Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Supreme Court refuses to transfer agricultural land for non-agricultural purpose in Himachal Pradesh

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The Supreme Court has refused to transfer agricultural land for non-agricultural purpose, stating that Section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972 permitted only agriculturists engaged in cultivation to buy land in Himachal Pradesh.

The Bench of Justice P.S. Narasimha and Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia, while upholding the Himachal Pradesh High Court order on the matter, noted that this was done to save the small agricultural holding of poor persons, as well as check the rampant conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.  

It said a non-agriculturist could buy land in the hill state, after getting prior permission from the state government, adding that the government should examine granting such permission on a case-to-case basis.

The Apex Court noted in its order that under Section 118 of the 1972 Act, only an agriculturist, as defined under Section 2(2) of the 1972 Act, was allowed to purchase land in Himachal Pradesh, which would mean a landowner who personally cultivated his land in the state. 

It observed that it was best not to grant such a permission in the present case, as merely assigning rights to an agriculturist, who would be using the land for a purpose other than agriculture, would defeat the purpose of this Act.

The case was related to a contract executed between the petitioner, an agriculturist from Himachal, and a company called M/s Himalayan Ski Village Pvt Ltd for the sale of agricultural land in the Himalayan state. 
The petitioner contended that he was assigned the right as the purchaser of two plots of land by a private company. The company had purchased the land for a non-agricultural purpose but after it failed to get an approval of the state government, it assigned the right to the petitioner for executing the sale deed with the seller of the land.

The petitioner filed a suit before a civil court in the state for execution of the sale deed, which was dismissed. The High Court also rejected the appeal on the ground of delay in filing the same. 

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