Thursday, February 9, 2023

MP HC dismisses PIL regarding encroachment on government land

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The Jabalpur Bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court has disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL), alleging encroachment by private respondents on a government land.

The PIL has been filed by Aam Janta Mouja Mahidal Kala through its Secretary Baijnath Sen, alleging that despite the order passed by the Tehsildar, Circle Chhiboura, Tehsil Rampur Baghelan, District Satna for the removal of encroachment, so far no action has been taken by the government authorities to free the land by private respondents.

The petition further contended that the Tehsildar, by order dated January 25, 2020, has not only directed for removal of the encroachment, but also imposed a fine of Rs 5000 on each of the private respondents, who have constructed certain Pakka structures on public land, reducing the width of the road, which has made it difficult even for two wheelers to pass through the same.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Mohammad Rafiq and Justice Satyendra Kumar Singh observed that MP High Court on June 9, in the case of Gram Panchayat Dhooma vs state of Madhya Pradesh and others, while considering that large number of petitions of similar nature, with allegations of encroachment over the ‘nistar land’/’charnoi’/’gocher’/’pasture’ land/land of ‘pond’, ‘talab’/’river’/’river bed’/’public way’/’shamshan’/’kabristan’ directed the Chief Secretary of the state to devise a permanent mechanism, which should be functional in every district of the state, where the concerned District Collector should be required to periodically notify for the information of the general public to lodge the complaints / representations with regard to such encroachments with a specially designated Public Land Protection Cell (PLPC) for rural areas.

The PLPC should be headed by District Collector and function under his direction and supervision with an officer of the rank of Tehsildar as its Member Secretary and such other Officers as its Members as the Government may deem fit to nominate. The PLPC shall get such complaints / representations enquired into by deputing concerned Sub Divisional Officer / Tehsildar / Naib Tehsildar so as to verify whether or not such encroachments have actually taken place on public land.

If the allegations are found to be substantiated, appropriate steps in accordance with law be immediately taken for removal of the encroachments and appropriate penal action be also taken against the trespassers.

The complaints / representations received in the PLPC should be decided by passing a speaking order, informing the respective complainant / representationist about the action taken. This would obviate the necessity of such complainants / representationists approaching the Court directly by way of public interest litigation. If this permanent mechanism is put in place, the Court would not be required to directly entertain such public interest litigation and would do so only in the event of inaction on the part of the concerned PLPC, ordered the Court .

The Bench also clarified that PLPC shall also keep in view the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in Jagpal Singh & Others Vs State of Punjab & Others, (2011) 11 SCC 396 wherein all the State Governments of the country have been directed to prepare scheme for eviction of illegal / unauthorised occupants of the Gram Sabha / Gram Panchayat / Poramboke / Shamlat land which should then be restored to the Gram Sabha / Gram Panchayat for the common use of residents of the village.

The said scheme should provide for the speedy eviction of such illegal occupants, after giving them a show cause notice and a brief hearing.

The Supreme Court further held in Jagpal Singh case that long duration of illegal encroachment/ occupation of land or huge expenditure in making construction thereon or political connections of trespassers are no justification for regularising such illegal occupation.

Regularisation should be permitted only in exceptional cases, where lease has been granted under some government notification, for example to landless labourers or members of Scheduled Castes / Scheduled Tribes or where there is already a school, hospital, dispensary, ‘shamshan’, ‘kabristan’ or other public utility of the like nature on the land.

Observations of the Supreme Court in Jagpal Singh (supra) thus leaves no manner of doubt that removal of encroachment on all such land is a rule and regularisation an exception and that too in an extremely limited number of cases, which only the Government can do by appropriate notification and no other authority.

Also Read: Allahabad High Court stays criminal proceedings against man booked for expressing grief on social media over death of his wife during medical treatment

The High Court further ruled that copy of this order be forwarded to the Chief Secretary of the State of Madhya Pradesh, Bhopal for issuance of necessary notification for notifying the permanent body designated as Public Land Protection Cell (PLPC) in every District with the District Collector as its head and a Tehsildar as its Member Secretary, apart from other revenue officers as the Members. This should be given due publicity for information of all the citizens that complaint with regard to encroachment over public land in the rural areas can be made to such authorities which shall be responsible for causing an enquiry into such complaint to be made and taking expeditious action for removal of encroachments so as to protect the public land.

In view of the earlier order of the High Court, the Court on Tuesday held that the petitioner should approach the Collector, District Satna, who shall ensure compliance of the earlier order, “so as to get the land free from encroachment in compliance of this order within three months after providing opportunity of hearing to private respondents. The petition is accordingly disposed of,” the order read.

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