The Allahabad High Court on September 23 said that criminal proceedings against encroachment on the land of Gram Sabha can be taken together under Section 67 of the Revenue Code, under Section 3/4 of the Prevention of Damage to Civil and Public Property Act.
A Single Bench of Justice Yogendra Kumar Srivastava passed this order, while hearing an application filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 by one Srikant, seeking to quash the charge sheet dated May 14, 2015 as well as the cognizance order dated April 6, 2016 and also the entire proceedings of case under Section 3/4 of the Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1894, registered at Police Station Jigna, District Mirzapur, pending before the 4th Additional Civil Judge (Junior Division), Mirzapur.
The records of the case indicate that the criminal proceedings were initiated, pursuant to an FIR dated March 26, 2015 lodged against the applicant, which was registered as case under Section 3/4 of PDPP Act at Police Station Jigna, District Mirzapur.
The principal ground, which has been sought to be urged to seek quashment of the proceedings, is that the allegation in the FIR being in regard to the encroachment over Gram Sabha land, the provisions of the PDPP Act could not have been invoked to initiate criminal proceedings.
It was also submitted that the Uttar Pradesh Revenue Code, 2006 provides complete procedure for eviction of an unauthorised occupation from Gram Sabha land and in view of the same, criminal proceedings which have been initiated, are an abuse of process of court and are liable to be quashed.
Controverting the aforesaid submissions, the Additional Advocate General submitted that the proceedings for eviction of unauthorised occupation, as provided under Section 67 of the Revenue Code, are of a summary nature and there is no bar in initiating of criminal proceedings under the PDPP Act in case of damage to public property, which would include within its purview the Gram Sabha property also.
It is submitted that the scope of criminal proceedings and the proceedings for eviction under the Revenue Code are entirely different and there is no bar in the same being simultaneously proceeded with.
“Based on rival contentions, the question which falls for consideration is as to whether in respect of allegations relating to damage to Gram Sabha properties, only proceedings for eviction under Section 67 of the Revenue Code can be initiated, or criminal proceedings under the provisions of PDPP Act can also be proceeded with.
Section 3 of PDPP Act provides for imposition of punishment with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to five years and with fine, in respect of mischief causing damage to public property.
The expression “public property”, as defined under Section 2(b) of the PDPP Act, would therefore include within its ambit any property, movable or immovable, owned by or in possession or under the control of any local authority, which would include a Gram Sabha. The Gram Sabha land would, therefore, be covered within the definition of the expression “public property” under the Act 3 of 1984.
The provisions contained under Section 67 of the Revenue Code and Rules 66 and 67 of the Rules, 2016, provide a summary procedure for proceeding in respect of damage, misappropriation and wrongful occupation of Gram Panchayat properties and includes the powers to prevent such damage, misappropriation or wrongful occupation.
“The PDPP Act, on the other hand, has been enacted to curb acts of vandalism and damage to public property, and in terms thereof any act of mischief, including causing destruction of any property or any change in any property or in the situation thereof which destroys or diminishes its value or utility, or affects it injuriously, would constitute a punishable offence, as per Section 3 thereof,”
-noted the Court.
In the case, criminal proceedings have been initiated pursuant to lodging of an FIR by the Lekhpal of the village containing allegations that the accused applicant had constructed a house over the Gaon Sabha land, which is recorded as a pond in the revenue records.
As per the FIR version, the land in question bearing area 1.211 hectares is recorded as a pond and it is stated that despite being repeatedly asked, the accused applicant has constructed a house over the pond land, thereby causing damage to public property and in view thereof, criminal proceedings under Section 3/4 of the PDPP Act were being initiated against him for the said act.
In pursuant to FIR, the case was investigated and the material collected during the course of investigation supported the FIR allegations and accordingly, a charge sheet dated May 14, 2015 was submitted whereupon cognizance was taken by the Magistrate on April 6, 2016 and a criminal case was instituted.
“The criminal proceedings, which have been initiated in the case pursuant to the FIR lodged under the provisions of PDPP Act, thus cannot be held to be vitiated for the reason that in respect of the allegations relating to encroachment/damage to Gaon Sabha land, only proceedings for eviction and recovery of damages can be initiated under the provisions of the Revenue Code and no criminal proceedings for causing damage or destruction of public property can be initiated under the PDPP Act,”
-the court said and dismissed the application.