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Karnataka High Court directs respondents to take stock of existing cattle strength of Magodu Village

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The Karnata kahigh Court directed  the Respondents to take stock of the existing cattle strength of the Magodu village and ascertain whether sufficient Gomal land (cattle pasturage)  and green pasturage as required under Rule 97 of the Karnataka Land Revenue Rules, 1966 is available for the purpose of grazing the cattle of the village.

The Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice S. Vishwajith Shetty disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by permanent residents of Magodu village, Ranebennur Taluk, Haveri District, with a prayer to quash the order dated 10.08.1993 issued by respondent no.4 (Deputy Commissioner , Haveri)  , order dated 08.12.2006 issued by respondent no.5 (Tehsildar,Ranebennur),  order dated 12.08.2014 issued by respondent no.1(state of Karnataka) ,  and have sought for quashing the notifications dated 13.01.2010 issued under Sections 3(1), 1(3) & 28(1) of the Karnataka Industrial Area Development Act, 1966 , and also the notification  dated 15.06.2013 issued under Section 28(4) of the Act respectively  and further sought to quash the order dated 31.12.2015 passed by respondent no.1. 

The petitioners have also sought for the consequential reliefs of issuing necessary direction to take back the possession of the lands which are the subject matter of the above referred orders and to restore the mutation entry in respect of the said land as Gomal land.

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Brief facts of the case is that the land  measures 198 acres 11 guntas and Sy. No.13 measuring 62 acres 38 guntas situated at Magodu village, Ranebennur Taluk, are Gomal lands which are reserved for the purpose of grazing the cattle in Magodu village. It is the case of the petitioners that there are about 1200 cattle in the village and the aforesaid Gomal lands are required for the purpose of grazing these cattle. The respondent authorities, contrary to the provisions of the Karnataka  Land Revenue Act, 1964 have passed various orders de-reserving portions of the aforesaid Gomal lands and this act of theirs continued right from the year 1993 upto 2015, in spite of there being objection from the villagers of Magodu village. The portion of de-reserved lands have also been allotted to Karnataka Industrial Area Development Board (for short, ‘the Board’), who in turn wants to develop the said land for industrial purpose and in the said event, the ecology of the locality is likely to be affected. The Gomal land which is now available in the village is hardly sufficient for the purpose of grazing the cattle in the village and since the objections raised by the villagers in this regard were completely ignored or not considered by the concerned authorities, the petitioners have approached the Court seeking for the aforesaid prayers.

The Bench noted that  in K.P.Manjunath’s case supra, it has been held that before passing the de-reservation order or any other order in respect of a Gomal land, the villagers are required to be heard. Similar is the view taken by this Court in Gram Panchayat, Ugragol’s case. In the present  case, though a contention has been urged by the  Counsel for the petitioners that the petitioners and other villagers were not heard in the matter, he has not specifically raised such a contention in the petition.
In Umesh Shenoy’s case supra, the High Court have noted that Gomal lands were de-reserved and developed for various purposes without taking into consideration the requirement of Gomal land for the purpose of grazing the cattle, has observed that if it is found that the lands reserved for such public purpose have been de-reserved and developed beyond the permitted limit, steps shall be taken to ensure that the shortfall is made good by reserving other Government lands for such purpose and by creating green belt areas in the said lands.   

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It is trite law that the principle of delay and laches apply to public interest litigation as well. The petitioners have approached the High  Court belatedly in the year 2017. It is the petitioners to note that over a period of time from 1993 onwards, the lands which have been de-reserved under various orders which are impugned in this writ petition, have been either utilised or are under the process of development and at this stage, it would not be proper for the High  Court to interfere in the matter by quashing the said de-reservation orders which have been passed on various dates between the period from 1993 to 2015. However, this Court cannot lose sight of the fact that the Government is under an obligation to provide sufficient pasturage for the purpose of grazing the cattle in the village and such an obligation is provided under Rule 97 of the Rules of 1966 , observed the High Court.

Under the circumstances, the petition is disposed of by the High Court with the following directions:   

“i) Respondent nos.1 to 5 are directed to ascertain as to whether the lands which have been de-reserved under the various orders which have been challenged in this writ petition have been utilised or allotted for the purpose for which they were de-reserved or    whether any developmental activities have taken place in the said land and if it is found that the lands are not utilised or allotted for the purpose for which they were de-reserved, necessary action is required to be taken by respondent nos.1 to 5 to restore the said lands as Gomal lands and thereafter take necessary steps to change the revenue entries of the said lands accordingly. 

ii) Respondent nos.1 to 5 shall also take stock of the existing cattle strength of the village and ascertain whether sufficient Gomal land and green pasturage as required under Rule 97 of the Rules of 1966 is available for the purpose of grazing the cattle of the village. 
iii) In the event, if it is found that there is no sufficient extent of Gomal land or green pasturage available in the village for grazing the existing cattle strength of the village, necessary steps shall be taken by respondent nos.1 to 5 to ensure that the shortfall is made good by reserving other available Government land for such purpose and by creating green pasturage areas in such land.   

iv) Respondent nos.1 to 3 are directed that in future, before de-reserving or deviating the Gomal lands for any other purpose, the compliance of Rule 97 of the Rules of 1966 is required to be done and only thereafter any action to de-reserve or deviate the Gomal land can be taken.”

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