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Revenue Authorities Have No Jurisdiction To Decide 'Title Dispute' Between Parties In Respect Of Immovable Properties: Karnataka HC(FB) [Read Judgment]

Mustafa Plumber
26 Jan 2020 2:38 PM GMT
Revenue Authorities Have No Jurisdiction To Decide
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In an important judgement which would do away with lodging of multiple litigations, a Full Bench Of Karnataka High Court has held that

"The revenue authorities viz., the Tahsildar, Assistant Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner have no jurisdiction to decide the 'title dispute', between the parties in respect of the immoveable property/properties. It is the exclusive domain of the competent Civil Court to adjudicate, the decree if any passed by the court, will be binding on the parties, as well as the revenue authorities in the State."

A full bench of Justice S N Satyanarayana, Justice B Veerappa and Justice K Natrajan, while deciding a reference made by a single judge, by order dated April 2, 2019, observed "When the parties approaching the court bringing notice the draconian procedure of filing the appeal and revision, the court or the authority cannot follow the proposition of wait and watch, by sitting on the fence and cannot expect citizens to run from pillar to post for the revenue authorities and ultimately, the competent authority, who is the civil court will have to decide the title between the parties and the authorities cannot be allowed to use the citizens as commodity or chattel only for the purpose of following the procedure.

The bench made the following declarations:

*Any order passed by the jurisdictional Tahsildar under the provisions of Section 129 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act touches the title in respect of the immoveable properties, there is no need for the aggrieved party to file an appeal/revision before the Assistant Commissioner/Deputy Commissioner as it is a futile exercise and therefore, the aggrieved party can straightaway approach the competent Civil Court for declaration of title and consequential relief and the judgment and decree to be passed will be binding on the parties to the lis as well as the Revenue Authorities.

## Any person aggrieved by the order passed by the jurisdiction Tahsildar exercising powers under the provisionsof Section 129 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act regarding entries based on the source of title and if there is no dispute with regard to title, then only an appeal/revision can be filed before the Assistant Commissioner/Deputy Commissioner under the provisions of Section 136(2) and 136(3) of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act.

The bench observing that

"Time and circumstance now warrant that the court has to act as a guardian to protect Dharma and at this stage it is apt to extract the verse 7-8, of Chapte 4, of the Bhagavadgeetha which says, 'Whenever there is decay of righteousness, O Bharata, And there is exaltation of unrighteousness, then I myself come forth; For the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil-doers, For the sake of firmly establishing righteousness, I am born from age to age." passed a slew of recommendations and directions for the state to frame proper rules with regard to disposal of the case in a time bound manner.

i) In case any application is filed for transfer of Mutation or Khatha or RTC, based on the source of title without there being any dispute, the said application shall be considered for transfer of mutation or Khatha or RTC, within a period of three months from the date of receipt of notice by the other side;

ii) As soon as the application is filed for change of entries, khatha or mutation, at the first instance, the Tahsildar shall have to verify whether there is any dispute with regard to title in respect of the property in question and then, the Tahsildar can direct the parties to approach the competent Civil Court;

iii) Aggrieved by the orders passed by the Tashildar, if an appeal/revision is filed before the Assistant Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner, then the Assistant Commissioner/Deputy Commissioner shall take necessary steps to dispose of the appeal/revision within six months from the date of filing of such revision after service of notice on the other side.

iv) If the authorities are not in a position to adhere to the time fixed, then cogent reasons must be aspired by the concerned Officer and in case, if there is a delay of more than three months for transfer of mutation, khatha and entries, the Tahsildar shall record the reasons for the delay and submit to the higher Authorities. In case, if there is delay in disposing of the appeal by the Assistant Commissioner, he has to submit the reasons to the Deputy Commissioner and if the Deputy Commissioner in disposing off the revision, he has to submit the reasons to the Secretary to the Revenue Department and ultimately, the higher authorities shall ensure speedy disposal of the proceedings;

v) Consideration of application for change of Khatha or Mutation/Entries and appeals/revisions under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, shall be included in the schedule to the Karnataka Guarantee of Services to Citizens Act 2011;

vi) The Government with an object of ensuring speedy disposal of revenue cases including RRT proceedings has to implement Revenue Court Case Monitoring System (RCCMS) and the same should be implemented in all the revenue matters in letter and spirit of the said system;

vii) As soon as any application is filed for change of khatha entries, mutation, the Tahsildar should verify whether the dispute pertains to title or inheritance of properties or revenue entries or Karnataka Land Revenue Act, Inams Abolition Act, PTCL Act, survey work or incidental thereto and be specified within 30 days from the date of receipt of notice by the opposite party;

viii) The State Government shall take appropriate steps to constitute the High Level Committee chaired by the Principal Secretary, Department of Revenue and other Officers concerned with the object of monitoring and reviewing the system which is in place and to update the entire process in order to ensure speedy disposal of revenue cases;

ix) The State Government shall direct the concerned Revenue Officers to hold meetings every month under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Commissioner of the District to monitor various issues including progress of the revenue cases;

x) The State Government shall also direct the Regional Commissioners to conduct periodical meetings of the Revenue Officers for reviewing progress of the cases;

xi) The State Government shall constitute a Committee under the Chairmanship of a retired Judicial Officer of the cadre of District Judge to review the orders passed by the Revenue Courts randomly and to make appropriate recommendations for the Government;

xii) The State Government shall take necessary steps to appoint the Tahsildars-Revenue Court, Assistant Commissioners and Deputy Commissioners only as Appellate Authority and Revisional Authority exclusively for revenue cases without assigning any protocol or executive work to them.

xiii) The State Government shall take necessary steps to amend the Rules as suggested by us in order to provide speedy justice to the general public at large within a period of six months from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.

Case for which single judge made Reference:

Petitioners, Jayamma and other moved the court seeking to quash the the order dated 18.4.2012 and 2.5.2012 passed by the 3rd respondent/Special Tahsildar and to direct the Tahsildar to annul all the entries made on the basis of Annexure-J; tendered by the respondent. Further to restore the entries in the RTC as it stood before Decber 12, 2008.

The reference points before the full bench:

(1) Whether State of Karnataka, authorized to enact Law under Entries in List II, could in the background of Constitutional mandate in Article 246(3), traverse beyond authorized field of legislation set out in Entry 45 and Entry 65 of the Constitution of India?

(2) Whether the appointment of a revenue official in the rank of an Assistant Commissioner as an Appellate Authority under Section 136(2) of the Act and Rule 69 of the KLR Rules and Deputy Commissioner as revisional authority under Section 136(3) of the KLR Act, leading to adjudication of various complex adversarial revenue disputes, inter-parties, involving adjudication of question relating to title and possession, is violative and in excess of the powers of the State under Article 246(3), read with Entries 45 and 65, List II, Schedule-VII of the Constitution and would the same militate the Basic Structure Doctrine of Separation of powers?

(3) Whether proviso to Section 135 of KLR Act would result in enlarging the period of limitation under Central Enactment by reason of two parallel proceedings i.e., one under Revenue Jurisdiction and the other under Section 9 of Code of Civil Procedure by reason of proviso to Section 135 of KLR Act?

(4) Whether it is permissible to split the cause of action available to an aggrieved person by requiring him to first exhaust the remedies under Chapter XI of KLR Act and then to start de novo civil proceedings as contemplated in Section 135 and proviso thereto?

Arguments made by Amicus Curiae, Senior Advocate S.P.Shankar, argued "If title or right set up by one party to an immovable property is disputed by the other party, such title to the property cannot be enquired into by the revenue courts much less any decision be rendered for any purpose whatsoever. In the first place the revenue court constituted under the Act can only go into question of assessment, recovery of land revenue and land revenue administration and it has no jurisdiction to go into the question of title in respect of immoveable property which exclusively vests in the Civil Court.

Further "Right to life and livelihood envisaged under Article 21 of the Constitution of India would include the right to speedy trial and disposal of interse disputes at the earliest. The proceedings under Section 136 of the KLR Act r/w proviso to Section 135, would make a detour of litigation before the Revenue Authorities and collaterally under Articles 226 and 136 of Constitution, whose decision is neither final, nor conclusive and would be subject to decision of Civil Court.

Amicus curiae advocate K Suman, submitted that "A judicial review can be read down to the provisions of Section 136(2) and 136(3) of the KLR Act and Rule 69 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Rules, 1966 (for short hereinafter referred to as 'the KLR Rules') by replacing the word 'Assistant Commissioner' with that of 'Senior Civil Judge and the word 'Deputy Commissioner' with that of 'District Judge' and in respect of Bangalore City, the same shall have to be read as 'Small Cause Court' and City Civil Court respectively."

Counsel M R Rajagopal, appearing for the bar argued that "Revenue authorities do not regulate the acquisition or extinction of rights in properties including agricultural lands etc. Revenue authorities are primarily required to keep a record of the names of persons, who have acquired rights for ensuring that the revenue i.e., the land revenue is collected from such persons. Such is the basis purpose of the Act."

Counsel Basvaraj argued that : "Doctrine of separation of power though not expressly engrafted in the Constitution, its sweep, operation and visibility are apparent from the scheme of Indian Constitution. Constitution has made demarcation, without drawing formal line between three organs- legislature, executive and judiciary. Independence of Courts from the executive and legislature is fundamental to the rule of law and one of the basic tenets of Indian Constitution. Separation of judicial power is a significant constitutional principle under the Constitution of India. Separation of powers between three organs--legislature, executive and judiciary--is also nothing but a consequence of principle of equality enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution of India.

Counsel, Sunil S. Rao, for the petitioners argued "if the Civil Courts are empowered to handle as are handled by Assistant Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioner acting somewhat under provisions of Sections 136(2) and (3) of the KLR Act then quiet obviously the hearing would be conducted in a most systematic manner and if the matter requires deeper consideration, the Civil Courts may exercise their power concurrently under Section 9 of Code of Civil Procedure and under those circumstances, reasonableness of judicial system would avoid the cascading effect of multiple litigations."

Advocate General, Udaya Holla, along with Sri T.S.Mahantesh, learned Addl. Government Advocate, argued:

"Section 135(1) bars suits against State Government or any officers of the State in respect of claims to have an entry made in record of rights and proviso thereto states that any person aggrieved by an entry in the record of rights may institute a suit against person denying his title. Said section only bars suits being filed against Government or its officers regarding entries in record of rights and does not bar a person from filing a suit against any person in respect of his title irrespective of the entry in record of rights or not . A person can file a suit for declaration and/or injunction in respect of any property at any time and even when any proceedings are pending before the revenue court."

He added that question under reference does not arise for consideration in view of Article 246 (3) of Constitution of India which states that legislature shall have exclusive power to make laws in respect of matters enumerated in List II of 7th schedule of the Constitution. Entry 45 of list II empowers state legislature to enact laws in respect of land revenue, including assessment and collection of revenue, maintenance of land records, survey for revenue purposes and record of rights and alienation of revenues. This entry is wide enough to cover all matters which are set out in KLR Act.

Advocate for Petitioners, SUNIL S RAO,

Amicus Curiae: Senior counsel, S P Shankar. K Suman.

Advocates who assisted the Court from the Bar: Senior Counsel V Lakshmirayana.,Advcoate M R Rajagopal ,Advocate Basavaraj

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