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Review Proceedings Do Not Serve As A Platform For Re-hearing Or Correcting Simple Mistakes But Necessitate The Identification Of Glaring Errors Apparent On The Record: Supreme Court Of India

Sanskriti Tiwari ,
  24 April 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
2024 INSC 310

CASE NAME:

State of Telangana vs. Mohd. Abdul Qasim (died) Per Lrs.

CASE DATE:

18th April, 2024

PARTIES:-

Appellant: State of Telangana

Respondent: Mohd. Abdul Qasim (dead)

BENCH/JUDGE: 

Justice MM Sundresh

Justice SVN Bhatti

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:-

1.    Section 87 of the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act, 1317 F.:- 

Pertains to rectification of survey errors and land ownership claims.

2.    Section 15 of the A.P. Forest Act:- 

Deals with the declaration of land as reserved forest by the State Government.

3.    Section 16 of the A.P. Forest Act:- 

Provides for the finality and conclusiveness of proceedings under the Act.

4.    Forest Conservation Act, 1980:- 

Defines forests broadly, including private ones and regulates forest conservation measures.

5.    Order XLI Rule 22 of the CPC 1908:- 

Regulates the power of the High Court to partly reverse trial court decrees.

6.    Section 5 of the A.P. Forest Act:- 

Relates to the applicability of the Act during the pendency of proceedings.

SUBJECT:-

The case involved a land dispute in Village Kompally, District Warangal, spanning decades. The plaintiff sought rectification of survey errors and title declaration, countered by land declared reserved forest. Despite initial rulings favoring the plaintiff, subsequent legal battles, including reviews, led to the reversal. The court allowed the appeal, reinstating an earlier judgment, imposing fines, and emphasizing legal scrutiny and integrity.

OVERVIEW:-

  • The case involves a prolonged dispute over land ownership in Village Kompally, District Warangal, dating back to the 1950s. 
  • Initially, the plaintiff filed for rectification of survey errors in 1960, followed by a subsequent rejection and eventual approval in 1981. 
  • However, the land was declared reserved forest in 1971 under the A.P. Forest Act.
  • Legal battles ensued, with the High Court ultimately ruling against the plaintiff in 1985, confirming the land’s forest status. 
  • Subsequent reviews and committee decisions led to a contentious reversal in 2021, criticizing the defendant’s inconsistencies but overlooking the plaintiff’s failures and jurisdictional issues. 

ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT:-

  1. Whether the plaintiff can establish ownership and title to the land in Village Kompally, District Warangal?
  2. Whether the declaration of the land as reserved forest under the A.P. Forest Act in 1971 is valid and enforceable?
  3. Whether the Court has jurisdiction to review and decide on the status of the land after the High Court’s ruling?
  4. Whether procedural requirements, such as the involvement of necessary parties and adherence to statutory provisions, been complied with throughout the legal proceedings?

CONTENTIONS RAISED ON BEHALF OF THE APPELLANT:-

  • The learned counsel for the appellant, Additional Solicitor General, Ms. Aishwarya Bhati argued that the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 provides a wide definition of a forest, which encompasses all types of forests, including the private ones.
  • It was contended that ownership of land could not be solely determined by revenue records as they did not confer title.
  • The counsel argued that the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction during the review process by conducting a re-hearing, effectively assuming the role of an appellate court.
  • The appellant asserted that the respondents failed to adequately demonstrate their title to the land and this finding remained untouched.

CONTENTIONS RAISED ON BEHALF OF THE RESPONDENT:-

  • The learned counsel for the respondent, Mr. Neeraj Kishan Kaul, argued that the proceedings before the Forest Settlement Officer had attained finality.
  • It was contended that the trial court had already ruled in favor of the plaintiff’s title and once title is established, possession should naturally follow.
  • The respondent asserted that the exercise of the power of review was justified due to an apparent error on the face of the record.
  • It was argued that the finding regarding the inapplicability of Section 5 of the A.P. Forest Act was correct, as there was no attempt to challenge the proceedings under the Act.
  • Finally, the respondent maintained that since there was no apparent perversity in the impugned order, this Court should refrain from interfering with it.

ANALYSIS MADE BY THE COURT:-

  • The court observed a clear abdication of duty by state officials responsible for protecting and preserving forests, leading to confusion in the legal proceedings.
  • The High Court’s reliance on evidence produced after the decree, in favour of a party who succeeded with the contesting defendant, was deemed unjustified, especially considering the land’s forest status.
  • Two distinct lack of jurisdiction instances were identified: attempting to circumvent the decree and acting without jurisdiction, as the land belonged to the Forest Department, making Defendant No. 1’s involvement inappropriate.
  • The court highlighted the irrelevance of proceedings under the A.P. Land Revenue Act, 1317 F, as they were concluded after the proceedings under the A.P. Forest Act.
  • It was noted that the High Court’s decision to grant forest land to a private individual who failed to prove their title was questionable, particularly as the High Court overstepped statutory limitations.
  • The court questioned the maintainability of the suit for declaration, as the plaintiff failed to challenge the proceedings under Section 15 of the A.P. Forest Act, which had become final and conclusive.
  • The judgment was criticized for factual and legal errors, indicating that it did not withstand legal scrutiny.

JUDGMENT:-

The court allowed the appeal, thereby setting aside the impugned judgment and reinstating the judgment rendered in A.S. No. 145 of 1994. Both appellants and respondents were directed to pay a fine of Rs. 5,00,000/- each to the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) within two months. The appellant State was granted authority to investigate and recover costs from officers responsible for submitting false affidavits. Contempt Case No. 624 of 2021 pending before the High Court was ordered to be closed, with I.A. No.65196/2021 dismissed. All other pending applications were also to be closed accordingly.

CONCLUSION:-

The court’s decision to allow the appeal, setting aside the impugned judgment and restoring the earlier ruling, reflects a thorough examination of the case’s intricacies. Imposing fines on both parties underscores the imperative of accountability within legal proceedings. Moreover, the court’s directives concerning false affidavits and pending cases underscore its commitment to upholding justice and legal integrity in resolving land disputes.  The case underscores the complexity of legal proceedings, jurisdictional challenges, and conflicting interpretations of evidence and law in land disputes.
 

 
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