Chief Conservator Of Forests, vs The Collector And Ors. on 18 February, 2003
Equivalent citations: AIR 2003 SC 1805, 2003 (4) ALD 27 SC
Author: S S Quardi
Bench: S Quadri, A Bhan
Syed Shah Mohammed Quardi, J.
1. These two appeals are from the common judgment of a Division Bench of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in Writ Petition (C) No. 3414 of 1982 and Appeal Suit No. 2291 of 1986 dated 24th January, 1989.
2. The appeals arise on the same facts and one set of the parties is common. The subject matter of litigation is an extent of acres 2423.37 in Jatprole Jagir, Kollapur Taluk, Mahboobnagar District in the erstwhile the Nizam’s State of Hyderabad. After the accession of the Nizam’s State of Hyderabad with the Union of India, the Andhra Pradesh (Abolition of Jagirs) Regulations, 1358 Fasli (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Regulation’) came into force on September 20, 1949. Under that Regulations, all Jagirs, including the Jatprole Jagir, stood abolished from that date and their administration stood vested in the State. Raja S.V. Jagannadha Rao was the last Jagirdar. Respondent No.s 3 and 4 are his legal representatives [hereinafter referred to as ‘the Pattedars’]. It is the case of the pattedars that when the State took over the Jagir, the Forest Department of the State took under its control the forest land, measuring acres 1,20,824. However, the lands comprised in Survey No. 11 of Asadpur village measuring acres 1523 and Survey No. 168 of Malachintnapalli village measuring acres 9000 continued to remained in the possession of the Raja as his patta lands. Soon thereafter, Notification No. 282 under Section 29 of the Andhra Pradesh (Telengana Area) Forest Act, 1355 Fasli [for short, ‘the Forest Act’] was issued on December 4, 1950. The notification enumerated fourteen villages comprising of an extent of 93,030 acres of Kollapur taluk Mahboobnagar District, which was named as Kollapur range. It appears that a notification under Section 30 of the Forest Act was also issued but that notification is not on record. In the year 1953, re-survey of the erstwhile Jagir was conducted. The lands in question, namely, Survey No. 40 (old) was assigned Survey No. 11 and Survey No. 241 (old) was assigned Survey No. 168; however, the finalisation of the survey was done in 1962. The Pattedars filed an application under Section 87 of the Andhra Pradesh (Telengana Area) Land Revenue Act, 1317 Fasli [for short, ‘the Land Revenue Act’] to rectify the mistake noted in the settlement record pursuant to the said re-survey. The mistake was alleged to be that the name of the Khatedar was not shown against the said survey numbers which were shown as ‘Mahasura’ (protected). The District Collector, after conducting the necessary enquiry and on a joint inspection in which the Land Record Assistant and the Forest Range Officer participated and in which working plan was produced showing the area as the patta of the late Jagirdar, passed an order on April 25, 1966 directing rectification of the settlement record. Based on the said order, the Director of Settlement rectified the records and issued a supplementary setwar on May 11, 1966.
3. Under the Forest Act, a person who transports forest produce is required to obtain transit permit. Though in the past, the Pattedars were transporting forest produce on obtaining transit permits, it was, however, denied to them on their application made on October 14, 1966. It is worth noticing that the Tehsildar of those villages recommended granting of transit permits showing the lands as patta lands. It was for the first time that the Forest Department appeared to have taken the plea that the lands in question were forest lands and the Chief Conservator of Forest (Appellant No. 1 in Civil Appeal No. 8580 of 1994) expressed that the lands in question were forest land and doubted they were patta lands of the Pattedars. The doubt expressed by the Chief Conservator of Forest in regard to the nature of the said lands led to a further probe into the matter as to whether the lands comprised in the aforementioned survey numbers were treated as part of Jagir at the time of taking over the Jagir or whether they were treated as patta lands of the Raja. In view of the queries made by the Chief Conservator of Forest, the Collector, Mahboobnagar District formulated as many as five questions and directed the Tehsildar to furnish replies thereto. On May 2, 1972, the Tehsildar replied that the lands in question were patta lands and assessed to land revenue; there was nothing on record to show that they were taken over along with the Jagir and other forest area under the supervision of the Government. A letter No. D.Dis.J/2706/72 dated 21st October, 1972 from the R.D.O. addressed to the Collector discloses that from the accounts maintained for the period prior to the re-survey in the year 1953, rectification of the record and issuance of supplementary setwar, it was proved that the lands in question were the personal property of the late Raja. Further, on January 16, 1974, a letter was addressed by the Director of Settlement to the Chief Conservator of Forest that the lands in question were in possession of the respondents prior to the abolition of Jagirs and that the matter did not require any further examination as the rectification of record was made under Section 87 of the Land Revenue Act. There is a reference to the report of the R.D.O. dated 31st October, 1975, which was made on inspection and after making local enquiries, stating that the lands were in possession of the Pattedars as private patta land. While so, the Government of Andhra Pradesh proposed to acquire the lands in question which were likely to be submerged upon completion of the Srisailam Project. Two notification were issued under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The first was issued on January 31, 1975 proposing to acquire 410 acres out of the land in Survey No. 11 in Asadpur village and the second was issued on November 4, 1976 proposing to acquire an extent of 45 acres and 20 guntas of land in Survey No. 168 in Malachintapalli village for Srisailam Project. However, the Government of Andhra Pradesh issued orders cancelling the said notifications issued under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and withdrawing from the acquisition, on the ground that the said lands were Government lands, on February 16, 1978. The said order was assailed by the Pattedars in Writ Petition (C) No. 2084 of 1978 before the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. The High Court quashed the recital in the impugned order of the Government that the said lands belonged to the Government but in other respects maintained the same by partly allowing the writ petition on February 21, 1979. This gave rise to filing of a declaratory suit by the Pattedars and ordering further enquiry into the matter by the Government of Andhra Pradesh.
4. In view of the dispute between the two departments of the Government with regard to the title to the lands in question, the Government of Andhra Pradesh issued orders on 17th August, 1979 directing the Commissioner of Survey, Settlement and Land Record to make an enquiry under Section 166-B of the Land Revenue Act and to pass a speaking order after hearing the parties concerned. While the enquiry was pending, the Pattedars filed the suit (O.S. No. 73 of 1979, which was re-numbered as O.S. 7 of 1984) in the court of the learned Subordinate Judge, Wanaparthy, Mahboobnagar District, for a declaration of title, recovery of compensation for the lands in question and for rendition of accounts. Pursuant to the said order of the Government, the Commissioner conducted an enquiry, heard both the parties and opined that the order of the Collector, passed under Section 87 of the Land Revenue Act, was correct and did not call for any interference therewith. That order was passed by the Commissioner on December 5, 1981. The Government apparently accepted that order of the Commissioner as no further steps were taken by it to correct or set aside that order. However, the doubt
in the mind of the Chief Conservator of Forest still persisted and he filed Writ Petition (C) No. 3414 of 1982 in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh challenging the order of the Commissioner of Survey, Settlement and Land Record dated December 5, 1981.
5. The trial court, after conducting trial and on consideration of the evidence on record, decreed the suit with costs, insofar as the reliefs of declaration of title and rendition of accounts but declined the relief of award of compensation/damages by judgment and decree dated March 25, 1985. Aggrieved by the judgment and decree of the learned Subordinate Judge, the defendants – the Land Acquisition Officer, Mahboobnagar District and the Government of Andhra Pradesh represented by the Collector, Mahboobnagar – filed Appeal No. 2291 of 1986, before the High Court of Andhra Pradesh. The afore-mentioned Writ Petition (C) No. 3414 of 1983 and Appeal No. 2291 of 1986 were heard together and dismissed by a Division Bench of the High Court by a common judgment on April 21, 1989, which is the subject matter of challenge in the appeals before us.
6. Mr. P.P. Rao, learned senior counsel appearing for the Pattedars-respondents in Civil Appeal No. 8530 of 1994 and Mr. Harish N. Salve, learned senior counsel appearing for the
Pattedars-respondents in Civil Appeal No. 9097 of 1995, raised a preliminary objection as to the maintainability of the writ petition filed by the Chief Conservator of Forest as well as the appeal arising therefrom. Article 300 of the Constitution of India, it is contended, provides that the Government of a State may sue or be sued in the name of the State; Section 79 of the code of Civil Procedure, 1908 directs that the State shall be the authority to be named as plaintiff or defendant in a suit by or against the Government and Section 80 thereof directs notice to the Secretary to that State or the Collector of the District before the institution of the suit; and Rule 1 of Order 27 lays down as to who should sign the pleadings. No individual officer of the Government under the scheme of the Constitution or the Code of