6 May 2023 7:27 AM GMT
Stating that the powers can be abused by police, the Supreme Court has upheld the decision of Madras High Court to set aside 2011 Tamil Nadu’s government order wherein it had constituted Land Grabbing Special Cells without defining land grabbing cases.The bench of Justice M.R Shah and Justice B.V Nagarathna said that, “In absence of any guidelines and/or definition as to which cases...
Stating that the powers can be abused by police, the Supreme Court has upheld the decision of Madras High Court to set aside 2011 Tamil Nadu’s government order wherein it had constituted Land Grabbing Special Cells without defining land grabbing cases.
The bench of Justice M.R Shah and Justice B.V Nagarathna said that, “In absence of any guidelines and/or definition as to which cases can be said to be land grabbing cases, it gives unfettered and unguided and arbitrary powers to the police to treat any land case as a land grabbing case which will be investigated by the Anti-Land Grabbing Special Cell.”
The Court observed that without defining the “land grabbing cases”, it will be at the discretion of the police officers to consider any case relating to land as land grabbing case, which shall be investigated by the Anti- Land Grabbing Special Cell, rather than by the police officers under the Cr.P.C.
The Court noted that in absence of the definition of the “land grabbing” or “land grabber” even a dispute between two private persons which may be under the Specific Relief Act or Transfer of Property Act may be considered as a land grabbing case.
In 2011, the State of Tamil Nadu sanctioned the formation of 36 Anti Land Grabbing Special Cells in Tamil Nadu through a Government Order (G.O), with one cell each at the State Police Headquarters, 7 Commissionerates, and 28 Districts to deal with land grabbing cases in the State.
Consequent upon the above G.O another order was issued and the Land Grabbing Cases were ordered to be transferred to the Special Courts which were constituted exclusively to deal with the Land Grabbing Cases.
Thereafter,the orders were challenged in the High Court of Madras and in 2015 the Court had set aside the Government Orders for not laying down guidelines and defining “Land Grabbing”,which gives discretion to police to choose any case arbitrarily.
While quashing and setting the order the Court had also observed that the State Government is at liberty to bring any appropriate legislation along the lines of the “A.P. Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 1982” or better legislations.
The present appeal was filed by Tamil Nadu against the High Court’s decision to quash the orders of the government which formed the special cell to deal with land grabbing in the state.
The counsel for the State,AGA argued that High Court has erred in quashing the Government Orders by holding that in the absence of definition pertaining to offence of “Land Grabbing”, the Special Cells constituted for investigating the cases pertaining to land grabbing are not competent to investigate those kind of cases.
The counsel submitted that, “the possibility of abuse or misuse of a provision by the authority cannot be a ground for a legislation to be held to be arbitrary or violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India”.
The High Court ought to have appreciated that the expression “Land Grabbing” does not need any specific definition as the said expression relates to Sections 447, 420 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code, the counsel contended.
After hearing the submissions, the Apex Court opined that,it is rightly held by the High Court that in absence of any specific guideline or definition of “land grabbing cases,” “such powers can be abused or misused and such powers can be said to be exercised arbitrarily”.
The Court also noted that, there is no Anti-Land Grabbing Act in the State of Tamil Nadu like A.P. Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 1982 or Karnataka Land Grabbing Prohibition Act, 2011 or similar Land Grabbing Prohibition Acts in other States.
It further noted that,in the other Land Grabbing Prohibition Acts applicable in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Assam, “Land Grabbing” is specifically defined. “Even the term “Land Grabber” is defined”, the Court added.
“Insofar as the State of Tamil Nadu is concerned, it is an admitted position that there is no specific enactment and/or Act to deal with land grabbing cases, like Andhra Pradesh Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 1982 and the Anti-Land Grabbing Special Cells have been formed by G.O. No. 423 dated 28.07.2011 to exclusively deal with the land grabbing cases”, the Court stated.
The Court observed that absence of specific guidelines or definition of “land grabbing” in the government order, gives unfettered powers to police to treat any land dispute as land grabbing.
Dismissing the appeal of the government the Court said, “…if the State Government is so conscious and/or interested in taking action against land grabbers, it will be open for the State Government to bring an appropriate legislation with the clear definition of “land grabber” and “land grabbing” or better legislations with a clear definition of “land grabbing”, ”land grabber” and “land grabbing cases” and the present order shall not come in their way to enact such legislation and/or better legislations.”
Case Title: Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors. v.R. Thamaraiselvam etc.
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 400
Click here to read the judgment