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It is worth paying attention that none other than the Apex Court has as recently as on November 22, 2021 in a learned, laudable, latest and landmark judgment titled State of MP vs Ghisilal in Civil Appeal No. 2153 of 2021 has minced no words to hold that the civil courts has no jurisdiction to try suit relating to land which is subject-matter of ceiling proceedings, Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976. The Court clearly said that civil court cannot declare, orders passed by the authorities under the ULC Act, as illegal or non est. All the civil courts must always adhere to what the Apex Court has laid down so clearly in this leading case.

To start with, this brief, brilliant and balanced judgment authored by Justice R Subhash Reddy for a Bench of Apex Court comprising of himself and Justice Hrishikesh Roy sets the ball rolling by first and foremost observing in para 1 that, "This Civil Appeal is preferred by the appellant - State of Madhya Pradesh, aggrieved by the judgment and order dated 08.11.2006 passed in Second Appeal No.129 of 2006. By the aforesaid order, the High Court has dismissed the Second Appeal, preferred by the appellant herein confirming the judgment and decree passed by the learned IV Additional District Judge, Bhopal, in Civil Appeal No.37-A/2005 dated 23.07.2005 and the judgment and decree dated 24.12.2004 passed by the learned XIIth Civil Judge, Class - II, Bhopal, in Civil Suit No.138-A/2004."

While stating the necessary facts in brief, the Bench then envisages in para 3 that, "The agricultural land bearing Survey Nos.171 to 184, 214, 217 and 284 admeasuring 17.18 acres situated at Village Bag Sevania, Tehsil Huzur, District Bhopal, was recorded in the name of Late Padam Singh as a Bhoomi Swami. In the aforesaid land, late Padam Singh was having 1/4th share. As the said land was covered by the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976 (for convenience sake, hereinafter referred to as ‘ULC Act’), late Padam Singh has filed declaration as contemplated under the provisions of the ULC Act. The competent authority has determined an extent of 16000.32 square meters of land as vacant land and the same was declared surplus. Consequent to passing of final orders by the competent authority, a notification under Section 10(1) of the ULC Act was issued on 16.09.1983 and the notification as contemplated under Section 10(3) of the ULC Act was published in the Madhya Pradesh Gazette, Part - III dated 20.01.1984."

To put things in perspective, the Bench then discloses in para 4 that, "It is the case of the appellant herein that after following the necessary procedure contemplated under the ULC Act, possession of the surplus land was taken. Thereafter, the revenue entries were corrected showing the State as owner to the extent of the surplus land declared by the competent authority. It is also the case of the appellant that as the possession was already taken prior to coming into force of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Repeal Act 1999 (for convenience sake, hereinafter referred to as ‘Repeal Act’), the said land was allotted for the purpose of constructing dwelling houses to the poor."

While elaborating further, the Bench then states in para 5 that, "The respondent herein had filed suit for declaration and permanent injunction on 09.09.2003, claiming himself to be the sole heir and adopted son of Late Padam Singh. The relief in the suit reads as under:

"1) That the surplus land of 16000.32 square meters which has been declared surplus, declaration be exempted under the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976 because possession has not been taken.

2) That the defendant be restrained from interfering with the possession of the respondent.""

As it turned out, the Bench then enunciates in para 6 that, "The Trial Court i.e., XII Civil Judge, Class - II, Bhopal, by the judgment and decree dated 24.12.2004, decreed the suit on the ground that possession has not been taken, before the Repeal Act has come into force. Trial court also granted consequential relief restraining the appellant herein from interfering with the possession of the respondent. As against the judgment and decree passed by the trial Court, the matter was carried by way of first appeal, by the appellant, before the IV Additional District Judge, Bhopal and the Appellate Court has dismissed the appeal by the judgment and decree dated 23.07.2005. As against the same, the appellant has carried the matter by way of Second Appeal before the High Court. The Second Appeal is also dismissed by the impugned judgment and decree dated 08.11.2006."

As we see, the Bench then observes in para 7 that, "The aforesaid impugned judgment is questioned in this appeal mainly on the ground that after necessary notifications were issued under Section 10 of the ULC Act, appellant has taken possession and utilised the subject land for construction of houses for the poor by spending huge amounts. It is the case of the appellant that the respondent has not questioned the orders passed by the competent authority declaring the land as surplus land, it is not open to seek declaration by the respondent - plaintiff as prayed for. A specific ground was raised in the grounds of appeal that after taking possession, land was recorded in the name of the Government and the surplus land was allotted to Bhopal Development Authority for the benefit of slum dwellers and the said Authority has already constructed 100 (hundred) houses on the land by spending about Rs.1.50 Crores by the time the appeal was preferred to this Court. It is also the case of the appellant that relief as sought in the suit is a belated attempt, though such suit is not maintainable in law."

Be it noted, the Bench then emphatically points out in para 13 that, "It is not in dispute that the land in question is in the Urban Agglomeration and covered by the ULC Act, 1976. As such, original owner late Padam Singh has filed declaration under the provisions of the ULC Act and after conducting necessary inquiry, final orders were passed by the competent authority declaring 16000.32 square meters of land as surplus land. It is also clear from the material placed on record that consequent to final orders passed by the competent authority, notifications under Section 10(1) and 10(3) of the ULC Act were issued. Although, it is the case of the respondent - plaintiff that possession was taken without issuing notice, as such it cannot be considered as valid taking over of possession, but it is evident from the copy of the panchnama, the respondent, who claims to be the legal heir of late Padam Singh, is also a signatory as a witness to the same. Though the respondent - plaintiff was a witness to the panchnama for taking over possession, a belated attempt was made by filing the present suit by the respondent without even questioning the orders passed by the competent authority under the Act, declaring the land in question as a surplus land. The trial court as well as appellate court fell in error in recording a finding that possession was not taken, inspite of taking possession by conducting panchnama for which respondent is a signatory. In the judgment relied on by the learned counsel for the appellant in the case of Indore Development Authority v Manoharlal and others (2020) 8 SCC 129, this Court while dealing with the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act has held that when the possession of the land is taken by drawing a panchnama, that amounts to taking physical possession of the land. It is further held that anybody claiming possession thereafter has to be treated as a trespasser and has no right to possess the land which vests with the State free from all encumbrances. In view of the stand of the appellant, of taking over possession of the land by conducting panchnama for which respondent is a signatory, it is difficult to believe the stand of the respondent that possession was not taken. In view of the stand of the respondent that possession is with the respondent, this Court called for a report from the District Judge. Pursuant to the same, report dated 14.04.2021 was sent by the learned Principal District and Sessions Judge, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh to this Court. It is evident from such report that the appellant has taken possession of the land and the same was allotted to the Bhopal Development Authority and the same was utilised for construction of about 400 houses for needy slum dwellers by spending huge amount. Thus, it is clear that possession of the land was not only taken but same is utilised for a public purpose."

Most significantly, what is worth paying maximum attention is what is then held clearly, cogently and convincingly in para 14 that, "The Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976 is a self-contained Code. Various provisions of the Act make it clear that if any orders are passed by the competent authority, there is provision for appeal, revision before the designated appellate and revisional authorities. In view of such remedies available for aggrieved parties, the jurisdiction of the civil courts to try suit relating to land which is subject-matter of ceiling proceedings, stands excluded by implication. Civil court cannot declare, orders passed by the authorities under the ULC Act, as illegal or non est. More so, when such orders have become final, no declaration could have been granted by the civil court. In this regard reference may be made to the judgment of this Court in the case of Competent Authority, Calcutta, under the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 19763. We are totally in agreement with the aforesaid view taken by this Court."

Needless to say, the Bench then observes in para 15 that, "In this case, it is clear from the orders passed by the competent authorities, that the original declarant was holding excess land to the extent of 16000.32 square meters. When the orders passed by the competent authority and consequential notifications issued under Section 10(1) and 10(3) of the ULC Act have become final, it was not open for the respondent to file a suit seeking declaration, as prayed for. As we are of the view that jurisdiction of the civil courts is barred by necessary implication, trial court fell in error in entertaining the suit, as filed by the respondent and even the first appellate court and second appellate court have not considered the various grounds raised by the appellant in proper perspective."

Quite candidly, the Bench then holds in para 16 that, "Although it is contended by the learned counsel appearing for the respondent to mould the relief, it is trite principle that where the suit is filed with particular pleadings and reliefs, it is to be considered with reference to pleadings on record and the reliefs claimed in the suit only. The judgments relied on by the learned counsel for the respondent would not render any assistance to support the case of the respondent. As we are in agreement with the view taken by this Court earlier in the case of Competent Authority, Calcutta, under the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976 and another v. David Mantosh and others (2020) 12 SCC 542 this appeal is to be allowed by setting aside the judgment and decree passed by the trial court as confirmed by the appellate court on the ground that such suit itself was not maintainable."

Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding in para 17 that, "For the aforesaid reasons, the Civil Appeal is allowed. The impugned judgment and decree dated 24.12.2004 in Civil Suit No.138-A/2004 passed by the learned XII Civil Judge, Class - II, Bhopal, as confirmed by the first appellate Court vide judgment and decree dated 23.07.2005 in Civil Appeal No.37-A/2005 and the High Court vide judgment and order dated 08.11.2006 in S.A. No.129 of 2006, is set aside. Consequently, the suit filed by the respondent before the learned XII Civil Judge, Class-II, Bhopal stands dismissed, with no order as to costs."

In conclusion, the Apex Court has minced no words to make it abundantly clear that civil court cannot declare orders passed under Urban Land Ceiling Act as illegal or non est. It merits no reiteration and it must be said at the risk of repetition that all the civil courts must always adhere to what the Apex Court has laid down in this notable case so clearly. This is what forms the crux also of this noteworthy judgment! No denying it!


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