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Calcutta High Court disposes PIL seeking for proper action against transfer by sale or exchange of land earmarked for public purpose

The Calcutta High Court disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed seeking for an appropriate direction upon the respondents to declare all transfers by way of sale or exchange of a land which has been earmarked for public purpose in favour of the third party as illegal and void.

It is submitted that in the year 2005, a plot of land was gifted in favour of the Panchayat by several persons and the gift is said to have been accepted and the Panchayat had earmarked the land as a play ground/play area. The allegation in the petition as well as that in the mass petition dated 08.05.2023 is that the Pradhan of the Panchayat who is the 4th respondent has executed a deed of exchange in favour of the private respondents by transferring the land in their favour for private gain.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice T. S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya has observed that the legal position which has been settled in various decisions is that if the land is ear-marked for a public purpose, the same has to be preserved as such and the Panchayat or the Pradhan or the Municipality to whom the land has been entrusted, has to preserve the same without any change of the nature and character of the land or the purpose for which the land had been ear-marked. In the event, if any transfer had taken place, transfers are all void transactions and no right will accrue in favour of the transferee as such the transfers are illegal. In this writ petition, the petitioner alleges that the 4th respondent has transferred the land gifted for public purpose in favour of the private respondents. In this regard, a mass petition dated 08.05.2023 has been given to the District Magistrate, North 24 Parganas and the same is pending consideration.

In the light of the above, the Court directed the second respondent viz. the District Magistrate, North 24 Parganas to consider the representation dated 08.05.2023 and to direct the respondents to place all records pertaining to all the lands in question and one of his Officers to conduct a spot inspection of the land in question and thereafter if it is found that the transfers are illegal, appropriate action be taken in accordance with law. The District Magistrate before taking a decision shall also issue notice to the donors who had executed the gift deed dated 20.06.2005.

However, the Court said that respondents have to be put on notice prior to taking of any action and with the views of the petitioner &/or other representatives in the locality, shall also to be ascertained before the final orders are passed.

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