Land Law; Arvind Kumar Vs. State of U.P. [Supreme Court of India, 08-08-2016]

Uttar Pradesh Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings (Amendment) Act, 1976 – Section 31 – Transitory Provisions – proceedings for the determination of surplus land – No discretion is vested in the prescribed authority to re-determine surplus land.

AIR 2016 SC 3651 : (2016) 9 SCC 221 : 2016 (7) Scale 621 : 2016 AIR (SCW) 3651 : 2016(118) ALR 280 : 2016(5) All WC 4552 : 2016 (5) RAJ 585 : 2016 (133) R.D. 359

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(Dipak Misra) and (R.F. Nariman) JJ.

August 8, 2016

CIVIL APPEAL NO.7165 of 2016

ARVIND KUMAR …APPELLANT

VERSUS

STATE OF U.P. & ORS. …RESPONDENTS

J U D G M E N T

R.F. Nariman, J.

1. The present case involves the Court going through a dense jungle which consists of the

U.P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1960

[hereinafter referred to as “the principal Act”] and three Amendment Acts made thereto. With the help of learned counsel for both the sides, we have waded through the various Sections and sub-sections of these Acts, only for the purpose of having to decide one basic question: as to whether ceiling proceedings in respect of the land in question have lapsed owing to Section 31 of the 1976 Amendment Act.

2. The brief facts necessary to decide the present case are as follows. A notice under Section 10(2) of the principal Act, was served upon the tenure-holder, one Kamla Devi, to file objections against a proposal to declare 51.29 acres as surplus land. Pursuant to the said notice, objections were filed by the late Kamla Devi as also by appellants 1 to 3, her legal heirs. According to the appellants, on a correct construction of the Act, there was no surplus land. Meanwhile, the Prescribed Authority under the Act passed an order dated 13.1.1975 by which order the entire land that was the subject matter of the notice, was declared surplus. An appeal filed against the Prescribed Authority’s order met with the same fate and was dismissed on 13.12.1987. It is important to note that an argument was raised that the proceedings had abated, which argument was answered by the Appellate Authority by saying that no fresh notice had been issued under Section 9(2) of the Amendment Act and as this was so, the proceedings had not abated. A writ petition that was filed in 1987 was ultimately disposed of on 6.8.2007 where, by the judgment under appeal, the writ petition was dismissed. Several points were argued with which we are not at present concerned. The argument on abatement met the same fate as the judgment by the appellate authority.

3. Before adverting to the submissions of learned counsel for both parties, it is first important to put the horse before the cart. A brief survey of the principal Act as well as the three Amendment Acts must now be undertaken.

4. The 1960 Act is an Act to provide for the imposition of ceiling on land holdings in the State of Uttar Pradesh. Under the principal Act, the ceiling area of a tenure-holder was said to be 40 acres of “fair quality land”, and where the tenure-holder has a family consisting of more than 5 members, to the ceiling area of such tenure-holder is to be added 8 acres of fair quality land for every additional member of the family, subject to a maximum of 24 acres. “Fair quality land” was defined in the principal Act as meaning land, the hereditary rate of which is above Rs.6/- per acre under the Act. A general notice was to be given to tenure-holders holding land in excess of the ceiling area so that they could submit a statement in respect thereof. A quasi-judicial determination is then to be made of surplus land, where objections are filed and the prescribed authority, after affording the parties a reasonable opportunity of being heard, and of producing evidence, is then to decide their objections after recording reasons, and then determine the extent of surplus land. An appeal is provided to the District Judge whose decision is then made final and conclusive. The prescribed authority is then to notify in the Official Gazette the surplus land so determined. On the date of such notification, such surplus land shall vest in the State free from all encumbrances, and on/from that date, all right, title and interest of all persons in such land shall stand extinguished. The principal Act then contains machinery for distribution of surplus land inter alia to cooperative societies of landless agricultural labourers. Compensation is given by the principal Act for vesting of surplus land of land-holders. With this prefaratory note, it is important now to set out the relevant Sections of the aforesaid Act.

“Section 3. Definitions. In this Act, unless there is anything repugnant in the subject of context –

(b) “Fair Quality Land” means land the hereditary rate whereof is above rupees six per acre;

Section 4. Ceiling area

(1) Subject to the provisions of this Act, the ceiling area applicable to a tenure-holder shall be calculated after taking into account all the land in any holding in the state held by him, in his own right, whether in his own name or ostensibly in the name of any person.

(2) (a) The ceiling area of a tenure-holder shall be forty acres of Fair Quality Land.

(b) Where the tenure-holder has, or consists of, a family having more than five members, the ceiling area of such tenure-holder shall be the area mentioned in clause (a) together with eight acres of Fair Quality Land for every additional member of the family subject to a maximum of twenty-four such acres:

Provided that, if at any time, the family comes to consist of not more than five members, all land held by the tenure-holder in excess of the ceiling area under clause (a), shall become liable to be treated as surplus land.

Explanation – In calculating the ceiling area under this sub-section in respect of land other than Fair Quality Land, one and one-half acre of such land, the hereditary rate whereof is above rupees four per acre, but does not exceed rupees six per acre, and two acres of such land the hereditary rate whereof is rupees four or less per acre, will be deemed to be equal to one acre of Fair Quality Land.