Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
News Updates

No Prohibition In Law Restraining Assignee From Appropriating Trees Standing On Assigned Land: Kerala High Court

Hannah M Varghese
13 May 2022 3:45 PM GMT
No Prohibition In Law Restraining Assignee From Appropriating Trees Standing On Assigned Land: Kerala High Court
x
The Court also added that the Kerala Forest Act cannot apply to non-forest lands.

The Kerala High Court recently established that there is no prohibition or restrictions in law restraining an assignee or successors-in-interest from cutting or appropriating any trees standing on the assigned land.

After an elaborate discussion on the relevant provisions, Justice N. Nagaresh found that since the charge under Section 97(3) of the Land Reforms Act does not exist in the case of the petitioner's land, the prohibition contained in Rule 29(6) of the KLR (Ceiling) Rules, 1970 would not apply in this case.

"there is no prohibition or restriction restraining an assignee or successors-in-interest from cutting or appropriating any trees standing on the assigned land, either under the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 or under the KLR (Ceiling) Rules, 1970."

The Court also held that non-forest land assigned under "Michabhoomi Patta" will not come under the purview of Section 82 of the Kerala Forest Act, 1961.

"the Kerala Forest Act, 1961 has been enacted to unify and amend the law relating to the protection and management of forests in the State of Kerala. The land held by the petitioner is not forest land. Ext.P1 would show that the property is garden land. The Kerala Forest Act, 1961 which has been enacted for the protection and management of forests, cannot apply to non-forest lands. The land in question was not assigned for permanent cultivation."

The petitioner being the owner of property in Pulankode Village moved the Court seeking to quash Exts.P12 to P14 and to direct the 2nd and 3rd respondents to give him permission to cut and remove the trees planted and situated on his property within a stipulated time as fixed by this Court.

The properties were originally assigned to three individuals as per a Patta issued under Rule 31(9) of the Kerala Land Reforms (Ceiling) Rules, 1970 for which the assignees paid the purchase price. The trees standing on this property were planted and maintained by the petitioner himself.

The petitioner wanted to cut and remove 20 teak trees and 100 teak logs planted and cultivated by the petitioner and his predecessors after the issuance of the purchase certificate. Since a formal permission is necessary from the authorised officer for this, he submitted an application to the 4th respondent which was forwarded to superior officers for clarification.

According to the petitioner, the Forest officials were deliberately protracting the consideration of his application and therefore he filed a petition before the High Court seeking to direct the respondents to grant him permission to cut and remove the said trees.

In the above plea, the High Court directed the Tahsildar to submit a report within 3 weeks and the 3rd respondent was directed to pass orders in the light of the Kerala Land Reforms Act. The Tahsildar thereupon sent Ext.P13 communication to the Range Forest Officer and the Additional Chief Secretary gave Ext.P14 clarification. The 3rd respondent issued Ext.P12 letter to the petitioner informing that the trees sought to be cut and removed are vested in the Government and hence he cannot be granted permission.

Aggrieved by this, he moved the High Court again.

Advocates Peeyus A. Kottam and Hrithwik D. Namboothiri appearing for the petitioner argued that as per Section 52(1) of the Kerala Land Reforms Act, all timber trees planted by the cultivating tenant or his predecessor-in-interest or spontaneously sprouting and growing in the holding after the commencement of the tenancy in favour of the cultivating tenant or his predecessor-in-interest, shall belong to the cultivating tenant. Therefore, he argued that he was entitled to cut and remove the trees, pointing out that even the Additional Tahsildar had agreed that the tree planted by the holder belongs to him and he has every right to cut and remove the same.

Therefore, it was contended that Exts.P12 to P14 were issued in an arbitrary manner ignoring the provisions contained in the Kerala Land Reforms Act, 1963 and the Land Reforms (Ceiling) Rules.

Special Government Pleader T.P Sajan contested the petition and argued that the land owned by the petitioner originally belonged to the Government as per the Kerala Land Reforms Act. This Act does not speak anything about the ownership of trees on the assigned land after the payment of purchase price. Since the land was Government land and was later assigned as Michabhoomi Patta, all trees and timber found on the land were the property of the Government.

The Court noted that the Patta relating to the land indicated that the assignment of the land was made under the Kerala Land Reforms (Ceiling) Rules, 1970.

The argument of the respondents relating to the applicability of the Kerala Forest (Prohibition of Felling of Trees Standing on Land Temporarily or Permanently Assigned) Rules, 1995 was also found to be unacceptable.

As such, it was held that the petitioner was entitled to succeed in this writ petition and Exts.P12 to P14 were accordingly quashed. Respondents 2 and 3 were directed to reconsider the application submitted by the petitioner for permission to cut and remove the trees and pass orders thereon within one month.

Case Title: Unnikrishnan v. State of Kerala & Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 220

Click Here To Read/Download The Order

Next Story