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Samadhi Dass & Ors. v. State of Punjab & Ors. - LPA-155-2005  RD-P&H 1636 (10 March 2006)
IN THE HIGH COURT FOR THE STATES OF PUNJAB AND HARYANA AT CHANDIGARH
L.P.A. No.155 of 2005
Date of decision: March 07, 2006.
Samadhi Dass & Ors.
Mr. Rajiv Kataria, Advocate
State of Punjab & Ors.
Mr. Sanjiv Sharma, Additional
Advocate General, Punjab with Mr.
Jayender S. Chandail, Assistant
Advocate General, Punjab
HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE D.K. JAIN, CHIEF JUSTICE HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE SURYA KANT
1. Whether Reporters of local papers may be allowed to see the judgment ?
2. To be referred to the Reporters or not ?
3. Whether the judgment should be reported in the Digest. Surya Kant, J. - This order shall dispose of Letters Patent Appeals No.134, 154, 155 and 156 of 2005 as the same have arisen out of the judgment, dated April 27, 2005, passed by the Learned Single Judge whereby a bunch of writ petitions involving common questions of law and facts were disposed of.
. For the sake of brevity, facts are being taken from Civil Writ Petition No.4043 of 1995, giving rise to LPA No.155 of 2005.
. The appellants filed civil suit No.5 dated 6.1.1965 for possession of a piece of land, described as banjar qadim in the revenue L.P.A. No.155 of 2005 - 2 -
record and which they claimed to be in their adverse possession much prior to 9.1.1954 when shamilat law came into force in the erstwhile State of Punjab by virtue of Act No.1 of 1954. Though the judgment passed by the civil court is not on record, however, copy of the decree sheet, dated 19.2.1965 (Annexure P-1), does indicate that the said civil suit was decreed in favour of the appellants and against the Gram Panchayat of Village Mavi Sappan, Tehsil & District Patiala. No appeal was filed against the aforesaid judgment and decree and it attained finality.
[3-a]. Vide the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) (Amendment) Act, 1976 (Punjab Act No.19 of 1976), certain amendments were carried out in the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961 (in short the 1961 Act). While jurisdiction of the civil court to entertain or adjudicate upon any question whether a property or any right or interest therein is shamilat deh or not, was expressly barred, Section 13-B was also incorporated thereby providing that "the provisions of this Act shall have effect notwithstanding anything to the contrary in any law, or any agreement, instrument, customs or usage, or any decree or order of any court...".
[3-b]. Construing as if Section 13-B had retrospective effect, the authorities under the 1961 Act started ignoring even those inter-se civil court decrees which were passed prior to 15.4.1976 and had attained finality. On the same premise, the District Development & Panchayat Officer, exercising the powers of the Collector under the Act, passed the order, dated 21.12.1982 (Annexure P-2), whereby an application under section 11 of the 1961 Act moved by the respondent-Gram Panchayat against the appellants was accepted and notwithstanding the fact that the L.P.A. No.155 of 2005 - 3 -
civil court decree was already in their favour, the appellants were ordered to be ejected from the land in dispute which was held to be a shamilat deh vested in the Gram Panchayat. The appellants' appeal also met with the same fate as it was turned down by the Joint Director, Panchayats vide order, dated 17.5.1985 (Annexure P-3).
[3-c]. In addition, the appellate authority also dismissed a bunch of appeals after observing that the facts and law points involved in those appeals were similar. It will be apposite to extract para 6 of the appellate order, dated 17.5.1985 (Annexure P-3), which reads as follows:- "6. Following are the more appeals of this type filed by other residents of this village, which have the same facts and involve the same law point. These appeals are also dismissed hereby:- Sr.No. Under Particulars of the case
1. 24/Patiala/1983 Gurdev Singh s/o Prem Singh village Mavi Sappan, Tehsil Samana, District
2. 62/Patiala/1983 Saun Singh s/o Sobha Singh
3. 68/Patiala/1983 Pritam Singh, Mukand Singh s/o Puran Singh
4. 78/Patiala/1983 Kartar Singh, Prem Singh sons of Nandu, Chandu s/o Saun Singh
5. 79/Patiala/1983 Samadhi Dass Chela Chattar Dass etc.
6. 298/Patiala/1983 Chanan Singh s/o Wazir Singh [3-d]. Aggrieved, the appellants approached this Court through the writ petition which has further given rise to this appeal.
. Meanwhile, interpretation and scope of Section 13-B of 1961 Act came up for consideration before a Full Bench of this Court wherein it was held that the aforesaid provision was prospective and shall have no effect upon the judgments and decrees passed by the civil courts before the Amending Act, 1976 came into force on 15.4.1976. [Ref: Gram Panchayat L.P.A. No.155 of 2005 - 4 -
of village Batholi Kalan v. Sagar Ram and others, 1991 PLJ 41 (FB)].
. Relying upon the Full Bench judgment in Sagar Ram's case (supra), it was contended on behalf of the appellants before the Learned Single Judge that since the civil court decree was passed in their favour on 18.2.1965, i.e. prior to the Amending Act, 1966 came into force on 15.4.1976, therefore, the same was binding inter-se parties and in terms thereof the land in dispute could not be treated as shamilat deh and thus, the Gram Panchayat had no claim whatsoever over the same.
. Though the legal implications and effect of the Full Bench judgment (supra) was conceded on behalf of the Gram Panchayat, however, it was contended on its behalf that since the civil court judgments and decrees relied upon by the appellants in the connected cases were passed at different points of time based upon distinguishable facts having no bearing on each other, the legal effect of each and every such judgment or decree is required to be considered by the Collector. The aforementioned contention found favour with the learned Single Judge who, in the judgment under appeal, observed as follows:-
"However, there is another aspect that merits attention. The appellate authority consolidated six appeals and decided them by a common order. These appeals were filed by different appellants, against different orders, passed by the Collector.
In each of these cases, the judgments and decree of the civil courts, relied upon by the appellants therein, were different.
The proceedings before the Collector were, thus, based on different facts, between different parties and reliance was placed upon different judgments and decrees of different civil L.P.A. No.155 of 2005 - 5 -
courts. In my opinion, even if the judgments and decrees, passed prior to 15.4.1976 are not be ignored, the Gram Panchayat cannot be prevented from impugning the legality or validity of the judgments and decrees on other grounds that may be available under law."
. Aggrieved at the above reproduced observations and consequential remand of the cases to the Collector, that the appellants have preferred these appeals.
. It is contended on behalf of the appellants that since the effect of civil court decrees passed before 15.4.1976 is no longer res-integra, there was no legal necessity to remand the case and allow the authorities under the Act to sit over these civil court decrees. Reliance has also been placed upon an order, dated March 10, 1992, passed by a Division Bench of this Court in LPA No.376 of 1992 (Gram Panchayat of village Mavi Sappan v.
Joint Director, Panchayats & Ors.) wherein it was observed that the authorities under the 1961 Act have no "jurisdiction to question the decree of civil court on the ground of collusion or otherwise. That being so, the decree is binding".
. Per contra, Learned Counsel for the respondents would contend that since the Collector as well as the appellate authority vide their orders Annexures P-2 and P-3 had decided a bunch of petitions with no specific reference to the details of the lands in relation to which the civil court decrees were passed and/or relied upon by the persons like the appellants, the learned Single Judge is justified in remitting the case back to the Collector for afresh adjudication.
. After hearing learned counsel for the parties and going through L.P.A. No.155 of 2005 - 6 -
the records, we are of the view that the judgment under appeal warrants no interference. True it is that in view of the Full Bench judgment in Gram Panchayat Village Bhatoli Kalan's case (supra) the judgments and decrees passed by the civil courts before 15.4.1976 shall have binding effect inter-se parties and cannot be ignored by virtue of Section 13-B of the 1961 Act, there can be no gain saying that the competent authority under the Act, namely, the Collector is obligated to look into each and every decree in order to determine the description of the lands which were subject matter of civil court decrees and thereafter to consider their legal status viz. Section 13-B of the Act. Such an exercise involves adjudication of several disputed questions of fact and is required to be undertaken after affording opportunity to both the parties to lead their respective evidence.
. Consequently, we do not find any merit in these appeals and dismiss the same.
(Justice Surya Kant) (Justice D.K. Jain, C.J.) March 07, 2006
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