State of Andhra
Pradesh Vs. Anjuman Ara Begu & Ors.  INSC 1905 (7 November 2008)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO.1754 of 2006 State of
Andhra Pradesh ..... Appellant Versus Anjuman Ara Begum & Others .....
Dalveer Bhandari, J.
appeal is directed against the judgment dated 15th September, 2005 of the High
Court of Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad in writ petition No.3646 of 2003. In the
said writ petition, the order passed by the Special Court under the Andhra
Pradesh Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 1982 at 2 Hyderabad in Land Grabbing
Code No.141 of 1989 dated 10.6.2002 was challenged.
main grievance of the State of Andhra Pradesh in this appeal is that the case
of the appellant was not decided on merit either by the Special Court or by the
High Court. The Special Court decided the case entirely relying on a short
order of this court in State of Andhra Pradesh & Others v. Merit
Enterprises & Others (1998) 8 SCC 749. According to the appellant, the
Special Court committed a serious error in invoking the concept of res judicata
in the facts of this case.
the impugned judgment, the High Court recorded the submissions of the
appellant. The learned counsel for the appellant relied on the findings of the
High Court on this aspect. Relevant findings are reproduced as under:
Special Court, according to the learned Government Pleader for Revenue,
committed a mistake by holding that it was a case of res judicata, as respondents
22 to 59 were not parties to that judgment. It may be true that the judgment in
M/s Merit Enterprises v. State of AP may not operate as res judicata, but at
the same 3 time, we agree with the learned counsel for the respondents that it
was a piece of evidence in terms of Section 13 of the Evidence Act (I of 1872).
Once the Court had decided, and the decision had been upheld even by the
Supreme court that applicant- State Government was not the owner of the
property in question, that judgment could be used as evidence."
may be pertinent to mention that in the impugned judgment, the High Court has
not gone into the question of ownership and possession. The relevant findings
of the High Court are reproduced as under:- "There is no finding by the Special
Court as to who was in possession of the land. Therefore, we will not be in a
position to decide the issue with regard to the possession and ownership over
the said land, as this Court in its writ jurisdiction would not be able to
appreciate the evidence although parties have led evidence with regard to the
factual position. Therefore, while dismissing this writ petition, we make it
clear that this Court has not gone into the question of ownership or
to the appellant, the courts have erroneously dismissed the appellant's case by
relying on orders passed in certain other proceedings.
appellant submitted that in 1989, the State of Andhra Pradesh filed a petition
under sections 7 and 8 of the Andhra Pradesh Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act,
1982 against respondent no.1. According to the appellant, the land in question
measured 18493 sq. mtrs. (approximately 4.23 acres) and fell within T.S.
No.3/1/1/, Block S, Ward No.11 and T.S. No.3/1 (part) and 3/2 (part), Block U,
Ward No.11, Shaikpet Village. The State's further case is that this land was
earlier Plot No.129/75/D5, which fell within erstwhile Survey No.403, which was
earlier numbered as Survey No.129/1, comprising Acre 2967-27 Guntas and
belonged to the State Government, having vested in it in 1949 along with the
rest of the properties of the Nizam of Hyderabad.
case was initially filed against respondent no.1 alone. Through various interim
orders, respondent nos.2-59 got themselves impleaded. The respondents can be
classified into two categories according to their interests: Respondent
nos.1-21 had set up one case and respondent nos.22-59 had set up entirely a
case of respondent nos.1-21 was that the land corresponded to Plot
No.129/75/D5, which land was assigned to one Mohammed Mahboob Ali Pasha (the
father of respondent no.1) by the erstwhile Jubilee Hills Municipality in 1342
Fasli (corresponding to 1932 CE) and was, therefore, patta (private owned)
land. Respondent nos.2-21 also claimed to be legal heirs of Pasha. None of the
courts below have expressed any view on the merits of this defence.
case of respondent nos.22-59, on the other hand, was that the land formed part
of Survey No.129/6. Their case was that this area, covering schedule property
and other land, in all 6 Acres and 20 Guntas, was assigned to one Jaffar Ali
Sharif by Sarfekhas authorities in 1341 fasli (corresponding to September
1930). On 20.03.1965 Jaffar Ali Sharif sold that land to two persons, Karamath
Ali and Vijay Haridas. These two persons sold different portions of the land to
different people, and eventually to these respondents. The merits of 6 this
defence have also not been dealt with any of the courts below.
nos.22-59 further contended that the same Karamath Ali and Vijay Haridas also
sold portions of the land to other persons and eventually some portion was sold
to a company called Merit Enterprises. The State Government had initiated
proceedings against Merit Enterprises under the Andhra Pradesh Land Encroachment
Act, 1905 (for short "Land Encroachment Act"). Merit Enterprises
moved the High Court in W.P.No.1963/1983, which quashed the said proceedings by
its judgment dated 28.09.1983 and the judgment of the High Court was affirmed
by the Supreme Court.
to these respondents, the application schedule land as originally given by the
State included the land on which Merit Enterprises had its construction. The
Special Court vide order dated 19.12.2001 directed the State to delete the said
extent of land from the case. Accordingly, the State 7 amended its petition
and restricted its claim to 14,835 sq. mtrs. It has been stated during the
hearing before this court that the State should not have agreed to delete the
land from its claim and that it will now take recourse to whatever remedy it
has even against Merit Enterprises.
nos.22-59 relied on the judgment of the High Court in Merit Enterprises to
contend that this judgment conclusively established the assignment in favour of
Jafar Ali Sharif and consequently the title of Karamat Ali and Vijay Haridas.
The further contention of respondent no.22-59 was that since they also claimed
their title through the same Karamat Ali and Vijay Haridas, their title also
stood established which meant that the land did not belong to the State
Special Court accepted the above contention of respondent nos.22-59. On this
basis alone, it held that the land did not belong to the State Government and
dismissed the petition. The High Court confirmed this order.
this case, on the direction of the court, the Commissioner has submitted a
Report. Survey No.129 (1) is government land and Survey No.129/6 is private
land. It was the State's case that Plot No.129/75/D5 fell within Survey
No.129/1 and since it was an unrecognized plot, the land belonged to the State.
order to clarify the issue of the location of the land in dispute, the Special
Court appointed a Commissioner. The Commissioner examined the documents and
physically visited the site and gave his report. The gist of the report is as
"(a) The land
claimed by respondent no.1 is located in T.S. No.3/1, Block S, Ward No.11 and
T.S. No.3/1 (part) and T.S. No.3/2 (part) of Block U, Ward No.11.
(b) As per the
entries in the Town Survey Land Register, T.S. No.3/1 and 3/2 of Block U, Ward
No.11 are recorded as graveyards. T.S. No.3/1 of Block S, Ward No.11 is shown
as government land.
All this is
correlated to Old Survey No.403.
(c) The land claimed
by respondent no.1 is Plot No.129/75/D5 which is government land. It is not
(d) Regarding the
case of the other respondents claiming that the land falls under Survey
No.129/6, there is no such survey number in Shaikpet village.
9 (e) The claim of
the Government over the land is correct."
report submitted by the Commissioner was taken on record on 11.07.1996.
However, astonishingly, according to the State of Andhra Pradesh, the Special
Court has not even referred this report in its final order. The case of the
State of Andhra Pradesh can be summarized from the pleadings before the Special
Court as follows:- (a) In 1916, the initial survey of Shaikpet village was
conducted. Survey No.129 comprising Acre 3288-02 Guntas was classified as government
(b) In 1921, Survey
No.129 was subdivided into :
(i) Survey No.129/1
comprising Acre 3097- 39 Guntas and belonging to the Government; and (ii)
Survey Nos.129/2 to 129/10 comprising Acre 190-03 Guntas which were patta
(c) In 1936, a
renumbering of survey numbers took place. Survey No.129/1 became Survey No.403.
Survey Nos.129/2 to 129/10 became Survey Nos.353 to 402.
10 (d) Around the
same time, Survey Nos.129/11 to 129/87 were carved out of Survey No.129/1, as a
result of which its area became Acre 2967-27 Guntas.
(e) In 1977, a town
survey was conducted under the Andhra Pradesh Survey & Boundaries Act, 1923
(`Survey & Boundaries Act'). Survey No.403 is now referred to as different
Blocks all falling within Ward Nos.9-12 of shaikpet.
(f) The land in
question measures 14835 sq. mtrs. and falls within T.S. No.3/1/1, Block S, Ward
No.11 and T.S. No.3/1 (part) and 3/2 (part), Block U, Ward No.11.
7 Amended Petition,
Concise Statement and Additional Concise Statement @ Additional Documents Vo.IV
7 Deposition of PW2,
Mr. Seetha Ram Reddy, Mandal Revenue Officer, Golconda @ Additional Documents
7 Certified Extract
of Khasra Pahani Patrika of the year 1981-82 @ Additional Documents Vol.III
7 Correlation Chart
showing Old Survey Numbers, New Survey Numbers and Town Survey Numbers @
Additional Documents Vol.V pp.848-852.
7 Detailed Map of the
area @ Additional Documents Vol.V p.970."
the basis of the aforementioned evidence, it is the case of the appellant State
that the land in question belonged to the State. Reference has been made to
sections 13 and 14 of the Survey & Boundaries Act by the State. Section 13
provides for the notification of the town survey in the official gazette and further
provides that after such notification the record of the survey shall be
conclusive proof that the boundaries determined and recorded therein have been
correctly determined and recorded. Section 14 provides that any person
aggrieved by such notification may institute a suit within three years to
challenge the same. In the instant case, no suit has been filed within three
years or even thereafter, and the records of the Town Survey have thus attained
to the appellant State, the courts below were in serious error in placing
reliance on the order of this Court in Merit Enterprises (supra) and disposing
of the appellant's case. The land on which Merit Enterprises has its
construction is adjacent to the land claimed in the 12 proceedings. This has
never been denied and indeed is a matter of record. The dispute in this case is
regarding the survey number.
High Court in the Merit Enterprises case was not concerned with the title of
any party. Merit Enterprises was constructing a multi-storeyed building on
certain premises situated at Road No.13, Banjara Hills, Hyderabad having a
total area of 4090 sq. yds. In March 1983, the State Government issued a
"notice to quit" under the provisions of the Land Encroachment Act.
Merit Enterprises claimed to trace its title to Jafar Ali Sharif. The State
Government's contention was that Sharif had no title and the purported
assignment in his favour was a forgery. It also contended that the writ
petition against the notice was not maintainable because it involved a disputed
question of fact, viz., whether the land was government land or private land.
The conclusion of the High Court was that there was a bona fide dispute with
regard to title between the parties. The State Government could decide this
unilaterally and evict Merit Enterprises. It 13 relied on the judgment of this
court in Government of Andhra Pradesh v. Thummala Krishna Rao & Another
etc. (1982) 2 SCC 134 to hold that that Government could take action under the
Land Encroachment Act only when it is absolutely sure of its title. Where there
was a bona fide dispute, no proceedings under this Act could be taken.
to the appellant, proceedings under the Land Encroachment Act and the Land
Grabbing Act are fundamentally different. The former is a summary unilateral
action of the State Government whereas the latter involves a decision by a
Special Court after examining the evidence. This qualitative difference has
also been completely ignored by the courts below. This court laid down that the
Special Court has the jurisdiction to decide title disputes.
to the appellant, the court below mis- appreciated the order in the case of
Merit Enterprises (supra). The Special Court understood the judgment as having
upheld the title of Karamath Ali and Vijay Haridas and this is 14 a
fundamental error. According to the appellant, the High Court in the instant
case also failed to correct the error of the Special Court. According to the
appellant, the only finding returned by the High Court in the Merit Enterprises
case was that for the purposes of the Land Encroachment Act, there was a bona
fide dispute between the parties. There was no finding on title; nor was there
any occasion to give such a finding. The courts below failed to address or even
raise this question and are, therefore, in error.
Gopal Subramanium, the learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for the
State of Andhra Pradesh submitted that respondent nos. 26, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32,
35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 41, 43, 44 and 45 had in fact filed applications to the
State Government for regularization of their title. All these applications were
rejected by order dated 14.06.1999. In case the respondents had the clear
title, where was the question of their filing applications before the State
Government for regularization of their title? 15
Gopal Subramanium placed reliance on the judgment of this court in Mahalaxmi
Motors Ltd. V. Mandal Revenue Officer & Others (2007) 11 SCC 714. In this
case it has been held that the fact that regularization applications had been
filed was held to be admission of lack of title. The appellant also submitted
that none of the courts below have considered the merits of any of the claims
of the parties. No finding has been given regarding the survey number of the
land. The Commissioner's report has been ignored.
to the appellant, the appropriate course is to set aside the judgments of the
courts below and remit the matter back to the Special Court for being decided
afresh on merit uninfluenced by any findings or observations.
was submitted on behalf of respondent nos.1 to 21 that the suit land falls in
Survey No.129/75/D5 and it was purchased by their father Late Mohd. Maqbool Ali
Pasha from Surfekhas Authority in 1342 fasli. Thereafter, the family of
respondent no.1 has been in peaceful and continuous possession of suit land for
more than 50 years.
was further asserted by respondent nos.1 to 21 that the possession of the suit
land was handed over to the father of respondent no.1 vide Collector's letter
dated 3rd Ardhibast 1346. The learned counsel for these respondents further
submitted that the land in dispute was also subject matter in the case of Merit
Enterprises being writ petition no.1963 of 1983. In the said judgment the High
Court has relied upon the Map prepared by the State Government for
identification and demarcation of government and private lands in Banjara
Hills. On the basis of the said Map and also on the basis of the submissions
made by the appellant State, the High Court categorically held that Survey
No.129/75/D5 is a patta land.
It was also submitted
that Merit Enterprises case was upheld by this court and the same attained
finality. In this view of the matter, this appeal deserves to be dismissed.
counsel for the respondent nos.22 and 23 admitted the arguments of respondent
nos.24-59. According to them, the only difference between the case of
respondent 17 nos.22-23 and respondent nos.24 to 59 is that the respondent
nos.22 and 23 never applied for regularization under any government scheme or
Ranjit Kumar, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of respondent nos.24
to 56 and 59 submitted that one Jaffar Ali Shareef was granted patta to an
extent of 6 acres 20 guntas in Survey No.129/6 of Shaikpet village, Hyderabad
district by the Surfekhas Authorities vide orders dated 10th Aban 1341 Fasli
i.e. September 1930. According to him, the schedule land to the extent of 14835
sq. mts. is part of the above mentioned 6 acres 20 guntas. He further submitted
that Shri Jaffar Ali Shareef sold the said 6 acres and 20 guntas of land to
Karamath Ali and Vijay Haridas under registered sale deed dated 20.3.1965.
22.3.1975, respondent nos.22 to 33 jointly entered into an agreement of sale
with Karamath Ali to purchase different extents of house plots totally
admeasuring 5870 sq. yards in a plotted area, after deducting the common area
for 18 roads in the abovesaid 6 Acres 20 guntas of land. They have paid the
entire sale consideration to Karamath Ali. Similarly, on 19.4.1974, respondent
nos.34 to 44 have jointly entered into an agreement of sale with Karamath Ali
to purchase different extents of house plots totally admeasuring 8480 sq. yards
area after deducting the common area for roads in the abovesaid Ac 6.20 guntas
of land. No sale deed was executed and Karamath Ali expired on 20.1.1994.
Respondent no.24 to 44 filed suits in OS No.278 of 1997 and OS No.252 of 1997
respectively before the learned IVth Additional Judge, City Civil Court,
Hyderabad against the legal heirs of late Karamath Ali i.e. wife and daughter
of specific performance of the agreement of sale and the suits were decreed by
the learned Court below vide judgment and decree dated 30.4.1997.
Ranjit Kumar also submitted that the decision has been rendered on the basis of
the sale deed by Karamat Ali qua lands in favour of Merit Enterprises in which
a judgment had been rendered by the Division Bench on 28.9.1983 19 upholding
the title of Karamat Ali and Merit Enterprises. The State of Andhra Pradesh had
preferred an appeal in the Supreme Court in the year 1984 being Civil Appeal
No.267 of 1984. After filing of the said appeal in the Supreme Court against
Merit Enterprises, the State Government had also filed a land grabbing case
being LGC No.141 of 1989. In that land grabbing case, the land of Merit
Enterprises being 4090 sq. yds. was also included.
Ranjit Kumar also submitted that the case of Merit Enterprises has been finally
decided by this Court and acquired finality. According to him, the case of the
respondent represented by him is not different than the case of the Merit
Ranjit Kumar further submitted that the Division Bench considering the entire
record and cogent evidence came to the correct conclusion and no interference
is called for by this Court and the appeal filed by the State deserves to be
have heard the learned counsel for the parties at length and perused the
relevant documents and record.
the impugned judgment, it is specifically observed that the High Court has not
gone into the question of ownership and possession. The parties have taken
entirely conflicting stands regarding ownership of the lands in question. There
is no determination of the conflicting stand of the parties by the Special
Court. The High Court without any cogent reasons upheld the judgment of the
Special Court. It may be pertinent to mention that several respondents have
filed applications for regularization. This fact would clearly lead to the
conclusion that even the respondents were not sure of their title, otherwise
there was no occasion for them to file applications for regularization.
this view of the matter, it has become imperative that the impugned judgments
of the High Court and the Special Court be set aside. Consequently, the
judgments are set aside 21 and the case is remitted to the Special Court for
deciding the same afresh on merits after hearing the counsel for the parties.
The Special Court is directed to decide the case without being influenced by
any findings or observations made by any court. Since this case has been
pending for quite sometime, we request the Special Court to decide this case as
expeditiously as possible. To avoid any delay, the parties are directed to
appear before the Special Court on Ist December, 2008.
appeal is accordingly disposed of. In the facts and circumstances of this case,
we direct the parties to bear their own costs.
(Harjit Singh Bedi)