‘Detrimental To Interest Of Inhabitants Of Village’: Punjab & Haryana High Court Quashes Govt Order For Exchange Of Gram Panchayat Land

first_imgNews Updates’Detrimental To Interest Of Inhabitants Of Village’: Punjab & Haryana High Court Quashes Govt Order For Exchange Of Gram Panchayat Land LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK12 March 2021 8:10 AMShare This – x”The Gram Panchayat of the village being democratically elected by the inhabitants of the village is under duty to watch the interest of the inhabitants of the village,” observed the Punjab and Haryana High Court last month while setting aside Resolutions passed by the Gram Panchayat as well as decision of the State Government, according its approval for exchange of a land belonging to…Your free access to Live Law has expiredTo read the article, get a premium account.Your Subscription Supports Independent JournalismSubscription starts from ₹ 599+GST (For 6 Months)View PlansPremium account gives you:Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.Subscribe NowAlready a subscriber?Login”The Gram Panchayat of the village being democratically elected by the inhabitants of the village is under duty to watch the interest of the inhabitants of the village,” observed the Punjab and Haryana High Court last month while setting aside Resolutions passed by the Gram Panchayat as well as decision of the State Government, according its approval for exchange of a land belonging to the Gram Panchayat with that of a private developer. A Division Bench comprising of Justice Rajan Gupta and Justice Karamjit Singh observed that the said exchange of land is detrimental to the interest of the inhabitants of the village inasmuch as the Gram Panchayat land was viable for commercial purposes when compared to the land proposed to be exchanged. In this backdrop, the Bench said, “it was necessary for the Gram Panchayat to apply its mind and to satisfy itself that the exchange in question is for the benefit of the inhabitants of the village, however, no such satisfaction was recorded by it while passing the impugned resolutions. The land which the Gram Panchayat intends to give to respondent No.9 by way of exchange has got much more commercial and industrial potential than the land which the Gram Panchayat will get in exchange.” Background The Bench was presiding over a writ petition filed by a village-resident, disputing the said exchange on the ground that the even though the lands proposed to be exchanged were of identical area, there was a huge difference in their values. He submitted that the land belonging to Gram Panchayat was of very high commercial value as it was abutting the 200 feet wide “PR-9 road” going towards the Mohali International Airport, whereas the land belonging to respondent No. 9 (private developer) was away from the said road and was low lying and prone to flooding was less valuable. He contended that the Resolutions passed by the Gram Panchayat were totally illegal being in violation of Rule 5 of Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Rules 1964 and the aforesaid resolutions were passed for extraneous consideration in order to give undue benefit to the Respondent. [Rule 5 states that a Panchayat, if it is of opinion that it is necessary so to do for the benefit of the inhabitants of the village, may with the prior approval of the Government transfer any land in shamilat deh by exchange with the land of an equivalent value] State’s Argument The State counsel argued that the approval was granted by the Government while taking into consideration the fact that the Collector rate, Market rate and Chhant rate of both the lands under exchange were equal. He further argued that with the construction of PR-9 road, the land of the Gram Panchayat was divided into 2 portions and therefore, the utility of land of Gram Panchayat was also reduced. However, with the proposed exchange of land, the entire land of Gram Panchayat would be converted into one big piece of land, having better utilization The Advocate General, Punjab also contended that the Petitioner was not having any right to challenge the aforesaid action of the Punjab Government as well as the resolutions passed by the Gram Panchayat. The Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the private-Respondents contended that the low laying and water-logged land of Gram Panchayat is of no use and is not of any benefit to the residents of the village. He also submitted that the Petitioner failed to avail the alternative remedy of the statutory appeal under Section 6 of the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulations) Act 1961. Findings At the outset, the Bench rejected the plea of lack of locus standi raised by the private-Respondent. It held, “In the case in hand the Gram Panchayat has failed to show that the proposed exchange of land is for the benefit of the residents of the village. Anybody who has been prejudicially affected by the aforesaid acts or omissions committed by the Gram Panchayat could invoke writ jurisdiction, even though he may not have proprietary interest in the subject matter.” The Bench further rejected the plea of alternate remedy, stating, “As the petitioner was not party to the impugned proceedings, he was having no right to challenge the same by filing statutory appeal, as has been suggested by the counsel for the respondents. Also the existence of alternative remedy is not an absolute bar on the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 226 and is a rule of discretion and self-imposed limitation rather than that of law.” Coming to the merits of the case, the Bench made the following observations: Gram Panchayat land abutted a 200 feet wide PR-9 road which approaches the Mohali International Airport whereas the land proposed for exchange was situated adjacent to a sewage drain. It thus held, “In lieu of the said land, he would get the prime land abutting 200 feet wide PR-9 road, having high commercial and industrial potential. The entire process of exchange of land smacks of mala fide as its real purpose is to give benefit to the colonizer/developer who would later on sell the same in the shape of plots/flats/houses at exorbitant rates. … The Gram Panchayat land is highly valuable being useful for industrial as well as commercial purpose, as compared to the land which the Gram Panchayat would get in its exchange from the private developer.” It added that the sewage drain emitting foul smell may be a permanent source of nuisance for the adjoining land owners. However, at the same time, the said drain meant for disposal of sewage water is at a distance of more than 6 acres from the land of the Gram Panchayat, which is proposed to be given by it in exchange to the respondent No.9. “This clearly shows that the private colonizer/developer i.e. respondent No.9 intends to get rid of his land, which is unfit for residential purpose being near to the aforesaid drain,” it remarked. The Bench noted that even in the approval given by the State Government, there was no mention that the land of the Gram Panchayat was having disadvantage of being low lying and water logged. It observed, “As per the respondents, the land of the Gram Panchayat, which was sought to be given in exchange to respondent Nos. 9 and 10 has got certain disadvantages/limitations…We are of the view that the above discussed encumbrances/limitations would pass over to respondent No.9, at the time of the proposed exchange. It means that respondent No.9 would get the exchanged land along with aforesaid encumbrances. So, respondent No.9 would be having same disadvantages qua the said land, which are presently faced by the Gram Panchayat. The respondents have failed to explain as to how a private developer has become interested in exchange of land, in case, it is not beneficial for him.” In fact, the Court opined that division of the Gram Panchayat land into two would come as an advantage. It said, “In view of the fact that 200 feet wide PR-9 road has divided the Panchayat land into two parts, we find that the same has increased the potential value of the said land which is now abutting both sides of the road leading to Mohali International Airport. So, the plea taken by the respondents that the utility and value of land belonging to Gram Panchayat was diminished due to construction of PR-9 road, which divided it into two parts, appears to be totally misplaced and could not be accepted.” Accordingly, the impugned Resolutions passed by the Gram Panchayat and the Government orders permitting exchange of land were set aside, being in violation of statutory provisions of law. Case Title: Baljit Singh v. State of Punjab & Ors. Click Here To Download Order Read OrderSubscribe to LiveLaw, enjoy Ad free version and other unlimited features, just INR 599 Click here to Subscribe. All payment options available.loading….Next Storylast_img read more