. How can a six-foot wall be constructed, preventing access?” Suresh, whose home has been affected, said: “There is a narrow passage of three feet now for me, my livestock and my family to enter. Is this justice? We do not have a separate shed for our buffaloes. We share a common roof with our animals.”
The conflict is not the only one of its kind. It is just one of the many disputes that have characterised the State over the past decade. In Khanpur village in the same district, when an agricultural labourer asked for his wages, his buffaloes were taken away forcibly by the landlord. He and his wife managed to appeal to the Deputy Commissioner with help from the All India Agricultural Workers' Union. The district administration intervened and ordered an inquiry.
But there are many others who do not reach the office of the district administration and therefore cannot hope for redress. At the time of the last harvest, in Kheri Locham village in the district, women agricultural workers refused to work after some people misbehaved with them. It is alleged that tractors were driven over their legs in retaliation. Such incidents are viewed as isolated ones and therefore not given much importance. A year ago, not far from Bhagana, at Mirchpur village, Dalit homes were torched and two people, an old man and a disabled girl. The agitation that followed dragged on for more than a year.
Bhagana is located not very far from the epicentre of the recent agitation by Jats demanding reservation in the Other Backward Classes category. With the administration preoccupied with how to contain the reservation movement, which is expected to erupt again in September, it is not surprising that conflicts like the one in Bhagana are not taken seriously. But the mood for a confrontation is slowly building up.
Omwati, 69, who finds it difficult to join the protest in Hisar because of her age, says that the number of such conflicts has gone up in the last 10 years. Another Dalit villager, Dilbagh Singh Khokhar, said: “Tensions have gone up as we have prospered. Some of our young people are employed in the government. We wear good clothes and so we have to hear all kinds of insults. ‘ Ke paa gaya hai Dedh [what has he achieved]' ‘ Dedh chamal raha hai [the Dedh is glowing a lot]' or ‘ Dhedhan ki chadh gayi' [it has gone to the Dedh's head] are some of the insults we hear regularly.” . ‘Dedh' is a commonly used derogatory term for Dalits in the State.
Ram Avtar, president of the State chapter of the All India Agricultural Workers Union, also spoke of how things had changed. Earlier, he said, Dalits often worked for the Jats without wages: they chopped wood, ground wheat, fed livestock and even made shoes. Sometimes, they got buttermilk for clearing dung. “These days, they misbehave with Dalit women if they refuse to do work for free. If Dalits protest, they refuse them work, saying that they do not do it properly,” he said.
The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) initiated changes in the economic and social equations in villages. Though much of the work under the scheme was cornered by unscrupulous sarpanches for their cronies and members of their own castes, and though muster rolls were often fraudulently prepared and payment was irregular, Dalits and members of the Backward Castes did get employment under this scheme.
An inquiry into fraudulent muster rolls in Mujadpur village had implicated the sarpanch and her family members. “Earlier, Dalits used to work day and night and get paid Rs.2,000 for the entire year. Now, with the NREGA, things have changed and they do not do that kind of work anymore. And as it is voluntary and for a specific number of hours, they feel more free,” said Dilbagh Singh, who had taken up the NREGA fraud case. But in Bhagana, for the last one and a half years, there has been no NREGA work. The Deputy Commissioner has promised to start such work very soon.
The atmosphere in Dalit and Backward Caste families in Bhagana is despondent. “I was just born in a wrong family,” rues Omwati. She said that earlier for every seven or eight bundles of grass she prepared she would get one free. “I don't do that work anymore,” she said. The Dalits fail to understand why the administration is so helpless in giving them a fair deal.
The Jats of Bhagana blame the stand-off on Virender Singh Bhagoria, a potter by caste (listed in the Backward Caste category), who is leading the Dalits. “We let our Dalit brothers work on our fields. We gave them land to build their houses. We need their labour. Our children do not do agricultural work anymore,” a Jat villager said. Bhagoria, who was with the protesters in Hisar, told Frontline he had nothing to gain personally from the protest. “I am from that village but do not live there anymore. But when I learnt what was happening, I decided to help. The Jats want to occupy the Shamlat land as well. They called a panchayat meeting but we didn't go as we knew what usually happened at such meetings. We filed no FIR [first information report] but just a complaint to the administration, and they want us to apologise for that,” he said.
He said that the administration wanted the Dalits to patch up with the Jats and return to the village. “Our children play better, our youth study better, and they do not like this. They abuse our children in the school playground, that is why we have a separate playground,” he said, showing photographs of sports events held on the now-demolished playground. They took pictures when the trees and the flower beds and pots were being levelled by the machines.
“They didn't take any action against them for cutting trees. When a Backward Caste sarpanch in a nearby village cut a tree, he was suspended. Here so many trees were cut down. There was no action by the administration,” Bhagoria said, articulating what many others felt. It was generally felt that the administration gave members of the dominant community a free hand and expected the victimised communities to abide by the rule book.
“The Deputy Commissioner says we should compromise. But that means we have to apologise, and for what?” Bhagoria asked. Ishwar Singh, an electrician, spoke of the alleged social boycott. “They do not let me enter their homes. If I speak out, they threaten to slap a fine on me,” he said. Kamla, a member of the potter caste, said that she and others like her were not allowed to collect clay to make pots. A carpenter, Sanjay, said that members of the dominant community owed him a lot of money for the work he had done for them.
The administration keeps a close watch on journalists visiting Bhagana and the site of the protest. “We keep an eye on all the visitors. And as soon as we know it is a media person, we ensure that they get to see the administration's point of view,” said a member of the Public Relations Department. The Deputy Commissioner claimed that only 40 families were sitting on protest, while the rest were in the village.
But a shopkeeper from the village, who did not want to be named, told Frontline that his business had suffered as some 150 families had left the village.
The Deputy Commissioner said: “There has been no mass atrocity. There is a dispute over the two-acre land used as a playground and the land used for common purposes owned by the gram panchayat. They decided to make a boundary and they were well within their rights to do so to protect it from encroachment.” Excavators were used to demarcate the land and not to level the playground, he said. As for the trees that were cut, he said that even the Dalit families had carried away a share of the trees for themselves. “My main objective is to restore peace.”
But peace always comes at a price. Neither should the onus for maintaining peace be placed on the victimised community alone. The price for peace is very high in Bhagana and elsewhere in the State where such conflicts are on the rise. And it does not take very long for a conflict, if left unattended, to become a mass atrocity.


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