"Whether the appointment of a revenue official in the rank of an Assistant Commissioner as an Appellate Authority under Section 136(2) and Rule 69 of the KLR Rules and Deputy Commissioner as revisional authority under Section 136(3) of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, leading to adjudication of various complex adversarial revenue disputes, inter- partes, 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?"
A Full Bench of High Court of Karnataka comprising Justice S.N.Sathyanarayana, Justice B.Veerappa and Justice Krishnan Natarajan is currently hearing this issue based on a reference.
The original reference was made by Justice S.N.Sathyanarayana.
The Assistant Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners are discharging dual functions i.e administrative functions under several enactments and as judicial functions under the Karnataka Land Revenue Act. Many revenue disputes throw up complex issues touching upon title and possession, which are to be determined by civil courts. However, the jurisdiction of civil courts is barred by the Revenue Act.
The full court will decide the constitutional issue as to whether such entrustment of work to non-judicial personnel amounts to violation of basic structure of the Constitution of India i.e. doctrine of separation of powers and independence of judiciary.
While making the reference, the single judge had also observed :
"It is also brought to the notice of this Court by the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner that there are certain anomalies in the Karnataka Land Revenue Act, 1964, more particularly, with reference to the appeal and revision provisions. When the same is looked into from the point of Entry 45 to Schedule VII in List No.II of the Constitution of India, there appears to be an error on the part of the Legislators in traversing beyond the scope of Entry 45 where it predominantly deals with the revenue to be collected in the matter of lands and deciding the question emanating there from, also in not considering Entry 45 while fixing the jurisdiction of appellate and revision powers as envisaged in Chapter XI of KLR Act".
The following are the other questions framed for reference :
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?
2. 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 CPC by reason of Proviso to Section 135 of KLR Act?
3. 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?