Thursday, March 30, 2023

Rajasthan High Court dismisses PIL in 478 Bighas of pasture land case in Bhilwara

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The Rajasthan High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed assailing the order dated 18.10.2019 , whereby 478 bighas of land categorized as Charagah (Pasture) in the villages Pur, Borda and Aatun were set apart for expansion of Aabadi area of UIT, Bhilwara and simultaneously, equal chunk of land was set apart in the villages Pur and Sakariya Kheda to compensate the reduction in the Charagah land. 

Challenge is also laid to the orders dated 09.12.2019 , whereby the State Government has granted approval to the said proposal and the order dated 20.12.2019 passed by the District Collector, Bhilwara, whereby the chunk of land has been entered into the name of UIT, Bhilwara in the Revenue record.
While considering the Petition , the Division Bench of Justice Sandeep Mehta and Justice Kuldeep Mathur note that  Rule 7 of the Rules of 1955, which reads as below, empowers the District Collector and the State Government, as the case may be, to change classification of pasture land for agricultural or non-agricultural purposes. 

“7. Allotment or setting apart of Pasture Land – (1) the Collector may, in consultation with the Panchayat, change the classification of any pasture land, as defined in sub-section (28) of Section 5 of the Act or any pasture land set apart under section 92 of the Rajasthan Land Revenue Act, 1956 (Rajasthan Act of 1956) as unoccupied culturable Government land (Sawai Chak), for allotment for agricultural or any nonagricultural purposes :

Provided that in case where the area of the land sought to be so allotted or set apart exceeds 4 hectares, the Collector shall obtain prior permission of the State Government: 

Provided also that any such land, falling within the boundary limits of the Jaipur Region as defined in the Jaipur Development Authority Act. 1982 (Act No. 25 of 1982 within the periphery of 2 km. of a municipality, shall not be allotted except for the purpose of a public utility institution or for expansion of abadi. 
(2) Where classification of any pasture land is changed under sub-rule (1). the Collector may set -apart an equal area of unoccupied culturable Government land, if available as pasture land in the same village.  

The requirement of consultation with the Gram Panchayat under Rule 7(1) is directory as has been held by the Division Bench of the High Court in the case of Gulab Chand (supra). That apart, the fact remains that with the increase in the urban population, the need for acquiring additional lands for expansion of Aabadi areas becomes imminent and thus, it is unavoidable to declassify and acquire the pasture lands from adjoining villages so that the Aabadi expansion of the cities can be undertaken in a systematic and organized manner. If this systematic development is not resorted to, the burgeoning populace would indulge in making encroachments, which in turn would lead to problems of larger magnitude.   

However, at the same time, the Court observed that the development of Aabadi areas cannot be done in an arbitrary manner and the grazing lands cannot be totally diminished and land has to be allotted for the declassified pasture areas. 

On perusal of the proposal dated 18.10.2019 forwarded from the office of the District Collector, Bhilwara to the Principal Secretary, Revenue Department, Government of Rajasthan , tyhe Court noted that the District Collector took care to recommend setting apart of an equivalent chunk of land to compensate the loss caused to the grazing area on account of declassification. 

In the final order dated 09.12.2019, the State Government has also approved the proposal of the District Collector and as a consequence, by order dated 20.12.2019, relevant Revenue entries have been made, whereby 478 bighas pasture land from revenue villages Pur, Borda and Aatun was declassified and converted for expansion of Aabadi area of UIT and equivalent chunk of land situated in the Villages Pur and Sakariya Kheda were set apart for being used as Gochar (pasture). 

From the reply of the respondents , the High Court noted that the District Collector, Bhilwara has diligently taken care to ensure that equivalent chunk of land is allotted for offsetting the loss caused to the Charagah land of the Villages Pur, Borda and Aatun. Additional documents have been filed on record, which include two notifications dated 09.01.2020 and 14.02.2020, whereby these areas have been notified for expansion/extension of Aabadi of UIT Bhilwara. 

“As per the judgment rendered in the case of Gulab Chand (supra), there is no mandate of law that the District Collector should hold prior consultation with the Village Gram Panchayat before changing classification of pasture land by exercising powers under Rule 7(1) of the Rules of 1955. Otherwise also, the present case is one, where the State Government has directed declassification of the pasture land and not the District Collector. Thus, the provisions appropriate compensatory   contained in Rule 7 of the Rules of 1955 do not come to the aid of the petitioners in their endeavour to challenge the impugned orders, which prima facie, do not suffer from any error either factual or legal.

As a consequence, we do not find any merit in this writ petition, which is rejected as such”, the order reads.

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