Chandrakant Galande Vs. Pune Municipal Transport & Ors.  INSC 581 (3
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION Civil Appeal No. 492 of
2007 Smt. Sulochana Chandrakant Galande ..Appellant Versus Pune Municipal
Transport & Ors. ..Respondents
This appeal has been preferred against the Judgment and order of
Bombay High Court dated 20th February, 2006, passed in Writ Petition No. 1018
of 1999, filed by the respondent herein setting aside the order passed by the
State Government withdrawing the proceedings under the provisions of the Urban
Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976 (hereinafter called as, "Act,
Facts and circumstances giving rise to the present case are that
the Act, 1976 was enacted to provide for imposition of a ceiling on vacant land
in urban agglomerations for the acquisition of such land in excess of the
ceiling limit, to regulate the construction of buildings on such land and for
matters connected therewith. The said Act prescribed the maximum ceiling to
which the land can be retained by the owner and determination of the surplus
land and transfer thereof in favour of the State after drawing the final
statement under Section 9 of the Act, 1976, and the State would acquire the
vacant land in excess of the ceiling limit under Section 10 of the Act, 1976.
The Act came into force on 17 th February, 1976. On the said date, the suit
land was not within urban limits, however it was included in the urban area
residential zone only with effect from 17.05.1976, by extending the limits of
the Municipal Corporation. The suit land was acquired under the Act, 1976, in
the years 1978-1979 and its possession was taken and handed over to Pune
Municipal Transport (for short PMT) for establishing a bus depot and staff
quarters. In 1988, the bus depot was constructed on a part of the suit land,
however, the appellant preferred a revision under Section 34 of the Act, 1976,
dated 6.4.1998 contending that the land ought not to have been acquired 2 under
the Act, 1976, on the ground that on the date of commencement of the Act, 1976,
i.e. 17.2.1976, the suit land was not within the limits of urban area. In order
to substantiate the claim, reliance was placed on the Judgment Ors., AIR 1993
SC 2465, wherein it has been held that for the purpose of the Act, 1976, the
categorization of the land in the Master Plan in existence at the time of
commencement of the Act into force was a relevant factor and any subsequent
change in the Master Plan cannot be taken into consideration.
application was allowed by the Hon'ble Minister, exercising his revisional
powers by order dated 29.09.1998.
Being aggrieved, the PMT filed writ petition No. 1018 of 1999
before the High Court of Maharashtra and the said writ petition has been
allowed vide Judgment and order dated 20.02.2006 in spite of the fact that the
Act, 1976 stood repealed by the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Repeal Act,
1999 (hereinafter called `Act 1999') with effect from 18.03.1999. Subsequent
thereto, this Court in State of A.P.
the Judgment in Atia Mohammadi Begum (supra).
Sh. A.K. Ganguly, learned senior counsel for the appellant, has
submitted that the High Court erred in interfering with the order of the
Revisional Authority, which was fully justified being in consonance with the
law laid down by this Court in Atia Mohammadi Begum (Supra). The provisions of
Section 34 of the Act, 1976, do not provide for any limitation and in case,
proceedings had been initiated against the appellant in contravention of the
Act, 1976 itself, the order passed by the prescribed authority dated 23.05.1979
was a nullity, and, therefore, was unenforceable and inexecutable. It has also
been pointed out by Mr. Ganguly that originally, the land was allotted to PMT
for establishing a bus depot, though the land was earmarked for residential
purposes, thus, it was not permissible for the respondent authority to change
the user of the land. If the land is vested in the State free from all
encumbrances without any authority of law, the original tenure holder is entitled
to possession 4 thereof. The Act, 1976, itself stood repealed and is no more in
force. Thus, the appeal deserves to be allowed.
On the contrary, Sh. Sanjay V. Kharde and Sh. Amol Chitale,
learned counsel appearing for respondents, have submitted that the judgment in
Atia Mohammadi Begum (supra) has been overruled by this Court in N. Audikesava
Reddy (supra). Therefore, it cannot be held that Atia Mohammadi Begum (supra)
laid down the correct law. The order passed by the prescribed authority dated
23.05.1979 attained finality as it was not challenged by the appellant by
filing an appeal under Section 12 before the Urban Land Tribunal, though the
Act, 1976, also provides for a second appeal to the High Court. The appellant
could not maintain the Revision after expiry of about two decades. The
Government of Maharashtra could not have entertained the Revision at such
belated stage. The revision was liable to be rejected only on the ground of
delay. The land, after being declared surplus under the Act, 1976, was acquired
under Section 10 of the Act, 1976, and it vested in the State absolutely free
from all encumbrances. The land once vested 5 cannot be divested. After vesting
the land in the State, in case, the State authority allots the land to any
other department or corporation for a specific purpose, it does not loose the
competence to change the user of the land and in case, it is changed, the
original tenure holder cannot be heard raising any grievances whatsoever. The
Act, 1976, stood repealed, but this fact would have no bearing on this case for
the reason that possession of the suit land had been taken in 1979 itself. The
appeal lacks merit and is liable to be dismissed.
We have considered the rival submissions made by learned counsel
for the parties and perused the record. The Scheme of the Act, 1976 provides
that the prescribed authority shall make an order declaring the surplus land.
The land would be acquired by the State and tenure holder is entitled to have
an amount of compensation. Section 10(3) of the Act, 1976, provides that after
acquisition and publication of the Notification under Section 10(1) of the Act,
1976 "the land shall be deemed to have vested absolutely in the State 6
Government free from all encumbrances with effect from the date so
Section 11 of the Act, 1976, provides for the Mode of Payment of
the amount for vacant land acquired. Any person aggrieved, has a right to file
an appeal before the Land Tribunal and a second appeal before the High Court.
The provisions of Section 10(3) of the Act, 1976 are analogous to
Section 16 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (hereinafter called the `Act
1894'). Acquisition proceedings cannot be withdrawn/abandoned in exercise of
the powers under Section 48 of the Act 1894 or Section 21 of the General
Clauses Act, 1897 once the possession of the land has been Vishnu Prasad Sharma
& Ors., AIR 1966 SC 1593; LT. Rajasthan & Ors., AIR 1996 SC 1296;
Mandir Shree Sita Collector & Ors., AIR 2005 SC 3581; Bangalore 7 Haryana
& Ors., (2010) 3 SCC 621).
The meaning of the word `vesting' has been considered by this
Court time and again. In The Fruit & Vegetable 1957 SC 344, this Court held
that the meaning of word `vesting' varies as per the context of the Statute in
which the property vests. While considering the case under Sections 16 and 17
of the Act 1894, the Court held as under:"...the property acquired becomes
the property of Government without any condition or limitations either as to
title or possession. The legislature has made it clear that vesting of the
property is not for any limited purpose or limited duration."
"Encumbrance" actually means the burden caused by an act
or omission of man and not that created by nature. It means a burden or charge upon
property or a claim or lien on the land. It means a legal liability on
property. Thus, it constitutes a burden on the title which diminishes the value
of the land. It may be a mortgage or a deed of trust or a lien of 8 an
easement. An encumbrance, thus, must be a charge on the property. It must run
with the property. (Vide Collector of Sharma & Ors., AIR 2005 SC 954; and
AI Champdany 486).
2001 SC 3431, this Court held that the terminology `free from all encumbrances'
used in Section 16 of the Act 1894, is wholly unqualified and would en-compass
the extinguishing of "all rights, title and interests including
easementary rights" when the title vests in the State.
"free from encumbrances" means vesting of land in the State without
any charge or burden in it. Thus, State has absolute title/ownership over it.
1993 SC 2517, this Court held that once land vests in the State free from all
encumbrances, it cannot be divested.
same view has been reiterated in Awadh Bihari Yadav & Lucknow & Ors.,
AIR 1996 SC 1170; Pratap & Anr. (Supra);
& Ors., (1996) 6 SCC 405; Allahabad Tamil Nadu & Ors., (2000) 4 SCC
322; Printers (Mysore) Ltd.
SCC 508; and Government of Andhra Pradesh & 13. So far as the change of
user is concerned, it is a settled legal proposition that once land vests in
the State free from all encumbrances, there cannot be any rider on the power of
the State Government to change user of the land in the manner it chooses.
of Maharashtra & Ors., AIR 1977 SC 448, this Court held as under:"Once
the original acquisition is valid and title has vested in the Municipality, how
it uses the excess land is no concern of the original owner and cannot be the
basis for invalidating the acquisition. There is no principle of law by which a
valid compulsory acquisition stands voided because long later the requiring
Authority diverts it to a public purpose other than the one stated in
Secretary to the Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors., (1997) 2 SCC 627, this
Court held that if by virtue of a valid acquisition of land, land stands vested
in the State, thereafter, claimants are not entitled to restoration of
possession on the grounds that either the original public purpose is ceased to
be in operation or the land could not be used for any other purposes.
AIR 2002 SC 2532; and Northern Indian Glass 11 Court held that, the land user
can be changed by the Statutory Authority after the land vests in the State
free from all encumbrances.
view of the above, the law can be summarised that once the land is acquired, it
vests in the State free from all encumbrances. It is not the concern of the
land owner how his land is used and whether the land is being used for the
purpose for which it was acquired or for any other purpose. He becomes persona
non grata once the land vests in the State.
He has a
right to get compensation only for the same. The person interested cannot claim
the right of restoration of land on any ground, whatsoever.
the instant case, there is no pleading by the appellant in respect of the
receipt of compensation. No explanation could be furnished as to under what
circumstances the appeal was not filed if the appellant was so aggrieved by the
order of final assessment under Section 9 of the Act, 1976.
suit land was acquired in 1979. Revision was preferred in 1998, after expiry of
about two decades. Section 34 reads as under :"The State Government may,
on its own motion, call for and examine the records of any order passed or
proceeding taken under the provisions of this Act and against which no appeal
has been preferred under Section 12 or Section 30 or Section 33 for the purpose
of satisfying itself as to the legality or propriety of such order or as to the
regularity of such procedure and pass such order with respect thereto as it may
think fit .........."
Undoubtedly, Section 34 does not prescribe any limitation during which the
Revisional power can be exercised by the State Government either on application
or suo moto.
question does arise as to whether absence of limitation in Section 34 confers
unfettered power to vary or revoke the order of the prescribed authority
without any outside limitation in point of duration i.e. does it confer an
everlasting or interminable power in point of time. If the contention raised by
Mr. Ganguly that such provisions of Section 34 do not prescribe any limitation,
and it confers an interminable 13 power upon the State Government in point of
time to exercise the Revisional power, is accepted, there will be no finality
of the proceedings taken under the Act, 1976.
1297, this Court considered a similar provision in Bombay Land Revenue Code,
1879, which also did not provide any limitation for exercising the Revisional
power by the Commissioner under Sections 65 and 211 of the Code. The Court held
that in spite of the fact that the provisions do not prescribe for any
limitation for exercising such Revisional powers, "this power must be
exercised in reasonable time and the length of the reasonable time must be
determined by the facts of the case and the nature of the order, which is being
revised". The Court further explained that if the power is not exercised
within the reasonable time, it may disturb the possession of the person after
an inordinate delay and the occupant who had spent his life savings in
developing the land, may lose the benefit thereof. Therefore, the authority
must not entertain revisions at a belated stage.
Ibrahimpatnam Taluk Vyavasaya Coolie Sangham considered the provisions of the
Andhra Pradesh (Tilangana Area) Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1950,
wherein the provisions contained in Section 50-B(4) empowered the statutory authority
to exercise suo moto revisional power at any time. The Court held as under :Use
of the words "at any time" in subSection (4) of Section 50-B of the
Act only indicates that no specific period of limitation is prescribed within
which the suo moto power could be exercised reckoning or starting from a
particular date advisedly and contextually.
of suo moto power depended on facts and circumstances of each case.
of fraud, this power could be exercised within a reasonable time from the date
of detection or discovery of fraud.
exercising such power, several factors need to be kept in mind such as effect
on the rights of the third parties over the immovable property due to passage
of considerable time, change of the provisions of other Acts (such as Land
the words "at any time" in subsection (4) of Section 50-B of the Act
cannot be rigidly read letter by letter. It must be read and construed
contextually and reasonably. If one has to 15 simply proceed on the basis of
the dictionary meaning of the words "at any time", the suo moto power
under subSection (4) of Section 50-B of the Act could be exercised even after
decades and then it would lead to anomalous position leading to uncertainty and
complications seriously affecting the rights of the parties, that too, over
immovable properties. Orders attaining finality and certainty of the rights of
the parties accrued in the light of the orders passed must have sanctity.
Exercise of suo moto power "at any time" only means that no specific
period such as days, months or years are not prescribed reckoning from a
particular date. But, that does not mean that "at any time" should be
unguided and arbitrary. In this view, "at any time" must be
understood as within a reasonable time depending on the facts and circumstances
of each case in the absence of prescribed period of limitation."
said judgment was approved and followed by this Reddy & Ors., (2008) 16 SCC
legislature in its wisdom did not fix a time limit for exercising the
revisional power nor inserted the words "at any time" in Section 34
of the Act, 1976. It does not mean that the legislature intended to leave the
orders passed under the Act 16 open to variation for an indefinite period
inasmuch as it would have the effect of rendering title of the
holders/allottee(s) permanently precarious and in a state of perpetual
uncertainty. In case, it is assumed that the legislature has conferred an
everlasting and interminable power in point of time, the title over the
declared surplus land, in the hands of the State/allottee, would forever remain
has to construe the statutory provision in a way which makes the provisions
workable, advancing the purpose and object of enactment of the statute.
of the above, we reach the inescapable conclusion that the Revisional powers
cannot be used arbitrarily at belated stage for the reason that the order
passed in Revision under Section 34 of the Act, 1976, is a judicial order. What
should be reasonable time, would depend upon the facts and circumstances of
some person has taken a relief from the Court by filing a Writ Petition
immediately after the cause of action had arisen, petitioners cannot take the
benefit thereof resorting to 17 legal proceedings belatedly. They cannot take
any benefit thereof at such a belated stage for the reason that they cannot be
permitted to take the impetus of the order passed at the behest of some
SCC 267, this Court rejected the contention that a petition should be
considered ignoring the delay and laches, on the ground that the petitioner
therein filed the petition just after coming to know of the relief granted by
the Court in a similar case, as the same cannot furnish a proper explanation
for delay and laches. The Court observed that such a plea is wholly unjustified
and cannot furnish any ground for ignoring delay and laches.
same view has been reiterated by this Court in SC 2366, observing as under:"Suffice
it to state that appellants may be sleeping over their rights for long and
elected to wake-up when they had impetus from Veerpal Chauhan and Ajit Singh's
ratio..........desperate attempts of the appellants to re-do the seniority,
held 18 by them in various cadre.......are not amenable to the judicial review
at this belated stage. The High Court, therefore, has rightly dismissed the
writ petition on the ground of delay as well."
1989 SC 674, this Court considered a case where petitioner wanted to get relief
on the basis of the judgment of this Court wherein a particular law had been
declared ultra vires. The Court rejected the petition on the ground of delay
and laches observing as under:"There is one more ground which basically
sets the present case apart. Petitioners are re-agitating claims which they
have not pursued for several years. Petitioners were not vigilant but were
content to be dormant and close to sit on the fence till somebody else's case
came to be decided."
However, it will be a different case altogether, where the law, under which an
order has been passed, is declared ultra vires/unconstitutional and the order,
thus, passed is rendered a nullity. The party may ask for appropriate relief as
property had been acquired under the law, later so declared void. [See 19 &
Anr., AIR 1983 SC 643; and M/s. Rup Diamonds (supra)].
that as it may, the law laid down by this Court in Atia Mohammadi Begum (supra)
has not been approved by this Court in subsequent Judgment i.e. N. Audikesava
Reddy (supra), wherein it has clearly been held as under :"The
observations that the authorities by their subsequent action after 17th
February, 1976 cannot alter or introduce the master plan which has the effect
of increasing the area of excess vacant land do not represent the correct view
aforesaid explanation to Section 6(1), inter alia, provides that where any
land, not being vacant land, situated in a State in which this Act is in force
has becomes vacant land by any reason whatsoever, the date on which such land
becomes vacant land would be the date of the commencement of the Act as regards
and town planning are ongoing processes and they go on changing from time to
time depending upon the local needs. That apart, the definition of the
"master plan" in Section 2(h) is very significant. It reads as under:
'master plan', in relation to an area within an urban agglomeration or any part
20 thereof, means the plan (by whatever name called) prepared under any law for
the time being in force or in pursuance of an order made by the State
Government for the development of such area or part thereof and providing for
the stages by which such development shall be carried out."
provision, inter alia, contemplates the master plan prepared under any law for
the time being in force for development of an area. The plan shall also provide
for the stages by which such development shall be carried out. It is evident
from the aforesaid definition of master plan that it takes in view any plan
prepared even subsequent to the coming into force of the Act. Further, the
explanation to Section 6(1), as noticed above, very significantly provides that
every person holding vacant land in excess of the ceiling limit at the
commencement of the Act shall file a statement before the competent authority
and "the commencement of the Act" under clause (2) would be when the
land becomes vacant for any reason whatsoever. Therefore, the date of
commencement of the Act in a case where the land, which was not vacant earlier,
would be the date on which such land becomes vacant land. It, thus,
contemplates a situation of land, not being vacant, becoming vacant due to
preparation of a master plan subsequent 21 to 17th February, 1976. Further, the
provisions of the Act require filing of a statement under Sections 6 7 15 and
16 from time to time as and when land acquires the character of a vacant land.
to file statement under the Act arises when a person comes to hold any vacant
land in excess of the ceiling limit, which date necessarily may not be 17th
February, 1976. It would all depend on the facts and circumstances of each
we hold that the master plan prepared as per law in force even subsequent to
enforcement of the Act is to be taken into consideration to determine whether a
particular piece of land is vacant land or not and, to this extent, Atia Begum
is not correctly decided." (Emphasis added)
view of the above, there is no justification for this Court to enforce the law
laid down in Atia Mohammadi Begum (supra), which has subsequently been held not
to be valid law. Submission made by Sh. Ganguly, that the initial proceedings
instituted against the appellant were a nullity as the land could not be
covered under the Act, 1976, remains preposterous.
Undoubtedly, the Act, 1976, stood repealed by the Act 1999. However, it has no
bearing on this case for the reason 22 that proceeding pending in any Court
relating to the Act, 1976, stood abated, provided the possession of the land
had not been taken from the owner. Therefore, in a case, where the possession
has been taken, the repeal of the Act would not confer any benefit on the owner
of the land. [Vide Pt. Madan Competent Authority, (2004) 13 SCC 452; and
the above, the following factual situation emerges:
land was declared surplus under the Act, 1976, and acquired in 1979.
Possession of the land was taken in 1979 by the State of Maharashtra and it was
handed over to PMT for construction of the residential quarters for the staff.
Appellant has not stated anywhere in the pleadings as to whether any amount/
compensation as provided under the Act, 1976, had been received/accepted by
Appellant, for the reason best known to her, did not file appeal before the
Land Tribunal, though Act, 1976 provides for two appeals.
Appellant woke up from deep-slumber only after five years of the judgment of
this Court in Atia Mohammadi Begum (supra) and filed revision under Section 34
of the Act, 1976, in 1998.
State Government allowed the revision without taking into consideration the
point of delay; rather it relied upon its own circulars.
State Government did not consider the consequences and particularly the issue
of dispossession of the appellant from the land in dispute in 1978 itself.
The judgment in Atia Mohammadi Begum (supra) has been over-ruled by this Court
Therefore, the law, as exists today, is that the land in dispute could be subjected
to the provisions of the Act, 1976, with effect from 17.5.1976, i.e. the date
on which the suit land came within the limits of the Municipal Corporation. The
Act stood repealed in 1999, but the proceedings pending in any court would
stand abated provided the tenure-holder was in 24 possession of the land on the
date of the commencement of the Act 1999. The High Court has taken note of the
fact that the appellant's revision had been entertained only on the basis of
the judgment of this Court in Atia Mohammadi Begum (supra), which stood
over-ruled by the subsequent judgment in N. Audikesava Reddy (supra).
aforesaid factual position makes it clear that the appellant is not entitled
for any relief whatsoever as per the law, as it exists today. The land once
vested in the State cannot be divested. Once the land is vested in the State it
has a right to change the user. The appellant cannot be heard raising grievance
on either of these issues.
in view of the above, the appeal lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed. No
order as to costs.
..................................J. (P. SATHASIVAM)