Sing Vs. State of Punjab  INSC 427 (12 October 1993)
S. (J) MOHAN, S. (J) BHARUCHA S.P. (J) CITATION: 1994 SCC Supl. (2) 517
second respondent-Gram Panchayat Chhaleri filed an application under Section 11
of the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961 (hereinafter referred
to as 'the Act') that the Gram Panchayat is the owner of an area of 146 kanals
5 marlas spread over in several Khasra numbers. According to the Panchayat, the
appellants are in unauthorised possession. Whenever the Gram Panchayat demanded
possession, the appellant challenged the ownership of Gram Panchayat.
Therefore, it became necessary to have declaration as to the title of the
property as could be done under Section 11 of the Act. According to the Panchayat
the dismissal of the earlier applications filed on November 27, 1967, April
1, 1978 and May 23, 1982 under Section 7 of the Act would
not constitute res judicata.
stand was opposed by the appellants. The principal contention is that the
earlier applications filed by the Gram Panchayat came to be dismissed by the
relevant authority. That would constitute res judicata and concluded the
question of title.
original authority, namely, the Collector (Divisional Deputy Director) Rural
Development, Patiala, accepting the contention of the
appellants that the dismissal of earlier application under Section 7 would
constitute res judicata dismissed the application of Panchayat under Section
11. Aggrieved by the same, an appeal was preferred before the Joint Director, Punjab, exercising the powers of the
appellate authority under Section 11(2) held that the dismissal of the earlier
applications would not constitute res judicata and thereafter proceeded to hold
that having regard to the entry in Jamabandhi 1976-77 and Khasra Girdwari Year
1959-83, the ownership of second respondent-Panchayat had come to be
established, more so in the absence of any evidence to the contrary.
When a writ petition was filed by the appellants that was dismissed in limine. Thus,
is urged before us by the appellants that once the appellate authority came to
the conclusion that the dismissal of the earlier applications by the second
respondent-Panchayat under Section 7 would not constitute res judicata, an
opportunity ought to have been afforded to the appellants to lead in evidence
on the question of title.
is because the entire case proceeded both before the original authority and the
appellate authority as to the effect of dismissal of earlier applications under
Section 7 and whether that would constitute res judicata. As regards title, if
an opportunity had been afforded, the appellants could have established it
factually. The High Court fell into error in overlooking this aspect and
dismissing the writ petition in limine.
contra it is argued by the second respondent- Panchayat that under Section 11,
both the original (sic and the) appellate authority have a duty to decide the
question of title. The appellate authority found factually in favour of the Panchayat,
more so, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary. Hence the question of
title cannot be reopened.
have given our careful consideration to the aforesaid submissions. We accept
the arguments of the learned counsel for the appellants. We find both before
the Collector and the appellate authority the case of the parties mainly rested
on the applicability of the principles of res judicata inasmuch as the previous
applications of the Gram Panchayat under Section 7 came to be dismissed. The
appellate authority, namely, the Commissioner has held that dismissal of those
applications would not constitute res judicata. Thereafter normally the matter
should have been remitted to the original authority to decide the question of
title. Unfortunately the High Court also has not adverted to this aspect. Under
these circumstances, we are obliged to set aside the order of the High Court as
well as the judgments of the appellate authority (Commissioner) and that of the
Controller and remand the matter to the Collector for a decision on title. It
is made clear that it is open to the parties to urge all the points they would
like to, excepting the point relating to res judicata. Having regard to the
fact that it is an old matter we would direct the Collector to dispose of the
same before the end of February 1994. The civil appeal is disposed of in the
above terms with no order as to costs.