A Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice R. Banumathi has ruled that High Court has no power to direct the authorities to change entries in the Basic Tax Register with respect to conversion of land.
The Court was hearing appeals against an order passed by the Division Bench of the Kerala High Court, which had directed the Tahsildar to correct the nature of land from ‘Nilam’ (Wetland) to ‘Purayidam’ (Dry land) in the Basic Tax Register (BTR).
A certificate was issued by the Agricultural Officer to the respondents, to the effect that the land in question was recorded as a converted land in the Paddy Wetland. The possession certificate issued by the village officer however stated that the land in question was actually dry land.
When the heirs of the respondents tried to sell the land, the purchasers of the land insisted for production of an order showing nature of land as a dry land, as a condition precedent for registering sale deed, but the revenue authorities refused to correct the same.
The respondents then approached the High Court, contending that the disputed property is a dry land, but wrongly described as a wetland (Nilam) in their sale deed and that it was never used for any agricultural purposes.
The appellants contended before the Supreme Court that without making an application for conversion of nature of land before any statutory authority, writ proceedings were initiated by the respondent and the impugned order would circumvent the provisions of Kerala Conservation of Paddy and Wetland Act, 2008 and the Kerala Land Utilization Order, 1967.
The Respondents averred that since District Collector declined to make necessary changes in the BTR, in exercise of power under Article 226 of the Constitution, Tahsildar was rightly directed to make necessary changes in the BTR.
The Court ventured into the object and scheme of the two Acts, the Court observed that, “Statutory enquiry to ascertain whether the land is a “Paddy Land” or “Wetland” and conversion of the land for residential purpose or for any public purpose is governed by KLU Order or the Kerala Wetland Act, 2008 for conversion of the land from “Nilam” (Wetland) to ‘Purayidam’ (Dry Land). The concerned authorities constituted under KLU Order or Kerala Wetland Act 2008 are the competent authority. Nature of the land cannot be changed or converted by directing changes in the Basic Tax Register which is maintained only for the purpose of land tax.”
The respondents were hence directed to approach the competent authorities constituted under KLU Order 1967/ Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wetland Act 2008 for conversion of the land.
Read the Judgment here.