Telangana High Court: Ex-servicemen to be offered alternative land

The respondents were directed to fix the compensation of Rs 3 lakh per acre payable to the petitioners which comes to Rs 15 lakh for each of the petitioners

Hyderabad: A two-judge bench of the Telangana High Court gave eight ex-servicemen residents of Hyderguda the option to apply for alternative land outside the urban agglomeration, and for the government to pass appropriate orders.

The bench of Chief Justice Alok Aradhe and Justice N.V. Shravan Kumar directed the government not to dispossess the petitioners of their land pending consideration of such representation. The bench made the order in a writ appeal filed by Kulwant Singh Chatwal and others. They had earlier moved a single judge seeking a direction to the revenue authorities to assign/issue pattas to the petitioners for the land in Survey No.s 303, 663, 651, 348, 347 and 349 of Jawaharnagar village / Malkaram, Shamirpet mandal, Rangareddy district and direct the respondents not to interfere with the possession and enjoyment of the petitioner over the land.

The petitioners, who served in the Indian Army, retired from the service between 1946 and 1976. All of them were domiciled in the then undivided Andhra Pradesh and were drawing pension for the service they have rendered in the Indian Army. In order to rehabilitate the ex-servicemen, the then AP government issued an order in October 1952, by which it assigned 5.977 acres and three guntas in Jawaharnagar to the labour department.

The government, later on, framed operating guidelines in order to effectuate the purpose of rehabilitation of ex-servicemen. Later the Jawaharnagar Land Colonisation Cooperative Society was formed which allotted 5.977 acres and three guntas to 149 ex-servicemen.

In the wake of several allegations of commission and omission against the managing committee of the society, the collector by proceedings dated 27.10.1968 superseded the managing committee and appointed a co-operative sub-registrar as special officer to manage the affairs of the society. It was the case of the petitioner that in the list prepared by the society consisting of eligible ex-servicemen, their names were not included.

They said that as the society itself was disbanded on the complaints made against its functioning, the list had no sanctity. They said that each of the petitioners were put in possession of five cents land in 1974. Thereafter, the petitioners were in possession and had been cultivating the land and no one had interfered with their possession. When despite an earlier round of litigation their cases were rejected they filed the writ petition.

A single judge rejected the plea of the authorities declaring the petitioners ineligible. The single judge said, "The fact that the petitioners are ex-servicemen is not in dispute. Irrespective of whether they satisfy the criteria contained in GO Ms No. 743, the petitioners are still eligible for assignment by virtue of being ex-servicemen, who squarely fall within the ambit of GO Ms No. 1573 dated 18-7-1966. This ground of rejection, therefore, pales into insignificance.”

The judge also overruled the ban on assignment by the revenue division officer (RDO), saying, it “cannot be made a ground to frustrate the very scheme, which provides for assignment of land to ex-servicemen. These grounds of rejection, which constitute the basis for the order of RDO, thus, indicate a total non-application of mind on the part of RDO."

The single judge, however, went on to observe the petitioners were entitled to assignment of the land, which was in their occupation. He noted that due to rapid urbanisation, the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad had grown by leaps and bounds, and the government had extended the municipal corporation area to the areas which were covered by 12 municipalities around the twin cities and constituted Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC).

The single judge observed that since the land in the occupation of the petitioners fell in the GHMC area and also the Metropolitan Development Authority, which was in the midst of intensive urban activity, it was not possible for the petitioners to continue with the agriculture/horticulture in future. Moreover, it was the stand of the respondents that this land was needed for the purpose of undertaking developmental activities and that due to the urbanisation the value of the land had gone up multifold, with each acre costing crores of rupees.

While the intention of the government in preparing the scheme of rehabilitation was only to see that after their retirement, the ex-servicemen will have decent means of livelihood, such a scheme cannot be allowed to become a windfall for the assignees.

Drawing a balance between the interest of the public at large and considering that the scheme provides for the assignment of land either in the native place of the ex-servicemen or anywhere else in the state, the judge had declared that the petitioners may be provided with alternative agricultural land at the petitioners' places of choice anywhere in the state and proposed two options namely, (i) to direct the respondents to consider allotment of suitable agricultural land at the places of choice of the petitioners, or (ii) to pay reasonable compensation to the petitioners in lieu of assignment of the land in their occupation to enable them to procure alternative agricultural land.

Refusing to interfere with the direction the bench recorded the stand of the government that if the petitioners/appellants made a representation for providing them alternative land anywhere in the state, other than the urban agglomeration, the respondents were ready to consider the same.

Endorsing the view of the single judge, Justice Shravan Kumar, speaking for the bench, said that the single judge had categorically observed the need to balance the individual interest of the petitioners with that of the interest of the public at large and had held that the interest of justice would be met if the petitioners were provided with alternative agricultural land at the place of their choice anywhere in the state and proposed two options.

The respondents were directed to fix the compensation of Rs 3 lakh per acre payable to the petitioners which comes to Rs 15 lakh for each of the petitioners which would enable them to purchase alternative land. We do not find any reason to take a different view and we wish to subscribe to the same, the bench said.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle )
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