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Revenue Record Is Not A Document Of Title : Supreme Court

Shruti Kakkar
6 Oct 2021 3:02 PM GMT
Revenue Record Is Not A Document Of Title : Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court has observed in a judgment that revenue record is not a document of title. The Court added that a lessee would not be entitled to any right on the land only on the basis of an entry in the revenue record. The bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian was hearing an appeal against the High Court's order wherein the Court had set aside the order dated July...

The Supreme Court has observed in a judgment that revenue record is not a document of title. The Court added that a lessee would not be entitled to any right on the land only on the basis of an entry in the revenue record.

The bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian was hearing an appeal against the High Court's order wherein the Court had set aside the order dated July 8, 2004, passed by the Deputy Director of Consolidation, Lucknow, wherein, the revenue entry of Khasra Nos. 1576 and 1738 was ordered to be corrected in the name of Department of Forest and the claim of rival claimants were set aside.

The claimants had asserted rights over the forest land on the basis of entries in the revenue record.

The Court rejected such claim observing as follows in the case Prabhagiya Van Adhikari Awadh Van Prabhag V. Arun Kumar Bhardwaj (Dead) Thr. Lrs.

*The revenue record is not a document of title. Therefore, even if the name of the lessee finds mention in the revenue record but such entry without any supporting documents of creation of lease contemplated under the Forest Act is inconsequential and does not create any right, title or interest over 12 bighas of land claimed to be in possession of the lessee as a lessee of the Gaon Sabha".

Factual Background

The Governor in the exercise of powers under Section 117 of the UP Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act, 1950 had issued a notification on October 11, 1952, under Section 4 of the Act as per which 162 acres of area in Village Kasmandi Khurd was not to vest with the Gaon Samaj.

On November 23, 1955 a notification was issued u/s 4 of the Forest Act, 1927 for inviting objections in respect of the land that formed a part of the notification and pursuant to this a proclamation was carried out on April 28, 1968 u/s 6 of the Forest Act, 1927.

The Gaon Sabha (local management committee) on May 15, 1966, and on December 26, 1966 put lessee into possession of 7 bighas and 5 bighas of land respectively from Khasra No 1576. The Forest Department challenged the grant of lease before the Sub Divisional Officer, Lucknow but remained unsuccessful vide order dated December 19, 1969. The Department however succeeded before the Additional Commissioner, Lucknow on July 22, 1970. Although the Board of Revenue dismissed the lessee's revision but on July 22, 1970, it decided to take a fresh decision after impleading the local management committee who had granted lease to the lessee on Goan Sabha's behalf.

When the six yearly Khatuni was prepared for the period 1380 fasli to 1388 fasli, the barren land which could be made cultivable including Khasra no. 1576 was recorded to be transferred name of Gaon Sabha village Kasmandi Khurd to Department of Forest. When the six yearly khatauni for the fasli year 1395 to 1400 was issued Khasra no. 1576 was transferred to the forest as a protected forest. Since the lessee's name appeared for the first time in khatauni prepared for the year 1407 fasli till 1412 fasli , for rectifying the revenue record from the lessee's name to that of the Forest Department, the Forest Department initiated proceedings under the Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1934 which were dismissed on July 22, 1993.

Pursuant to the dismissal of an appeal against the order dated July 22, 1993, the Deputy Director Consolidation in revision directed for correction of the revenue entry of Khasra Nos 1576 and 1738 in the name of Forest Department and set aside the claim of rival claimants.

The Allahabad High Court on November 30, 2005, set aside the order dated July 8, 2004, passed by the Deputy Director of Consolidation.

Aggrieved, the Forest Department (Prabhagya Van Adhikari Awadh Van Prabhag) approached the Top Court.

Counsel's Submission

Relying on the notification dated October 11, 1952, counsel appearing for the Department, submitted that the notification had the effect of vesting all the rights, title and interest in the State of Uttar Pradesh. Relying on section 117 of the Abolition Act as per which the State could transfer the lands by a general or special order including forests to Gaon Sabha and other local authorities, the counsel contended that the land was not subject to any special or general orders and thus the land vested unequivocally with the State.

He further contended that the State could only issue a notification u/s 4 of the Forest Act, 1927 if it had proprietary rights over such land or if it was entitled to produce thereof.

It was also his contention that the lessees were not in possession of any part of the land at the time of issuance of such notification and they have not claimed rightly any right over the property and neither the Sabha claimed any right in the land measuring 162 acres notified in the notification.

Counsel(s) for the lessee's and Gaon Sabha submitted that the details of the land in respect of which the notification u/s 4 of the Forest Act was issued were not mentioned. It was also their contention that the notification u/s 4 was vague since it did not comply with the conditions and Khasra No 1576 was only mentioned in the proclamation published u/s 6 of the Forest Act.

Supreme Court's Observations

With regards to counsel for lessee's contention that the notification dated November 23, 1955 did not comply with the requirements u/s 4 of the Forest Act, the bench after relying on explanation 1 of Section 4 of the Forest Act observed that the notification had boundaries on all four sides mentioned.

"There is no other requirement under Section 4 of the Forest Act. It is only Section 6 of the Forest Act which needs to specify the situation and limits of the proposed forest. In terms of such clause (a) of Section 6 of the Forest Act, the details of khasra numbers which were part of 162 acres find mention in the proclamation so published," bench noted in its judgement authored by Justice Hemant Gupta while observing that the notification satisfied all the procedural requirements.

To deal with the counsel for lessee's contention with regards to publication of final notification u/s 20 of the Forest Act, 1927 the bench while referring to judgement in State of Uttarakhand and Ors v Kumaon Stone Crusher observed that,

"A reading of Section 20 of the Forest Act does not show that for a reserved forest, there is a requirement of publication of notification but no time limit is prescribed for publication of such notification under Section 20. Therefore, even if notification under Section 20 of the Forest Act has not been issued, by virtue of Section 5 of the Forest Act, there is a prohibition against acquisition of any right over the land comprised in such notification except by way of a contract executed in writing by or on behalf of the Government. Since no such written contract was executed by or on behalf of the State or on behalf of the person in whom such right was vested, therefore, the Gaon Sabha was not competent to grant lease in favour of the appellant."

The Top Court thereafter while observing that the findings of the High Court were clearly erroneous set aside the order and observed that the land vested in the Forest Department by virtue of notification published under the statute and that it was the lessee who had to assert the title on the forest land by virtue of an agreement in writing by a competent authority but no such agreement in writing was produced.

Case Title: Prabhagiya Van Adhikari Awadh Van Prabhag V. Arun Kumar Bhardwaj (Dead) Thr. Lrs. | Civil Appeal No 7017 of 2009

Coram: Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V Ramasubramanian

Citation : LL 2021 SC 544

Click Here To Read/ Download Judgment

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