Lal & Ors Vs. G. Kalavathi (Dead) by LRS. & Ors  INSC 652 (16 April 2008)
B.N.AGRAWAL & ALTAMAS KABIR & G.S. SINGHVI CIVIL APPEAL NOS.2200-2201 OF 2001 With CIVIL APPEAL NO.2202 OF 2001 And G.
KALAVATHI ...Appellant BANWARLAL & ORS. ...Respondents Altamas Kabir,J.
1. These appeals by way of special leave are directed against the judgment
and order dated 19th January, 2001, passed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in
Contempt Application No. 1563 of 1999 and Contempt Case No.1819 of 1999, holding
that deliberate and wilful acts of disobedience of the orders passed by the
High Court, by the Mandal Revenue Officer and also by the other superior
authorities had been amply proved and as such they had committed contempt of
Court. The High Court then went on to observe as follows:- "Viewed from
any angle the respondents clearly disobeyed the orders of this Court and they
committed contempt of Court. It is no doubt true that construction over the
land in question has been taken place. But, what is the relief that has to be
granted to the petitioner? No purpose would be served to the petitioner if
there is a direction to handover vacant possession of the property of the
petitioner. The order of demolition of the buildings so constructed over the
land in question and restituting the said land to the petitioner would cause
great hardships to the respondents.
To put an end to the litigation once for all and since the respondents have
already made constructions over the land in question by flouting the orders passed
by this Court and no purpose will be served if the respondents are directed to
be punished as some of them as on today either transferred or retired from
service, we feel it appropriate to direct the respondent-authorities to pay
compensation to the petitioner in the contempt case at the rate of Rs.5,000/-
per sq. yard as valued by the State itself in the application filed U/s.8 of
the A.P. Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act and numbered as L.G.C. No.
25 of 2000 or any other reasonable amount in lieu of directing the
respondents to redeliver possession of the land in question to the petitioner,
in case the proceedings in L.G.C. No. 25 of 2000 go in favour of the petitioner. The question of maintainability, jurisdiction, propriety or competency to
continue the case in L.G.C. No. 25 of 2000 in view of the earlier proceedings
and observations made therein including the directions to institute a civil
suit to adjudicate the title to the property is kept open to be considered by
the Special Court. However, implementation of this order is stayed for a period
of six weeks from today.
Subject to the observations indicated above, the contempt case and the
contempt applications are closed. There shall be no order as to costs."
2. It is clear from the aforesaid order that instead of directing demolition
of the construction already made and/or punishing the contemnors, the High
Court felt it more appropriate to pass an equitable order directing payment of
compensation to the petitioner in the Contempt Case at the rate of Rs.5,000/-
per sq. yard as valued by the State itself in an application filed under
Section 8 of the Andhra Pradesh Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, against the
predecessor-in-interest of the respondent herein. The said direction was,
however, given along with a rider that such compensation would be paid only in
the event the land grabbing case was dismissed in favour of the
predecessor-in-interest of the respondent herein. Certain other directions were
also given regarding the question of maintainability, jurisdiction, propriety
or competence of the petitioners in the land grabbing case to continue the same
in view of earlier directions given by the High Court, including the direction
to institute a civil suit to adjudicate the title to the property. The implementation
of the order was stayed for a period of six weeks from the date of the order
presumably with the intention of allowing the parties to contest the order
before a higher forum.
3. It is the said order of the High Court which is the subject matter of
challenge in these appeals.
4. While Civil Appeal Nos.2200-2201 of 2001 have been filed by the officials
found by the High Court to have committed contempt of Court, Civil Appeal
No.2202 of 2001 has been filed by the writ petitioner, Smt. G.
Kalavathi, being aggrieved by the amount of compensation fixed by the High
Court at the rate of Rs.5,000/- per square yard.
5. In order to appreciate the submissions advanced on behalf of respective
parties and the circumstances in which the impugned order came to be passed, a
brief outline of the facts leading to the passing of the said order is set out
6. The predecessor-in-interest of the present respondents, one Smt. G.
Kalavathi, came to be the absolute owner and possessor of 10 acres of land in Survey
No. 129/36/1, being part of Survey No.403 of Shaikpet Village, Road No. 13,
Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. It was her case before the High Court that she had purchased the said
property under a registered sale deed dated 11th February, 1971, from one Mr.
Papaiah, who had purchased the same by a registered sale deed dated 28th
February, 1963, from one Venkat Swamy. Venkat Swamy is said to have acquired
the property by a patta issued by the concerned authorities in the year 1340
Fasli, equivalent to the year 1930 of the Christian era. From the description
of the property contained in the order impugned in this appeal, the said
property is bounded on the North by a Nala (Government land); on the South by
Road No. 13; on the East by land in Survey No. 129/75 belonging to M/s
Hyderabad Industries Limited and in the West by the land belonging to Kazi
Mohd. Hussain in Survey No. 129/36.
7. The respondent No.1 herein leased out the said land measuring ten acres
to M/s Hyderabad Industries Limited by a registered lease deed dated 27th June,
1971. The Mandal Revenue Officer, Golconda Mandal, issued a notice to the
Respondent No.1 on 20th June, 1986 under Section 6 of the A.P. Land
Encroachment Act, 1905, calling upon the said respondent to vacate the land
within 3 days from the date of receipt of the notice. Challenging the said
notice, the respondent filed Writ Petition No. 11714 of 1986 for a declaration that the action of the Mandal Revenue
Officer in issuing the notice was illegal, arbitrary and unconstitutional and
also praying that the said officer be restrained from interfering with her
possession over the land. The said writ petition was allowed and the notices
issued by the Mandal Revenue Officer under Sections 6 and 7 of the A.P. Land
Encroachment Act was quashed with leave to the Government to file a suit to get
its title established.
8. The writ appeal filed by the said Government through the Mandal Revenue
Officer, Golconda, Hyderabad, was also dismissed and status quo was directed to
be maintained for a period of three months from the date of the judgment,
namely, 14th September, 1995, to enable the Government to take appropriate
steps. In spite of the time granted to the State Government to take appropriate
steps in the matter, no steps were taken by the Government to establish its
title over the land in question by filing a civil suit. On the other hand, it
has been alleged on behalf of the respondent No.1 that as soon as she came to
learn about the construction being carried on by the appellants herein over the
land in question, she caused telegraphic notices to be sent to the appellant on
20th November, 1999 and 23rd November, 1999, together with a registered legal
notice issued on 26th November, 1999, calling upon the appellants herein to
stop the construction work on the land. As the appellant did not stop the
construction work purportedly in disobedience of the orders passed by the High
Court, the respondent No.1 was compelled to file a contempt petition. On this
aspect of the matter, it has been observed in the impugned judgment that the
State initiated proceedings against the respondent No.1 under Section 8 of the
A.P. Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 1982, in December, 1999, as a
counter-blast to the contempt case alleging that the land in question which was
under the occupation of the respondent No.1 was government land.
9. It is on the basis of the aforesaid facts as disclosed before it that the
Division Bench came to the conclusion that the authorities started construction
even after the orders passed by the High Court in the writ petition without
first approaching the civil court for declaration of its title. The Division
Bench also observed that the said act of the appellants herein amply prove that
there was a deliberate and wilful act of disobedience of the orders of the said
Court by the Mandal Revenue Officer and other superior authorities and as such
they had committed contempt of court. It is thereafter that the observations
are made relating to payment of compensation, which have been set out hereinbefore.
10. Appearing in support of the appeal, Mr. Anoop Chaudhary, Senior
Advocate, urged that both the Single Judge and also the Division Bench of the
High Court had completely failed to take notice of the fact that the land on
which the construction work was carried on was not the land which the
respondent No.1 had purportedly acquired from Papaiah and that the same had
been leased out to M/s. Hyderabad Industries Limited. Since the said land was
under the occupation of M/s. Hyderabad Industries Limited, the question of
making constructions on the said land did not arise.
11. Mr. Chaudhary then submitted that
in the contempt proceedings, the High Court had appointed a Commission
consisting of high-level officers of the Survey and Land Records Department,
Hyderabad, to conduct a survey of the land in the presence of the
Advocate-Commissioners representing the respondent No.1, who was the petitioner
in the contempt case, along with his juniors. The Commissioners were directed to
visit the disputed property and to report on the following items:-
They shall ascertain the total extent
of land covered by the map.
They shall measure the total extent of land occupied and the extent of
land occupied by Birla Guest House belonging to M/s. Hyderabad Industries Limited.
They shall measure the extent of land that is shown in the map with
brown lines indicating boundaries and whether any part thereof form part of Birla Guest House.
What is the extent of land that is
under the occupation of the Government and being used for construction of
12. In the report submitted by the Commissioners, it has been stated that
the reference map furnished by the respondent No.1 herein to the Advocate
Commissioners and passed on by them to the team of Survey Officers, does not
tally with the record of measurement of Block 'S' in ward No.11 and that having
regard to the said factor, the Commissioners had chosen to follow the actual
state of things on the ground. After conducting a survey as directed by the
High Court in the presence of the Advocate Commissioners of the respondent No.1
herein, the Commissioners observed that the total extent of land covered by the
map was 31 acres and 20 guntas. It was also pointed out that the land covered
by the green- coloured boundary in the reference map was identical with
reference to Road No.13, Banjara Hills and the compound walls and it was found
that the area consists of Ministers' quarters constructed by the Government and
also the land under the occupation of Birla Guest House which has a separate
compound wall. As far as the land covered by Birla Guest House built by
Hyderabad Industries Limited is concerned, the same measured 13 acres and 35
guntas and had a pucca compound wall on all the sides. It is also stated that
on verification of the copies of the title deeds of M/s. Hyderabad Industries
Limited it was found that the company had purchased a total extent of 13 acres
and 13 guntas under three documents, which, in fact, meant that the said
company was in excess possession of land to an extent of 22 guntas of land,
which could not be demarcated exactly because the position on the ground was
different from the boundary shown in the plan annexed to the title deeds. On examination of the sale deeds belonging to the petitioners and the lease
deed executed by Smt. G. Kalavathi in favour of M/s. Hyderabad Industries Limited and the plan
annexed to the said documents, it was observed that the same were found to be
inconsistent and not in conformity with the area shown in the reference map
with brown lines. However, although, it was not possible to locate exactly the
said area on the ground, on actual measurement the area in the reference map
was found to consist of 9 acres 32 guntas. The total extent of land under the occupation of the Government and being
used entirely for construction of Ministers' quarters was found to be measuring
17 acres and 25 guntas and it was also indicated that it was bounded on all
sides by a pucca wall, except on the north, where in a portion there was a
rubble wall. Mr. Chaudhary submitted that having regard to the report of the
Commissioners, it would be evident that the land of the respondent No.1 could
not be correctly identified in relation to the map of the site plan annexed to
her title deeds and also the lease deed executed by her. In any event, the land
under the occupation of M/s. Hyderabad Industries Limited, measuring 13 acres
and 35 guntas was bounded on all sides by a pucca compound wall.
13. According to Mr. Chaudhary, the land leased by the respondent No.1 to
the company would be within the compound wall of the company, and, accordingly,
the question of making any construction thereupon, which forms the basis of the
complaint petition, did not arise and both the Single Judge and the Division
Bench of the High Court erred in holding otherwise.
14. In addition to the above, Mr. Chaudhary submitted that the High Court in
its contempt jurisdiction had adopted the mantle of Collector within the
meaning of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, and had thereby exceeded its
jurisdiction in assessing compensation to be paid in respect of the lands
belonging to the respondent No.1.
Mr. Chaudhary, submitted that the orders both of the Single Judge and the
Division Bench of the High Court stood vitiated when it travelled beyond the
scope of its contempt jurisdiction.
15. Mr. Chaudhary lastly submitted that there was no subsisting order of
restraint or any direction given by the High Court, which if violated, would
have attracted the provisions relating to contempt of Court. However, in the
absence of such injunction or direction, the High Court had wrongly exercised
its contempt jurisdiction and had also travelled beyond the same, which renders
the orders of the High Court vulnerable and liable to be set aside.
16. Appearing in support of the appeal preferred by Smt. G. Kalavathi and
opposing those filed by the contemnors, Mr. R.F. Nariman, learned senior
counsel, submitted that the basic premise of the case made out on behalf of the
appellants in Civil Appeal Nos.2200-2201 of 2001 was fallacious on account of
mistaken identity of the plot belonging to the appellants in Civil Appeal
No.2202 of 2001. Mr. Nariman submitted that the said position would, in fact,
be very clear from the counter affidavit filed by the Mandal Revenue Officer,
Golconda, in Writ Petition No.11714 of 1986 which had been filed by Smt. G.
Kalavathi and out of which the contempt proceedings had arisen. The learned
counsel pointed out that in paragraph 2 of the counter-affidavit the Mandal
Revenue Officer, Golconda, had stated that since Survey No.403 covered the
entire area popularly known as Banjara Hills and Jubilee Hills area had become
a paradise for speculators, the Government had appointed a Special Gr. Dy.
Collector, in 1982, for identification and demarcation of government and
private lands in the Banjara Hills area. It was also stated that during the
survey it had come to light that M/s Hyderabad Asbestos Limited, who were the
successors to M/s Hyderabad Industries Limited, had occupied a portion of
Survey No.403 of Shaikpet village and had constructed a compound wall. It was
also stated that the inquiry conducted by the aforesaid official in respect of
the Banjara Hills area reveal that the area occupied by M/s M/s Hyderabad
Asbestos Limited, comprises of the following lands:-
Land purchased by M/s Hyderabad Asbestos Limited, from Sri Md. Azam in
Sy. No.129/75 of Shaikpet Village vide document No.55/62, dated 11.1.1962.
Land purchased by M/s Hyderabad Asbestos Limited from Fazal Nawaz Jung in
Jubilee Hills Municipality Plot No.129/75/D1 vide document No.93, dated
Land purchased by M/s Hyderabad Asbestos Limited from Fazal Nawaz Jung in
Jubilee Hills Municipality Plot No.129/75/D1 under as agreement of Sale, dated
17.9.1963 (outside compound).
Land occupied by M/s Hyderabad Asbestos Limited from Smt. G. Kalavathi,
W/o Venkataswamy through a Lease Deed No.2021/72, dated 28.6.1971 in Sy.
Land occupied by M/s Hyderabad Asbestos Limited without any authority in Sy. No.403.
17. In relation to the above it was also indicated that the purchases made
in respect of serial no. 1 to 3 indicated above were from the original owners
of the land, whereas the land measuring 19 acres and 3 guntas, indicated in
items 4 and 5, which had been occupied by the company, was government land in
Survey No.403 of Shaikpet village which had been occupied by the said company
without any authority in law. It was sought to be justified that since there
were no certified records nor any revenue records to show the right, title and
interest of the petitioner in Sub-Division No.129/36/1 in the record of
Shaikpet village, and the same was found to be non-existent under the
provisions of the A.P. Land Encroachment Act, 1905, resumption proceedings were
18. Mr. Nariman pointed out that as would appear from the Report of the
Survey Commissioner appointed by the Court an area measuring 13 acres 13 guntas
was found to have been purchased by M/s Hyderabad Industries Limited from
others, which area had been enclosed by a compound wall on all sides. However,
from the counter affidavit filed by the Mandal Revenue Officer in the writ
petition it was evident that apart from the above land which was within their
boundary walls the company was also in occupation of 10 acres of land which had
been leased to it by Smt. G.Kalavathi by a lease deed dated 28.6.1971 in Survey
No.129/36/1. Another plot of land measuring 9 acres and 3 guntas were also
shown to be in the occupation of M/s Hyderabad Industries Limited without any
authority to possess the same. Mr. Nariman pointed out that the measurements disclosed would indicate that
the area covered by the three sale deeds in favour of the company measuring
about 13 acres and 13 guntas had been encircled by a boundary wall. Apart from
the above, a further 19 acres was also under the occupation of the said company
which included the 10 acres which had been leased by Smt. G. Kalavathi in 1971.
Mr. Nariman submitted that it was this 19 acres which was the subject matter of
the notice issued by the Mandal Revenue Officer, Golconda, on 20.6.1986 under
Section 6 of the A.P. Land Encroachment Act, 1905, which had been challenged in
Writ Petition No.11714 of 1986 and had been quashed in the said proceeding.
19. Mr. Nariman urged that the said affidavit of the Mandal Revenue Officer
in juxtaposition with the report of the Survey Commissioner appointed by the
High Court, would at once reveal that the land which was leased by Smt. G.
Kalavathi to the company was outside the boundary wall which had been erected
by the company around the lands acquired by it through 3 separate sale deeds.
It was urged that the High Court had rightly found that the construction work
which was being undertaken for construction of Ministers' quarters, was also
being carried on in the 10 acres of land which had been leased by Smt. G. Kalavathi to M/s Hyderabad Industries Limited.
20. Mr. Nariman submitted that when the land in question had been settled
with Vankata Swamy by a patta, the said document contained a condition that
Revenue for the said land would have to be paid @ Rs.5 per acre before
construction of houses and thereafter at Rs.10 per acre after construction of
houses. According to Mr. Nariman, although the claim of Papaiah in respect of
the title over the land had been rejected in 1971, the Government did not take
any further steps in the matter and from 1971 Smt. G. Kalavathi remained in
open possession directly and through M/s Hyderabad Industries Limited as her
lessee. Mr. Nariman pointed out that it is only after the order was passed
under Section 6 of the A.P. Land Encroachment Act, 1905, that the Government,
in accordance with its own case, took a decision in 1986. In this regard Mr.
Nariman also pointed out that although Papaiah's claim was purported to have
been rejected by the Government in 1971 there were demand notices in 1974, 1975
and 1976 which had been complied with by the writ petitioners. Mr. Nariman
submitted that having regard to the aforesaid facts there was a genuine dispute
regarding title and the writ petitioner could not have been evicted from the
land except in due process of law. Mr. Nariman also urged that once the notice
under Section 6 referred to above was quashed by the High Court the petitioner
continued to enjoy absolute rights as the owner of the said property. Mr.
Nariman submitted that having failed in their attempts to evict the writ
petitioner from the land by the aforesaid means, the authorities filed a
complaint against the writ petitioner under the provisions of the A.P. Land
Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 1981. Mr. Nariman urged that the High Court had
quite rightly decided the contempt petition, but had erroneously directed that
compensation be paid to the petitioner, in the event the land grabbing case was
dismissed, at the rate of Rs.5,000/- per square yard, when the appellants
themselves had admitted in their affidavit that the value of the lands in
question would be more than Rs.20,000 per square yard at the relevant point of time.
Mr. Nariman also submitted that the High Court had erred in restricting payment
of compensation till after the decision in the land grabbing case, since it had
found that the same had been filed only as a counter blast to the contempt
petition filed by the writ petitioner.
21. Mr. Nariman submitted that there was no ground to interfere with the
findings of the High Court or the decision arrived at therein in the contempt
proceedings, but the compensation computed was liable to be reconsidered in the
light of the admission made by the appellants themselves in Civil Appeal
Nos.2200-01 of 2001.
22. Since this appeal arises out of orders passed by the High Court on the
contempt petition filed on behalf of respondents in Contempt Application No. 1563 of 1999 and CC No.1819/1999, it would be in the fitness of things to
first of all consider whether the High Court was justified in holding that the
appellants had violated the order dated 14.9.1995 passed by the Division Bench
in Writ Appeal No.742 of 1989 filed by the Mandal Revenue Officer, Golconda
23. As has been indicated hereinbefore the respondents herein challenged the
notice dated 20.6.1986 issued by the Mandal Revenue Officer, Golconda Mandal,
Hyderabad, under Section 6 of the A.P. Land Encroachment Act, 1905 and the
learned single Judge quashed the same for the reasons indicated in his judgment
and order dated 14.10.1988.
24. In the Writ Appeal filed by the Mandal Revenue Officer, Golconda Mandal,
Hyderabad, the Division Bench of the High Court did not interfere with the
judgment and order of the learned Single Judge upon holding that the learned
Single Judge had rightly allowed the writ petition. However, while dismissing
the writ appeal the Division Bench directed the status quo to be maintained for
a period of three months from the date of the order to enable the Government to
take appropriate steps in the matter.
25. It is in respect of this order that the contempt petition was filed and
the Division Bench also arrived at a finding that the appellant herein had
committed contempt of Court by violating the said order.
26. We are unable to agree with the reasoning of the Division Bench in the
impugned judgment in holding that the appellants had committed contempt of the
said order dated 14.9.1995. There is no ambiguity that while the direction to
maintain status quo for three months were given on 14.9.1995, the contempt
petition was filed only in October, 1999. The period for which status quo was
directed to be maintained came to an end on 14.12.1995 and there is nothing on
record to indicate that the order of status quo was ever extended. The fact
that construction was going on in the land in question came to the knowledge of
the respondents herein on 19.11.1999 when Smt. G. Kalavathi visited the
property and thereafter steps were set in motion for filing of the contempt
petition. Since there is nothing to indicate whether the construction work was
being carried on during the period when the order of status quo was in force
and the contempt petition was filed almost four years after the order of status
quo ceased to operate, it is difficult for us to appreciate as to how the
Division Bench of the High Court could have found the appellants herein to have
committed contempt of Court. The findings of the High Court in respect of the
same must be held to be contrary to the materials on record.
27. This now brings us to the other limb of the order impugned in these
28. From the facts as stated hereinabove it is clear that M/s Hyderabad
Industries Limited was in possession of five different plots of land, out of
which three plots measuring 13 acres and 13 guntas had been purchased by the
said company. Of the remaining two plots, the said company was also in
occupation of 10 acres of land which had been leased to it by Smt. G.
Kalavathi. It is also apparent that the lands enclosed within the boundary wall
of the guest house of M/s Hyderabad Industries Limited were the lands forming
the subject matter of the three sale deeds. In other words, the land leased to
the company by Smt. G. Kalavathi was part of the 19 acres of land which was the
subject matter of the notice issue by the Mandal Revenue Officer, Golconda
Mandal, Hyderabad, on 20.6.1986 under Section 6 of the Andhra Pradesh Land Encroachment
Act, 1905, which was quashed in Writ Petition No.11714 of 1986 and had been
utilised for constructing the ministers' quarters.
29. From the submissions made and also from the findings in the impugned
judgment it is also clear that the said 19 acres of land have already been
utilised for construction of ministers' quarters and as rightly pointed out by
the High Court would cause great hardship to the respondents in the event a
direction was given to them to restore the land to the respondents.
30. In the other appeal, being Civil Appeal No.2202 of 2001, filed by Smt.
G. Kalavathi, one of the questions raised is whether the High Court was
justified in directing payment of compensation at the rate of Rs.5000 per
square yard subject to the condition that the same be paid after the
determination of the land grabbing case filed by the State against the
respondents under the provisions of Andhra Pradesh Land Grabbing Provisions
Act, 1982. It has been urged by Mr. Nariman that the appellants had themselves assessed
the value of the lands in question to be more than Rs.20,000/- per square yard
in Ground 'S' of their Special Leave Petition filed in 2001 and hence the
amount decided as compensation by the High Court was not commensurate with the
value assessed by the appellants themselves, and should therefore, be
31. Considering the ground realities and the assessment made by the State
authorities themselves, there appears to be some substance in Mr. Nariman's
submissions. We, therefore, allow the appeals in part and set aside the
findings of the Courts below regarding contempt of Court alleged to have been
committed by the appellants herein. We hold that the appellants are not guilty
of contempt of Court as has been alleged.
32. We also direct that the compensation awarded by the Division Bench in
the judgment under appeal, should be suitably increased in view of the
assessment made by the State authorities themselves. We accordingly, enhance the compensation awarded by the Division Bench of
the High Court from Rs.5,000/- per square yard to Rs.15,000/- per square yard.
We make it clear that we are not interfering with the other orders and
directions given in the impugned judgment regarding payment of such
33. The appeals are disposed of accordingly. There will be no order as to