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Calcutta High Court disposes of PIL highlighting illegal land deals

The Calcutta High Court disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed highlighting an illegality which has been perpetuated by creating sale deeds in respect of the lands which cannot be transferred, more particularly, lands which have been classified as ‘Hat’.

According to the petitioners, the modus operandi is that in the deed of conveyance, the power of attorney holders of Zamindars have classified the lands as high land, pond etc., and executed the deed of conveyance. Based on such deed of conveyance, certain private parties have put up unauthorized construction and are stated to be in possession of the property. The official respondents were called upon to file a report and the Division Bench by order dated 15.11.2021 has recorded the submissions of the Advocate General that the State has already issued a communication dated 09.08.2021 to the SubRegistrar, Malda restraining the registration of any conveyance in respect of the Pakuahat land.

In the light of the stand taken by the State, the wrong doers have to be brought to book. If the land cannot be transferred on account of its classification, more particularly, in the light of the provisions of the West Bengal Estates Acquisition Act, 1953 and in particular, Sections 4 to 6 any such deed of conveyance which has been accepted for registration by the Sub-Registrar cannot confer any title on the purchasers of those areas , held by the High Court.

The issues which have been highlighted by the petitioners appear to the Court to be grave in nature and several such transfers are stated to have been done. One undisputed fact which has been highlighted is that in the revenue records, the classification of the land remains unaltered and going by such classification, transfers cannot be effected and the deed of conveyance could not have been accepted for registration. It is not clear to this Court as to why the SubRegistrar did not call for any of the land records, as only one schedule of the property was mentioned in the deed of conveyance, this aspect has to be gone into as to whether the Registration Department had acted hand in gloves with the persons who are engaged in such illegal transfer of land, which are vested lands under the provisions of the 1953 Act. Therefore, a full-fledged enquiry is required to be done in the matter.

In the light of the above, the petition stands disposed of by the Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice T. S. Sivagnanam and Justice Hiranmay Bhattacharyya with the following directions:-

“The competent authority under the 1953 Act or any other related enactments shall make and commence enquiry into the matter and issue notice to all such purchasers of lands which are recorded as vested lands in the revenue records. After affording an opportunity to those purchasers, enquiry should be conducted and appropriate orders be passed on merits and in accordance with law. The Sub-Registrar, Malda is restrained from accepting any deed of conveyance or any other document concerning the properties which have been accepted for registration or any document in respect of such lands which have been classified as ‘Hat’ or any other classification of vested land and list of such properties with the Dag Number shall be intimated by the concerned Block Land and Land Reforms Officer to the Sub-Registrar, Malda and the Block Land and Land Reforms Officer shall also simultaneously communicate the details of the purchasers of such lands which are illegally transferred to the competent authority of the local body who shall conduct an inspection of those properties and if any construction is found to have been put up on those properties without obtaining building plan approval, the building shall be sealed and action be initiated by issuing notice for demolition of those buildings. The entire exercise shall be completed by the concerned authorities within a period of three months from the date of receipt of the server copy of this order. The District Magistrate, Malda is directed to oversee and monitor the progress of the matter in terms of the directions issued above and if there is any deviation, the matter will be viewed seriously.”

Further the Court said that if the classification of the land is a ‘Hat’ and it is a vested land even assuming that there is an approved building plan granted, the construction itself is illegal and, therefore, action should be initiated against those buildings as well.

This order shall be communicated to the Inspector General of Registration, who in turn shall issue Circular to all the District Registrars as well not to accept any document for registration in respect of lands which have been classified as ‘Hat’ and the District Registrar concerned shall intimate the concerned Sub-Registrars who are functioning within their jurisdiction to scrupulously follow the above direction , the Court further directed.

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