Proceedings to cancel land allotment under UPZALR Act to be initiated within reasonable time: SC

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Court has pointed out yet another factor which was that pursuant to the allotment made on June 27, 1994 the allottees who are poor rustic villagers have constructed their houses

The Supreme Court has said the Collector is empowered under the Uttar Pradesh Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act to initiate suo moto action for cancellation of allotment of land under sub-section (6) of Section 122-C in case of fraud having been disclosed but such a power has to be exercised within a reasonable time.

A bench of Justices CT Ravikumar and Aravind Kumar allowed an appeal by Shyamo Devi and others against the Allahabad High Court's judgment of 2010, which rejected an order by the Additional Collector allowing proceedings for cancellation of the 'patta' for residential purpose in 1994.

In 2007, writ petitioners Shyamo Devi and others were issued show cause notice as it was found the land was meant for constructing Panchayat Ghar.

They questioned the proceedings as it was initiated 13 years after allotment and beyond a period of three years.

The Additional Collector, however, held that the allotment was irregular and action can be initiated suo moto since no limitation has been provided under Section 122-C(6) of UPZALR Act.

The allottees approached the Allahabad High Court which dismissed their revision petition, holding that rejection of their plea on limitation was correct.

Before the top court, none appeared for the writ petitioners.

The UP government counsel vehemently contended that fraud vitiated all acts and in the instant case the revenue was empowered under the UPZALR Act to cancel the illegal and fraudulent allotment of land made in favour of the writ petitioners and as such suit had been instituted for cancellation of allotment for which no limitation has been specified.

The court noted the writ petitioners who are rustic and illiterate villagers had submitted applications for allotment of land for purposes of house construction in the village Dhodhar, Tehsil Thakurdwara, District Moradabad. Each of the petitioners was allotted 150 sq yards land.

The said allotment came to be approved by the Sub-District Magistrate on June 27, 1994 and allotment was made in pursuance to the proposal of May 15, 1994 forwarded by the Land Management Committee, Rampur, Dhodhar. Hence, the writ petitioners and other allottees have put up construction by putting up residential accommodation and have been residing therein with their family members, the court said.

The authorities initiated the proceedings for cancellation of the allotment initially based on the report on June 13, 2007 of the Lekhpal which was undisputedly after 13 years from the date of allotment. 

It is no doubt true that there is no limitation fixed for initiation of the proceedings under the UPZALR, the bench said.

However, the court cited Ibrahimpatnam Taluk Vyavasaya Coolie Sangham Vs K Suresh Reddy, (2003) with regard to Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Tenancy and Agriculture Lands Act, where it came to be held by the Apex Court that suo moto power should be exercised within a reasonable period even in case of fraud and within a reasonable time from the date of discovery of fraud and it depends on facts and circumstances of each case.

"We are of the considered view that the principles enunciated by this Court in Ibrahimpatnam’s case would be squarely applicable to the facts on hand and as such the order impugned herein cannot be sustained," the bench said.

The court also pointed out yet another factor which swayed its mind to quash the impugned order was the fact that pursuant to the allotment made on June 27, 1994 the allottees who are poor rustic villagers have constructed their houses and the allotment was made based on the approval granted by the then Sub-District Magistrate and they have been residing in the residential buildings so constructed by them for the last several years and to unsettle the same would result in heaping injustice to those poor hapless persons and particularly when the subject land has been utilised for allotment to the poor and houseless person.