31 Aug 2023 5:15 AM GMT
The Calcutta High Court has recently dismissed a PIL challenging agreements through which land allotted to scheduled tribe communities had been allegedly “grabbed” for illegally constructing a housing complex in Bidhannagar.A division bench of Chief Justice T.S. Sivgananam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya refused to allow the return of land and a CBI inquiry into their transfer, finding...
The Calcutta High Court has recently dismissed a PIL challenging agreements through which land allotted to scheduled tribe communities had been allegedly “grabbed” for illegally constructing a housing complex in Bidhannagar.
A division bench of Chief Justice T.S. Sivgananam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya refused to allow the return of land and a CBI inquiry into their transfer, finding that the PIL was filed with over 15 years of delay.
"The schedule tribe raiyats who applied for permission to transfer does not appear to have any grievance against the said order dated 17.10.2006. Such order has already attained finality. The parties have also taken further steps acting on the said permission to transfer. Third parties have also acquired rights in the property in question who are also not before this Court. The original owners of the lands in question have also not approached the Court with any grievance. The action of writ petitioners amounts to assailing the order dated 17.10.2006 by which the Revenue Officer allowed the prayer of the raiyats of tribal lands to transfer their property. What the petitioners could not have done directly are attempting to do so in an indirect manner by filing this writ petition in the year 2022. The writ petitioners have approached this Court at a highly belated stage."
It was argued by the petitioners that the lands in question were owned by “scheduled tribe raiyats” and had been allegedly “snatched by non-tribals” in violation of the West Bengal Land Reforms Act (WBLR). They alleged that under the WBLR, restrictions had been imposed on the transfer of lands of a raiyat, which belonged to a scheduled tribe and that further illegal constructions had also taken place on the impugned plots of land.
The counsel for the respondent-builder argued that at the relevant time, the then-owners of the tribal lands had applied for and obtained permission to transfer their land under the corresponding provisions of the WBLR Act. It was submitted that none of the owners of the tribal lands had expressed any objection to or denied execution or registration of the deeds through which the impugned plots were transferred to the respondent.
The respondents argued that the construction of buildings on the plot had already been completed and third-party interests had been sold to flat-owners, and as such the petition was liable to be dismissed due to delays and laches.
Upon hearing the parties, the Court noted that several persons belonging to the scheduled tribe community of the area had prayed permission to transfer around 2.84 acres of land before the competent authority under the WBLR Act.
It was further observed that the Revenue Officer, North 24 Parganas, after verifying that there was no scheduled tribe purchaser, granted permission to certain private parties to acquire the land, through an order dated 17.10.2006, and subsequent searches conducted pertaining to the plot, showed it to be under the ownership of the West Bengal Housing Board.
The Court held that in the absence of the aforesaid order being overruled or any objections raised by the original raiyats belonging to the scheduled tribe community regarding the deeds through which the land was transferred, no further challenge could be sustained against the same.
It was finally held that the present PIL amounted to challenging the 2006 order passed by the revenue officer and that the petitioner’s were trying to indirectly achieve an outcome they could not directly achieve, 16 years after the original order of transfer had been passed.
Accordingly, the writ petitions were dismissed.
Case: Thaddeus Lakra And Others Vs. State Of West Bengal And Ors.
Coram: Chief Justice T.S. Sivgananam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharya
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Cal) 253
Click Here To Read/Download Order