Ramakrishna Reddy & Ors Vs. The Addl. Revenue Divisional Officers & Ors
 INSC 435 (18
J. & R.P. Sethi, J.
These three appeals filed on the basis of the certificate of fitness granted by
the High Court of Andhra Pradesh involve common questions of facts and law.
they were heard together and they are being disposed of by this Judgment. Civil
Appeal No. 3012 of 1987 filed by the Conservator of Forests, Nizamabad Division
and the Divisional Forest Officer, Kama Reddy, is directed against the Judgment
of the Division Bench of High Court of Andhra Pradesh in Writ Appeal No. 731 of
1982, whereas Civil Appeal Nos. 9617 -18/95 filed by D. Ramakrishna Reddy and
four others are directed against the Judgment of the Division Bench of the High
Court in Writ Appeal Nos.
and 676 of 1982. All the writ appeals were filed against the judgment dated
22.4.1982 passed by the Learned Single Judge disposing of Writ Petition Nos.
5793 of 1979 and 637 of 1982. Both these Writ Petitions were filed by D.
Reddy and Others assailing the taking over possession of surplus lands from
them under the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Land Reforms(Ceiling and
Agricultural Holdings) Act, 1973 (Act I of 1973). The specific controversy
raised in the cases related to the right of the petitioners to cut and remove
trees from the forest area which was a part of the surplus land. The case of
the petitioners, as appears from the discussions in the Judgment of the learned
Single Judge, was that the forest land, though a part of the surplus land in
their hands had not vested in the State Government,and therefore, they were
entitled to cut and remove the trees standing on the said land before handing
over possession of the land to the State Government. The writ petitioners also
pleaded that long before the land was declared surplus with them, they had
moved the competent authority of the Forest department for grant of transit permits to them for cutting and
removing the standing trees. The authorities sat over the matter and did not
issue the requisite transit permit. Therefore, the writ petitioners sought a
writ of mandamus directing the authorities concerned to issue necessary transit
State Government, particularly the Officers concerned of the Forest Department,
contested the case mainly on the grounds that the entire surplus land in the
hands of the writ petitioners had vested in the State Government along with the
forest growth on a portion of the same. The lands including the trees and other
forest produce were the property of the State Government and the writ
petitioners had no right to cut and remove the trees on any portion of the
surplus land which had vested in the State Government.
learned Single Judge, considering the case of the parties, formulated the
following questions for determination :- 1. When does the land surrendered by
the landholder vest in the State? 2. Whether the forest produce standing on the
land surrendered also vests in the State along with the land? an d 3. Whether
the petitioners are entitled to any relief on the ground that they had been
approaching for the last several years for permits to cut and remove the forest
produce on the said land, but were prevented from doing so on account of
in-action on the part of or wrong orders passed by the officers of the Forest
Department? The learned Single Judge divided the writ petitioners into three
categories; in the first category were included petitioners D. Narasimha Reddy
and D. Venkata Reddy, the second category related to D. Ramakrishna Reddy and
the third category related to petitioners G. Laxma Reddy and G.
Reddy. The appellants herein who were included in the first category
surrendered the surplus land in their possession on 1.3.1979. Regarding the
second category, the learned Single Judge observed that the petitioner had
neither surrendered the surplus land nor possession had been taken by following
the procedure prescribed under the Act and the rules, though notice in Form No.
IX was served on the petitioner on 12.11.1979. Similarly, in respect of the
third category of petitioners, the observation was that neither notice under
Form No. IX had been issued nor served on the party. The learned Single Judge
held that vesting of the surplus land takes place on the date the Form No. IX
notice is issued and served upon the person concerned. In support of the
finding, he placed reliance on the language of Section 11 of the Act and the
contents of Form IX. The learned Single Judge further held that the surplus
land vests in the Government free from all encumbrances from the date of the
order to take possession which is stated in Form IX notice. On the basis of the
above findings, the learned Single Judge held that in the case of categories 1
and 2, i.e. the writ petitioners 1, 2 & 5, the surplus land had vested in
the State in the year 1979 itself, the forest growth on the said land too
vested in the State along with the land and no separate compensation or amount
is payable on account of such forest growth. In this regard, the learned Single
Judge placed reliance on a decision of a Division Bench of the High Court in
Writ Appeal Nos.
of 1982 dated 16.4.1982.
with the case of writ petitioners 3 & 4 who were included in the third
category, the learned Single Judge took the view that the lands proposed to be
surrendered by them have not yet vested in the State; in such a situation,
there can be no valid objection by the authorities of the Forest department for issuing transit
permits. The learned Single Judge directed the forest authorities to issue
transit permits in favour of the writ petitioners 3 & 4 G. Bhoopal Reddy
and G. Laxma Reddy(since deceased represented by Bhoopal Reddy) in respect of
the forest growth on the land, which they had offered to surrender as surplus
land to the State Government. Specifying the area of the said land, the learned
Judge observed the extent of land to be 46 acres 95 cents in Survey No. 836 of Hussain
the fact situation further, the learned Single Judge observed that the total
area of 160 acres 88 cents comprising of 53 acres 50 cents of first petitioner,
53 acres 50 cents of second petitioner and 53 acres 80 cents of fifth
petitioner which had been surrendered had vested in the State, transit permits
for the forest produce in the remaining area was ordered to be issued according
to the rules within one month of the date of receipt of the order.
learned Single Judge further ordered that if there are any fruit bearing trees
on the land which was surrendered by petitioners 1, 2 & 5 vested in the
State, the said petitioners shall be entitled to compensation as per Rule 11 of
the Andhra Pradesh(Ceiling on Agricultrural Holdings) Rules, 1974.
aggrieved by the judgement of the Learned Single Judge, the Conservator of
Forests, Nizamabad and the Divisional Forest Officer, Kama Reddy Division filed
Writ Appeal No 731 of 1982 which was disposed of by the Judgment rendered on
27.7.1987, the operative portion of which reads as follows:- "The Forest
produce, we affirm, did not vest in the Government on the facts of the case as
held in the order under Appeal. The landholders are entitled to compensation.
direct the Government to determine and pay the compensation for the forest
growth in four months from today." The said Judgement is under challenge
in Civil Appeal No. 3012 of 1987.
other cases, Civil Appeal Nos. 9617-18/95 directed against the Judgment of the
High Court dated 10.7.1987 in Writ Appeal Nos. 676 and 790 of 1982 which were
filed by the writ petitioners against the Judgment passed by the learned Single
Judge in Writ Petition Nos.
of 1979 and 637 of 1982, the Division Bench disposed of the Writ Appeals by the
order which reads as follows:
the dicision in W.A. Nos.355 and 356 of 1982 dated April 16, 1982 the Writ Appeals are dismissed. The cases do involve a
substantial question of law to be decided by the Supreme Court, Oral Leave is
granted. Status quo as on today to be continued for two months from
today." That is how these appeals have been filed in this Court.
Andhra Pradesh Land Reforms (Ceiling on Agricultural Holdings) Act, 1973 (Act I
of 1973), as stated in the Preamble, is an act to consolidate and amend the law
relating to the fixation of the ceiling on agricultural holdings and taking
over of surplus lands and to provide for the materials connected therewith.
Section 2 of the Act contains a declaration that the act is for giving effect
to the policy of the State towards securing the principles specified in clause
(b) and (c) of Article 39 of the Constitution of India. Section 3 which
contains the definitions of certain terms used in the Act provides in
clause(c), that 'ceiling area' means the extent of lands specified in Section 4
or Section 4-A to be ceiling area;
clause (j) 'land' means which is used or is capable of being used for purposes
of agriculture, or for purposes ancillary thereto, including horticulture,
forest land, pasture land, plantation and tope and includes land deemed to be
agricultural land under the Act. (Emphasis supplied) Explanations 1 & 2 to
the said sub-Section are not very material for the purpose of the present case.
Section 4 contains the provisions regarding ceiling area in respect of an
'individual' and a 'family'. Section 8 of the Act in which provision is made
for 'declaration of holding' by a person reads as follows:- (1) Every person,
whose holding on the notified date together with any land transferred to him on
or after the 24th January, 1971, whether by way of sale, gift usufructuary
mortgage, exchange, settlement, surrender or in any other manner whatsoever,
and any, land in respect of which a trust has been created by him on or after
the 24th January, 1971, exceeds the specified limits shall, within thirty days
from the notified date or within such extended period as the Government may
notify in this behalf, furnish a declaration in respect of his holding together
with such land, to the Tribunal within whose jurisdiction the whole or a major
part of his holding is situate containing such particulars including those
relating to lands held by him in any part of India outside the State, and in
such form as may be prescribed.
Without prejudice to the provisions of sub-section (1), the Tribunal shall have
power to issue notice requiring any person holding land or residing within its
jurisdiction who, it has reason to believe, holds or is deemed to hold land in
excess of the ceiling area to furnish a declaration of his holding, or that of
his family unit, under sub-section (1) within such period as may be specified
in the notice not being less than fifteen days from the date of its
communication, and such person shall furnish the declaration accordingly.
any person who is liable to furnish a declaration under sub-section (1) or
sub-section (2) fails to furnish the declaration within the specified time, the
Tribunal may obtain the necessary information in such manner as may be prescribed.
9 in which provision is made for determination of ceiling area lays down :-@@
JJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJ "Tribunal shall on receipt of the declaration
furnished or information obtained under Section 8, publish the same, and make
an enquiry, in such manner as may be prescribed, and pass orders determining
whether the person holds or is deemed to hold on the notified date an extent of
land in excess of the ceiling area and if so, the extent of land so held in
excess as on that date." Section 10 contains the provisions regarding
surrender of surplus land. Sub-Sections(1), (2), (3) & (4) which are
particularly relevant for the purpose of the present case are quoted
hereunder:- " (1) If the extent of the holding of a person is in excess of
the ceiling area, the person shall be liable to surrender the land held in
The Tribunal shall serve on every person, who is liable to surrender the land
held in excess of the ceiling area under sub-section (1), a notice specifying
therein the extent of land which such person has to surrender and requiring him
to file a statement within such period not being less than fifteen days, as it
may fix, indicating therein, full particulars of the lands which such person
proposes to surrender.
the person on whom a notice is served under sub-section (2), files the
statement referred to in that sub-section within the period fixed therefor, and
the Tribunal is satisfied, after making such inquiry as it deems fit that the
proposed surrender of the land is in accordance with the provisions of this
Act, it shall pass an order approving the surrender and the said land shall
thereupon be deemed to have been surrendered by such person.
the person on whom a notice is served under sub-section (2) does not file the
statement referred to in that sub-section within the period fixed therefor or
files such statement within the period fixed but does not specify therein the
entire extent of land which such person has to surrender, the Tribunal may,
after giving an opportunity to the person concerned of being heard, itself
select, in the former case the entire extent, and in the latter case, the
balance of the extent which such person has to surrender, and pass an order to
that effect, and thereupon the said land or balance of land, as the case may
shall be, deemed to have been surrendered by such person." (Emphasis
supplied) This brings us to the provision regarding vesting of land
surrendered. Section 11 which deals with the matter is quoted hereunder :
"11. Vesting of land surrendered :- Where any land is surrendered or is
deemed to have been surrendered under this Act by an owner the Revenue
Divisional Officer may, subject to such rules as may be prescribed, by order
take possession or authorise any officer to take possession of such land which
shall thereupon vest in the Government free from all encumbrances from the date
of such order :
that any claim or liability enforceable against that land immediately before
the date of vesting in the Government may be enforced only - (i) against the
amount payable under this Act in respect of such land; and (ii) against any
other property of the owner;
same extent to which such claim or liability was enforceable against that land
or other property, as the case may be, immediately before the date of vesting.
:- Nothing in this section shall affect the provisions of any law, custom,
usage or agreement relating to right of easements available for any land
vesting in the Government under this section over any other land." In
Section 20 are contained the provisions regarding appeal and Constitution of
the Appellate Tribunal etc.
to the provisions of the Rules; in Rule 7 the procedure for surrender of land
by a person whose holding is in excess of the ceiling area is laid down. From
the provision in the said rule it is clear that it is the Tribunal which has to
identify the excess land to be surrendered to the State. Discretion is vested
in the Tribunal to accept or not to accept the statement filed by the holder of
surplus land regarding the land to be surrendered. Power is also vested in the
Tribunal to itself select the land to be surrendered.
sets out the procedure for taking over possession of the land surrendered. In
sub-rule (1) of the said rule, it is laid down that the Revenue Divisional
Officer may on receipt of a copy of the order passed by the Tribunal under
sub-rule (6) of rule 7 in respect of any land surrendered or deemed to have
been surrendered by an owner issue an order in Form IX authorising any Officer
not lower in rank than a Revenue Inspector to take possession or occupation of
such land. Under sub-rule (2), a copy of the order is to be served on the
person who has surrendered or is deemed to have surrendered the land and on any
other person in possession or occupation of such land. In sub-rule (4),
provision is made that where the person concerned fails to voluntarily deliver
possession of the land, the officer authorised to take possession of the land
may enter upon the land to take possession thereof after removing any
obstruction or any unauthorised occupant, on such land if necessary by using
such force as he thinks fit and record a certificate in Form X duly attested by
two witnesses. Under the proviso, an exception is made in the case where there
is a seasonal crop on the land as on the date of taking possession, and in that
case, it shall be allowed to be harvested by the person in actual possession or
occupation of the land on that date, at his own risk and no compensation from
the Government for any loss or damage shall be allowed under any circumstances.
In sub-rule (7) of rule 8, it is provided that all lands vested in the
Government shall be registered in the revenue accounts of the village as
assessed waste Government lands until their allotment or transfer, as the case
may be, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, or until their registry
is duly altered in accordance with the rules in force relating to Government
lands. Rule 10 deals with disposal of lands vested on the Government.
Rule 10-A, provision is made for retransfer of land, vested in Government in
11 which makes provision regarding fixation of value for fruit bearing trees
and structures etc. reads as follows: - (1) The amount payable for fruit
bearing trees shall be at the seinorage rates notified by the District Forest
Officer as applicable to the district from time to time and for the Tribunal
may require the district Forest Officer in whose jurisdiction the land is
situated to furnish an estimate of the amount payable for such trees.
The amount payable for the structures of permanent nature shall be equivalent
to the depreciated value of the structure as on the specified date and for this
purpose the Tribunal may require the Executive Engineer, Roads and Buildings
Division, in the district to furnish an estimate of the depreciated value of
the conspectus of the relevant provisions in the Act and the Rules noted in the
preceding paragraph it is clear that the surplus land which is surrendered or
deemed to have been surrendered shall vest in the State on communication of the
order passed by the Revenue Divisional Officer to take over possession of such
land to the owner/holder/occupier of the said land. The word 'thereupon' in
Section 11 refers to such order of the Revenue Divisional Officer. The order in
Form 'IX' and the manner in which the said order will be served on the owner
are prescribed in sub- rules (1) and (2) of Rule 8. The provisions incorporated
in sub-rule (3) to (7) of the said rule are steps to be
taken after the surplus land has vested in the State. Vesting of the surplus
land in the State is not dependent on taking over physical possession of the
land which may be immediately after the vesting or sometimes subsequent
thereto. It is our considered view that this conclusion emanates from a
harmonious construction of the provisions in section 11 and rule 8 and it is in
accord with the object and purpose of the Act.
payment of compensation for the standing trees or any other forest produce on
the land vested in the State Government, our attention has not been drawn to
any provision in the Act or in the Rules for payment of such sum. Section 15 of
the Act makes provision regarding the amount payable for any land vested in the
Government under the Act which is to be calculated at the rates specified in
the second schedule. Section 16 makes provision regarding claims for amount
payable which is to be determined by the Tribunal. In rule 11 is incorporated
the provision for fixation of value for fruit bearing trees and structures.
being no provision in the Act or Rules for payment of any sum for the trees
(other than fruit bearing trees) or any other forest produce on the vested
land, no claim for compensation for the trees or other forest produce standing
on the surplus land surrendered or deemed to have been surrendered arises under
the provisions of the Act or the Rule. The tribunals are creatures of the Act
and it is not open to them to travel beyond the provisions of the statute.
High Court while examining the correctness or otherwise of the order passed by
the tribunal or any action taken by an officer under the Act is also to be
guided by the provisions of the statute.
question that remains to be considered is regarding grant of permit to the
respondents for removal of the forest produce. In this regard, it is sufficient
to state that even before vesting of the property in the State Government the
holders of the land had no right for felling and removing the standing trees or
other forest produce from the forest area. They could do so only on getting a
permit from the competent officer of the Forest department of the State Government authorising them to fell and remove
the trees or other forest produce. Grant of such permit was at the discretion
of the competent officer and the power was to be exercised in accordance with
the provisions of the statute applicable in the matter and the rules framed in
that regard. Therefore, no direction could be justifiably issued in the present
proceedings which is relating to vesting of surplus land under the Act, for
felling and/or removal of any forest produce from forest area. The resultant
position from the discussions in the foregoing paragraphs is that the judgment
of the Division Bench confirming the judgment of the learned single Judge of
the High Court, that forest produce did not vest in the Government and that the
landholders are entitled to compensation is unsustainable.
the direction to the State Government to determine and pay the compensation for
the forest growth is also unsustainable. Accordingly, the Civil Appeal No.3013
of 1987 is allowed and the judgment under challenge is set aside. Civil Appeal
Nos. 9617-18 of 1995 are dismissed.
circumstances, however, there will be no order for costs.