& Ors Vs. P. Mangamma & Ors  Insc 124 (28 February 2003)
APPEAL NOS. 2692-2693 OF 1997 ARIJIT PASAYAT,J
appeals involve common points and are directed against a Division Bench
judgment of the Andhra Pradesh High Court. Factual matrix giving rise to these
appeals is as follows:
were initiated by the District Collector, Hyderabad under the Andhra Pradesh
Assigned Lands (Prohibition of Transfers) Act, 1977 (in short 'the Prohibition
Act') read with Section 166(B) of the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Land
Revenue Act, 1950 (in short 'the Tenancy Act'). The suo motu action was taken
on the ground that there were irregular assignments in favour of the original
assignees and there were clear violations of several stipulations and
conditions provided under the Special Loani Rules (in short 'the Rules).
Transfers made by the original assignees were illegal. The land situated in Banjara
hills area of Shaiktpet village, a prime locality and in view of the
contraventions of the conditions stipulated under Sections 47 and 48 of the
Tenancy Act, the assignments were to be cancelled. As there was no response in
spite of valid notice, order of cancellation was passed on 18.12.1984. It was
indicated that even though newspaper advertisement was issued requiring the noticees
to show cause, it did not bring any result. There was no response on the date
fixed. The said order was challenged before a learned Single Judge of the
Andhra Pradesh High Court, who taking note of the respective stands of the
parties disposed of the writ applications, inter alia, with the following
because 30 years had elapsed by the date of filing of the writ petition, it
does not mean that the proceedings have to be automatically closed in spite of
the divergent claims by the private individuals and the State which required
the consideration by the authority concerned. The impugned order is quashed to
the extent of the petitioners concerned and the petitioners are directed to
submit their objections before the authority within two months from today. The
same shall be entertained by the competent authority who issued notice in the
paper calling for objections under Section 166-B of the Act and be disposed of
on merits according to law." Said order was challenged before a Division
Bench which by the impugned judgment held that though there was no time limit
fixed for initiation of action, it has to be within a reasonable period and,
therefore, action after about 30 years cannot be maintained. It was noted that
no purpose would be served by permitting the District Collector to decide the
case afresh after hearing the parties at this distance of time. Accordingly,
the impugned order of cancellation was set aside by upsetting the directions of
learned Single Judge.
Ahmed, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for the State of Andhra Pradesh and its functionaries submitted
that approach of the Division Bench was clearly on untenable premises.
Reference was made to Section 3 of the Prohibition Act, 1977 to contend that it
contains a deemed provision, and assignments before and after the commencement
of the Prohibition Act were covered.
said Act was enacted in the year 1977. When specific instances of illegal
assignments came to the notice of the authorities, a special task force was
constituted in the year 1981 and on the basis of decision taken by the
concerned authorities action for cancellation was initiated.
opportunity was given to the parties which they failed to avail. On equitable
consideration, learned Single Judge had permitted a fresh adjudication. There
was no reason for the Division Bench to set aside the directions given by
learned Single Judge as there cannot be any rigid formula to determine as to
what would be a reasonable period of time. On the facts of the present case,
the action cannot be said to have been taken after a long period.
contra, Mr. P.S. Mishra, learned senior counsel appearing for the respondents
submitted that the Prohibition Act has no application to the facts of the case.
Assignments were made under the Rules by the Nizam. The Prohibition Act is
applicable only to assignments made by the Government.
and "Government" are defined in Section 2(1) and 2(2) of the Prohibition
Act respectively. Though, there cannot be any rigid formula for determining the
reasonable period, by no stretch of imagination a period of 30 years can be
termed to be a reasonable period.
pointed out that under the Prohibition Act there is a ban on transfer of the
land assigned but there was no such stipulation under the Rules. This stand is controverted
by Mr. Altaf Ahmad with reference to a Certificate dated 4.1.1953 (to which
reference has been made in the judgment by the Division Bench) to contend that
there was prohibition on such transfer.
reasonable period would depend upon the factual circumstances of the concerned
case. There cannot be any empirical formula to determine that question. The
Court/authority considering the question whether the period is reasonable or
not has to take into account the surrounding circumstances and relevant factors
to decide that question.
State of Gujarat v. Patel Raghav Natha and Ors. (AIR
1969 SC 1297) it was observed that when even no period of limitation was
prescribed, the power is to be exercised within a reasonable time and the limit
of the reasonable time must be determined by the facts of the case and the
nature of the order which was sought to be varied. This aspect does not appear
to have been specifically kept in view by the Division Bench. Additionally, the
points relating to applicability of the Prohibition Act, and even if it is held
that the Act was applicable, the reasonableness of the time during which action
should have been initiated were also not considered. It would be hard to give
an exact definition of the word "reasonable".
varies in its conclusions according to the idiosyncrasy of the individual and
the times and circumstances in which he thinks. The reasoning which built up
the old scholastic logic stands now like the jingling of a child's toy. But
mankind must be satisfied with the reasonableness within reach; and in cases
not covered by authority, the decision of the judge usually determines what is
"reasonable" in each particular case; but frequently reasonableness
"belong to the knowledge of the law, and therefore to be decided by the
Courts". It was illuminatingly stated by a learned author that an attempt
to give a specific meaning to the word "reasonable" is trying to
count what is not number and measure what is not space.
means prima facie in law reasonable in regard to those circumstances of which
the actor, called upon to act reasonably, knows or ought to know. [See
Municipal Corporation of Delhi v. M/s Jagan Nath Ashok Kumar and Anr.
(AIR 1987 SC 2316) and Gujarat Water Supply & Sewerage Board
v. Unique Erectors (Gujarat)(P) Ltd. and Anr. (AIR 1989 SC
973)]. As observed by Lord Romilly M.R. in Labouchere v. Dawson (1872) L.R. 13 Eq.Ca. 325) it is
impossible a priori to state what is reasonable as such in all cases. You must
have the particular facts of each case established before you can ascertain
what is reasonable under the circumstances. Reasonable, being a relative term
is essentially what is rational according to the dictates of reason and not
excessive or immoderate on the facts and circumstances of the particular case.
to be noted that the respondents questioned correctness of the orders passed by
the Collector by filing writ petitions. As noted above, learned Single Judge
had directed the issues to be considered by the original authority. It is a
settled proposition in law that even jurisdictional questions can be considered
by an authority deciding the question whether proceeding was validly initiated
find that all the relevant aspects have not been considered by the Division
Bench which confined its consideration only to the question of delay. The
explanation now offered by the appellants and the stand regarding non-
applicability of the Prohibition Act as raised by the respondents have not been
considered by the learned Single Judge or the Division Bench. It would,
therefore, be appropriate to remit the matter back to the High Court for a
fresh consideration by the Division Bench. Normally, the question relating to
valid initiation of action or otherwise is to be decided by the original
authority which was the direction given by the learned Single Judge. But at
this length of time we do not think it proper to send the matter back to the
original authority. With a view to shorten litigation, we remit the matter back
to the Division Bench as noted above. The parties shall be permitted to place
all relevant facts in respect of their respective stands before the High Court
which shall consider them in their proper prospective and render its decision.
We make it clear that we are not expressing any opinion on the merits of the
appeals are disposed of accordingly. Parties shall bear their respective costs.