Dr. Arijit Pasayat, J.
Appellants call in
question legality of the judgment rendered by a Division Bench of the
Karnataka High Court dismissing the writ appeal filed by the appellants.
in a nutshell are as follows:
The appellants claim to be Chalgeni tenants and claim grant of occupancy
rights under the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961 (in short the 'Act').
According to them late Sesu Poojary, the father of the appellants filed
an application in Form No.7 before the Land Tribunal, Karkala (for short
the 'Tribunal'). The claim was in respect of Survey No.162/1 measuring 2
acres 11 cents and Survey No.176/2 measuring 8 cents in Gandhinagar,
Marpady village Moodabedri, Karkala Taluk of Dakshina Kannada District.
Kumar claimed to be the owner of the land on the basis of a gift-deed
from his grandfather. Originally, the Tribunal granted occupancy rights
to the appellants' father by an order dated 25.4.1981. The said order
was challenged in Writ Petition No.10910/84 before the Karnataka High
Court and the High Court allowed the writ petition and remanded the
matter to the Tribunal. After remand by order dated 18.12.1996 rendered
by a majority Tribunal rejected the claim in respect of 1.81 acres of
land and granted 0.30 acres on humanitarian grounds. The appellants as
well as the respondent-Harideesh Kumar filed writ petitions challenging
the order passed by the Tribunal. Learned Single Judge dismissed the
writ petition filed by the appellants and allowed the writ petition
filed by the respondent-Harideesh Kumar by a common order. Appellants
filed two writ appeals.
Before the High
Court the stand of the appellants was that Punja lands in the district
are agricultural lands. According to the appellants, the definition of
"land" in terms of Section 2(18) of the Act is wide enough to include
Punja land. Referring to some earlier decisions the Division Bench of
the High Court came to hold that Punja land is not agricultural land and
only grass is naturally grown in such land. Though the High Court
referred to classification of different Punja lands, it held that
whether Punja land is agricultural land is a question of fact. Finding
has been recorded that this is not cultivable land and the grass is
naturally grown on the land. Therefore, the stand of the appellants was
not correct. It was observed as follows:-
"In view of the
above circumstances, we hold that in this case, the land in question is
a Punja Land where only thatched grass is grown naturally. There may be
some trees on the land. That does not mean that a natural grass growing
land is an agricultural land particularly, in the facts and
circumstances of this case where a built house is surrounding the land.
For all the above reasons, in the present case, having regard to the
facts of the case, we make it clear that Punja land in Dakshina Kannada
is not an agricultural land. We make it clear that where Punja land is
brought under cultivation, it is not a bar on the parties to adduce
evidence that such land is brought under cultivation for agricultural
purpose. No such evidence is there in this case."
Learned counsel for
the appellants submitted that the application under Section 48A of the
Act was in relation to two plots. As in Form 7 there was no mention of
Survey 176/2. the appellants have no grievance with regard to the
findings recorded. But the Tribunal has lost sight of the fact that on
spot inspection certain coconut trees were found on the land in
question. Before the Tribunal, the Chairman allowed the claim while the
other members rejected the same. Reference was made to the fact that the
claimant was a government servant and his son had admitted that the
lease was obtained from somebody else. It was also admitted that there
was tailoring establishment running on the land in question. However, on
humanitarian grounds the Tribunal allowed retention of the house and 30
cents of land. Learned Single Judge found that no agricultural activity
was possible and the land admittedly was Punja Land. It was further
observed that no agrarian relationship was established, and Punja land
in the absence of any evidence, cannot be treated as agricultural land.
That also was the finding by the Division Bench which further noted that
no evidence was brought to show that the land was under cultivation.
These are assailed
by the learned counsel for the appellants.
In response, learned
counsel for the respondent-
Harideesh Kumar submitted that land had been obtained on lease for a
period 11 months starting from 1.1.1963 and 29.11.1963. The same also
shows that the claimant's father was a tenant and monthly rent of
Rs.2.25 was payable by him. It was further submitted that the son of
Subhakar accepted somebody else to be the landlord. Learned counsel for
the appellants submitted that she was aunt and was managing the affairs
on behalf of the respondent. The said plea is without any basis. In
fact, the rent receipt Ex.P5 on which the appellants placed reliance did
not indicate any serial number. It was also noted by the learned Single
Judge that there was no basis for allowing retention of the house and 30
cents and the same has been rightly set aside.
Section 2(18) of
the Act reads as follows:
"Land" means agricultural land, that is to say, land which is used or
capable of being used for agricultural purposes or purposes subservient
thereto and includes horticultural land, forest land, garden land,
pasture land, plantation and tope but does not include house-site or
land used exclusively for non agricultural purposes."
A bare reading of
the provision shows that land means agricultural land that is to say,
land which is used or capable of being used for agricultural purposes or
purposes subservient thereto and includes horticultural land, forest
land, garden land, pasture land, plantation and tope but does not
include house-site or land used exclusively for non- agricultural
purposes. Therefore, it has to be established that the land was capable
of being used for agricultural purposes or purposes subservient thereto.
The Tribunal and the High Court have categorically noted the fact that
the land being Punja land is not cultivable land and only grass is grown
naturally. If the appellants wanted to establish that it was being used
for agricultural purposes, evidence should have been led in that regard.
The Division Bench has categorically noted that no evidence in that
regard was led. Mere reference to the spot inspection to show the
existence of a few coconut trees does not establish that the land was
capable of being used for agricultural purpose.
In view of the
factual finding recorded by the Tribunal and the High Court (both
learned Single Judge and the Division Bench) there is no merit in the
present appeals which are accordingly dismissed. There will be no order
as to costs.
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