Setting aside a Government Notice, undertaking suo-motu revision of entries pertaining to land records after a period of 50 years, a Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice C. Nagappan and Justice T.S. Thakur observed,” In the light of what is stated above we are of the view that the Division Bench of the High Court was right in affirming the view of the learned single Judge of the High Court that the suo-motu revision undertaken after a long lapse of time, even in the absence of any period of limitation was arbitrary and opposed to the concept of rule of law.”
The apex court held “if actions or transactions were to remain forever open to challenge, it will mean avoidable and endless uncertainty in human affairs, which is not the policy of law.”
Rejecting the contention that the notice was issued within a reasonable period of the discovery of the alleged fraud, it was observed, “In the case at hand, while the entry sought to be corrected is described as fraudulent, there is nothing in the notice impugned before the High Court as to when was the alleged fraud discovered by the State. A specific statement in that regard was essential for it was a jurisdictional fact, which ought to be clearly asserted in the notice issued to the respondents.”
The Appeals were filed against a 2010 judgment filed by the Andhra Pradesh High Court at Hyderabad.
No time limit was provided in the Regulation for the exercise of suo-motu power. The question was whether the suo-motu power could be exercised after a period of 50 years.
The respondents had contended that the said land was granted by the Jagirdar to person sin actual cultivating possession. This was, as they contended, recognized due to the names shown in the Khasra Pahani since 1954-55.
Vide a Government Order in September, 1991; the Government allotted the land for grant of house sites to Government employees.
The issue was regarding the entries in the Khasra Pahani not changed for a long period of time. The State had issued a notice dated 31.12.2004 under Section 166B of A.P. (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act,1317 F (1907) for cancellation of entries in the Khasra Pahani of the year 1953-54, by fixing the date of inquiry as 5.2.2005 and that notice was the subject matter of challenge here.
The Court observed, “By the impugned Notice dated 31.12.2004 the suo-motu revision power under Regulation 166B referred above is sought to be exercised after five decades and if it is allowed to do so it would lead to anomalous position leading to uncertainty and complications seriously affecting the rights of the parties over immovable properties.”
The State had contended that the land was held by Jagirs as ‘crown grant’ and it was not heritable and that the Jagir system was abolished on 15.8.1948 and the entire Jagir land by operation of law came to be vested with the Government and as per the land Revenue records prepared under A.P. (Telangana Area) Record of Rights in Land Regulation.
It was further contended by the Government that it cannot be precluded from taking action to correct fraudulent entries in the Khasra Pahani by citing long lapse of time.
The respondents had contended that names of the predecessors in title of the respondents are found mentioned in the Khasra Pahani of the year 1954-55 and the purchase of the subject land by the respondents from them under registered sale deeds are not in dispute. Further, they have been regularly paying land revenue continuously since the year 1954.
Hence, substantial rights on account of continuous possession and enjoyment of the subject property has been accrued to the respondents and the exercise of suo-motu revisional power after long lapse of time is arbitrary and summary remedy of enquiry and correction of records cannot be invoked when there is bonafide dispute of title.
Setting aside the impugned notice, the Court observed, “To sum up, delayed exercise of revisional jurisdiction is frowned upon because if actions or transactions were to remain forever open to challenge, it will mean avoidable and endless uncertainty in human affairs, which is not the policy of law. Because, even when there is no period of limitation prescribed for exercise of such powers, the intervening delay, may have led to creation of third party rights that cannot be trampled by a belated exercise of a discretionary power especially when no cogent explanation for the delay is in sight. Rule of law it is said must run closely with the rule of life.”
Read the judgment here.