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Thursday, January 15, 2015

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 325-326 OF 2015 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) Nos.5029-5030 of 2011] Jt. Collector Ranga Reddy Dist. & Anr. Etc. .. Appellants -vs- D. Narsing Rao & Ors. Etc. Etc. .. Respondents

                                                              REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                   CIVIL APPEAL NO.  325-326      OF 2015
    [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) Nos.5029-5030 of 2011]


Jt. Collector Ranga Reddy Dist. &
Anr. Etc.                               ..       Appellants

      -vs-

D. Narsing Rao & Ors. Etc. Etc.    ..    Respondents

                                    With

                       CIVIL APPEAL NO. 327   OF 2015
       [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.5031 of 2011]


The Chairman,
Joint Action Committee of Employees
Teachers and Workers A.P.                ..     Appellant
      -vs-

D. Narsing Rao & Ors. etc. etc                ..   Respondents



                               J U D G M E N T

C. NAGAPPAN, J.



Leave granted.



These appeals are directed  against  the  common  judgment   dated  8.6.2010
passed in Writ Appeal No.273 and 323 of 2010 by the Division Bench  of  High
Court of Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad.



Broadly speaking, the facts leading  to  filing  of  these  appeals  are  as
follows: There  is  no  dispute  that  Gopanpally  village  in  Ranga  Reddy
district was a Jagir village.  According  to  the  writ  petitioners  Survey
Nos.36 and 37 measuring Ac 280.00 guntas and Ac.378.14 guntas  of  the  said
village were Jagir lands and Jagirdar had given Pattas to different  persons
who were  in possession of the lands and after abolition of Jagirs the  same
were reflected as Pattas in Khasra Pahani for the  year  1954-55  which  was
prepared under Section 4(2) of the Andhra Pradesh  (Telangana  Area)  Record
of Rights in land Regulation,  1358F  and  subsequently  the  Pattadars  had
alienated the lands to the petitioners  under   registered  sale  deeds  and
they are in possession of the same. It is their further case that Patta  was
granted to an extent of Acre 44-00 in Survey No.36   and  to  an  extent  of
acre 46-00 in Survey No.37 and while the matter stood thus, the  petitioners
on inquiry came to know that the Government  has  reserved  and  allotted  a
total extent of 477 acres in Survey Nos.36 and 37 of Gopanpally village  for
house  sites   to  the  Government  employees  by  Government  Orders  dated
10.7.1991 and 24.9.1991,  without  mentioning the sub-division Nos.  of  the
survey numbers and the Patta lands of the petitioners are also sought to  be
included within the area reserved and the petitioners  challenged  the  same
by filing writ petition No.21719 of 1997 on the  file  of  the  High  Court.
The writ petitioners have further stated that the  Respondent  No.1  at  the
instance of Respondent No.2 had issued notice dated  19.12.2003 to the  writ
petitioners and others stating that on verification of records  i.e.  namely
Faisal Patti for the year 1953-54 in respect  of  the  land  bearing  Survey
Nos.36 and  37  of  Gopanpally  village  there  is  no  "Ain  Izafa"  (i.e.)
(implementation of changes) taken place in respect of the said land and  the
entries in the Khasra Pahani appears to be incorporated by the then  Patwari
without order from the competent authority and an enquiry  under  Section  9
of the Andhra Pradesh Rights in Land to Pattadar  Passbooks  Act,  1971,  is
scheduled for hearing on 27.12.2003 and the writ petitioners challenged  the
said notice by filing Writ Petition No.26987 of 2003 and the learned  Single
Judge of the High Court allowed  the  said  Writ  Petition  by  order  dated
30.8.2004 and set aside the impugned  show  cause  notice.   It  is  further
stated by the writ petitioners that the first respondent on  the  very  same
basis issued subsequent notice dated 31.12.2004 for  enquiry  under  Section
166B of Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act, 1317F  fixing  the
date of hearing on 5.2.2005 and  the  petitioners  challenged  the  same  in
their writ petition No.1731 of 2005 and the  learned  single  Judge  of  the
High Court heard both the writ petitions i.e. 21719  of  1997  and  1731  of
2005 together.



The said writ petitions were resisted by the Government by stating that  the
Jagirs were abolished on 15.8.1948 by the Andhra  Pradesh  (Telangana  Area)
(Abolition of Jagirs) Regulation, 1358 fasli and the pre-existing rights  in
all the Jagirs were taken away and as per the Khasra  Pahani  for  the  year
1954-55 the sub-divisions were made  under  Survey  Nos.36  and  37  of  the
village Gopanpally fraudulently by the Patwari and those  sub-divisions  and
names were not approved by Nizam Jamabandi in Faisal Patti  during the  year
1954-55 as per the procedure in vogue and the schedule land  bearing  survey
Nos. 36 and 37 from the time of Jagir abolition on 15.8.1948  is  classified
as Chinna Kancha (grazing land) and it belongs to  the  Government  and  the
said unauthorized entries in Khasara Pahani made by the  then  Patwari  were
detected by the Revenue Authorities  and  hence  enquiry  has  been  ordered
under Section 166B of Andhra Pradesh  (Telangana  Area)  Land  Revenue  Act,
1317F and only a show cause notice has been issued.



The learned single Judge by common  order  dated  15.9.2009  set  aside  the
impugned Government order in GOMS No.850  dated  24.9.1991  insofar  as  the
lands held by the writ petitioners to the total  extent  of  Acre  90-00  in
Survey Nos.36 and 37 are concerned  and also set aside the  impugned  notice
dated 31.12.2004 and accordingly allowed the writ  petitions.  Aggrieved  by
the same respondents 1 and 2 namely the Government preferred appeal in  writ
Appeal Nos. 273 and 323 of 2010 and the Division Bench  of  the  High  Court
after hearing both sides dismissed both the writ appeals by common  judgment
dated 8.6.2010.  Challenging the same the  State  Government  has  preferred
the present appeals. Respondent No.13 in writ appeal 323 of  2010  has  also
preferred an independent appeal before this Court and all the three  appeals
are heard together.



Mr. Nageshwar Rao, learned Additional Solicitor General  appearing  for  the
appellant State contended that the land was held by Jagirs as 'crown  grant'
and it was not heritable  and  that  the  Jagir  system  was  abolished   on
15.8.1948 and the entire Jagir land by operation of law came  to  be  vested
with the Government and as per the land Revenue records prepared under  A.P.
(Telangana Area) Record of Rights in Land Regulation, 1358,  Fasli  for  the
year 1950-52 the land comprised in survey  Nos.  36  and  37  of  Gopanpally
village was owned by the Government and it is classified  as  "grazing  land
(Kancha China Sarkari non agriculture)  and  as  per  land  revenue  records
called faisal-patti for 1953-54, the said land continued to  be  "Government
grazing land".  It is his further submission that  for  the  first  time  in
August 1997 the Respondent Nos. 1-12 by filing Writ  Petition   No.21719  of
1997 claimed to have acquired right on 75 acre GTS  in Survey Nos.  36   and
37 based on their predecessor name recorded in  the Khasra Pahani  of  1954-
55 whereas no sub-division of the Survey Nos.36 and 37 was ever carried  out
and  the land was  allotted  to  employees  co-operative  societies  as  one
consolidated plot of land as shown in the Government records.  According  to
the appellants the  names  of  the  vendor  of  the  respondents  have  been
recorded in the Khasra Pahani in the year  1954-55  surreptitiously  by  the
then Patwari without any order issued by the competent authority  under  the
relevant provisions of law and no right can be claimed merely on  the  basis
of the fraudulent entries.

It is his further contention that the High Court failed to  appreciate  that
the Government cannot be precluded from taking action to correct  fraudulent
entries in the Khasra Pahani by citing long lapse of time and the  dismissal
of the Writ Appeals is unsustainable in law.  Mr. R.  Venkataramni,  learned
senior counsel appearing for the other appellant also assailed the  impugned
order for the same reasons.  In support of their  submissions  reliance  was
placed on the following decisions of this Court.
      In the decision in Collector and others vs.  P.  Mangamma  and  others
(2003) 4 SCC 488 this Court while  dealing  with  suo  motu  action  against
irregular assignments under the Andhra Pradesh Assigned  Lands  (Prohibition
of Transfers) Act, 1977 held  that  it  would  be  hard  to  give  an  exact
definition of the word "reasonable"  and a reasonable  period  would  depend
upon the facts of the case concerned and on the facts of the case  in  which
the decision arose, suo motu action taken after a  period  of  thirty  years
was remitted  to the High Court for fresh consideration.
      In the decision in State of  Maharashtra  and  another  vs.  Rattanlal
(1993) 3 SCC 326 this  Court  while  dealing  with  revisional  power  under
Section 45 of Maharashtra Agricultural Land (Ceiling and Holdings)Act,  1961
held that suo motu revisional power may not be exercised  after  the  expiry
of three  years  from  the  date  of  the  impugned  order,  however,  where
suppression  of  material  facts,  namely,  existence  of   the   undeclared
agricultural land had come to the knowledge of the higher authorities  after
a long lapse of time, the limitation would start running only from the  date
of discovery of the fraud or suppression.
      In the decision in State of Orissa and  others  vs.  Brundaban  Sharma
and another (1995) Supp.(3) SCC 249 this Court while dealing with the  power
of  revision under Section 38-B of Orissa Estates Abolition Act,  1951  held
that the Board of Revenue exercised the power of  revision  27  years  after
the date of alleged grant of patta but its authenticity and correctness  was
shrouded with suspicious features and,  therefore,  exercise  of  revisional
power was legal and valid.
We heard the submissions made by Mr. U.U. Lalit, Mr. Pravin H.  Parekh,  Mr.
Ranjit Kumar, Mr. P.V. Shetty, learned senior counsels and  also  the  other
learned counsels appearing for the respondents.   The  main  submissions  of
the learned counsels appearing for the respondents are  that  the  names  of
the predecessors in title of the respondents  are  found  mentioned  in  the
Khasra Pahani of the year 1954-55 and the purchase of the  subject  land  by
the respondents from them under registered sale deeds  are  not  in  dispute
and they have been regularly paying  land  revenue  continuously  since  the
year 1954 and substantial rights on account  of  continuous  possession  and
enjoyment of the subject property has been accrued to  the  respondents  and
the exercise of suo-motu revisional  power  after  long  lapse  of  time  is
arbitrary and summary remedy of enquiry and correction of records cannot  be
invoked when there is bonafide dispute of title and liberty has  been  given
to the appellants to work out its remedies by way of filing civil  suit  and
the findings of the High  Court  are  sustainable  on  facts  and  law.   In
support of their submissions reliance was placed on the following  decisions
of this Court.
      In the decision in State of Gujarat vs. Patil Raghav Natha and  others
(1969) 2 SCC 187 this Court while adverting to Sections 65 and  211  of  the
Bombay Land Revenue Code, 1879 held  that  though  there  is  no  period  of
limitation prescribed under Section  211  to  revise  an  order  made  under
Section 65 of the Act, the said power must be exercised in  reasonable  time
and on the facts of the case in which the decision arose, the power came  to
be exercised more than one year after the order and that was held to be  too
late.
      In the decision in Mohamad Kavi  Mohamad  Amin  vs.  Fatmabai  Ibrahim
(1997) 6 SCC 71 this  Court  while  dealing  with  Section  84-C  of  Bombay
Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1976 held that though the  said  Section
does not prescribe for any time limit  for  initiation  of  proceeding  such
power should be exercised within a reasonable time and on the facts  of  the
case, the suo motu enquiry initiated under the said Section after  a  period
of nine months was held to be beyond reasonable time.
      In the  decision  in  Santoshkumar  Shivgonda  Patil  and  others  vs.
Balasaheb Tukaram Shevale and others (2009)  9  SCC  352  this  Court  while
dealing with the power of revision under  Section  257  of  the  Maharashtra
Land Revenue Code, 1966  held as follows :

"11. It seems to be fairly settled that if a statute does not prescribe  the
time-limit for exercise of revisional power, it  does  not  mean  that  such
power can be exercised at any time; rather it should be exercised  within  a
reasonable time. It is so because the law does not expect  a  settled  thing
to be unsettled after a long lapse of time. Where the legislature  does  not
provide for any length of time within which the power of revision is  to  be
exercised by the  authority,  suo  motu  or  otherwise,  it  is  plain  that
exercise of such power within reasonable time is inherent therein.

12. Ordinarily, the reasonable period within which  the  power  of  revision
may be exercised would be three years under Section 257 of  the  Maharashtra
Land Revenue Code subject, of course, to the exceptional circumstances in  a
given case, but surely exercise of revisional power  after  a  lapse  of  17
years is not a reasonable time. Invocation of revisional power by  the  Sub-
Divisional Officer under Section 257 of the Maharashtra  Land  Revenue  Code
is plainly an abuse of process in the facts and circumstances  of  the  case
assuming that the order of the Tahsildar passed on 30-3-1976 is  flawed  and
legally not correct."

      In the decision in State of Punjab and others  vs.  Bhatinda  District
Cooperative Milk Producers Union Ltd. (2007) 11 SCC  363  this  Court  while
dealing with the revisional power under Section 21  of  the  Punjab  General
Sales Tax Act, 1948 held thus :

"17. A bare reading of Section 21 of the Act would reveal that  although  no
period of limitation has been prescribed therefor, the same would  not  mean
that the suo motu power can be exercised at any time.
18. It is trite that  if  no  period  of  limitation  has  been  prescribed,
statutory authority must  exercise  its  jurisdiction  within  a  reasonable
period. What, however, shall be the reasonable period would depend upon  the
nature of the statute, rights and liabilities thereunder and other  relevant
factors.
19. Revisional jurisdiction, in our opinion, should ordinarily be  exercised
within a period of three years having regard to the purport in terms of  the
said Act. In any event, the same  should  not  exceed  the  period  of  five
years................"

      In the decision in Ibrahimpatnam Taluk Vyavasaya  Coolie  Sangham  vs.
K. Suresh Reddy and others (2003) 7 SCC 667 this Court  while  dealing  with
suo motu power of revision under  Section  50-B(4)  of  the  Andhra  Pradesh
(Telangana Area) Tenancy and Agricultural Land Act, 1950 held as follows :

"9. ...............In the absence of necessary  and  sufficient  particulars
pleaded as regards fraud and the date or period of discovery  of  fraud  and
more so when the contention that the  suo  motu  power  could  be  exercised
within a reasonable period from the date  of  discovery  of  fraud  was  not
urged, the learned Single Judge as well as the Division Bench  of  the  High
Court were right in not examining the question  of  fraud  alleged  to  have
been committed by the non-official respondents. Use of  the  words  "at  any
time" in sub-section (4) of Section 50-B of the Act only indicates  that  no
specific period of limitation is prescribed within which the suo motu  power
could be exercised reckoning or starting from a  particular  date  advisedly
and  contextually.  Exercise  of  suo  motu  power  depended  on  facts  and
circumstances of  each  case.  In  cases  of  fraud,  this  power  could  be
exercised within a reasonable time from the date of detection  or  discovery
of fraud. While exercising such power, several factors need to  be  kept  in
mind such as effect on the rights of the third parties  over  the  immovable
property due to passage of considerable time, change of hands by  subsequent
bona fide transfers, the orders attaining finality under the  provisions  of
other Acts (such as the Land Ceiling Act). Hence, it  appears  that  without
stating from what date the period  of  limitation  starts  and  within  what
period the suo motu power is to be exercised, in sub-section (4) of  Section
50-B of the Act, the words "at any time" are  used  so  that  the  suo  motu
power  could  be  exercised  within  reasonable  period  from  the  date  of
discovery of fraud depending on facts and circumstances of each case in  the
context of the statute and nature of rights  of  the  parties.  Use  of  the
words "at any time" in sub-section (4) of Section 50-B of the Act cannot  be
rigidly read letter by letter. It must be read  and  construed  contextually
and reasonably. If one has to simply proceed on the basis of the  dictionary
meaning of the words "at any time", the suo  motu  power  under  sub-section
(4) of Section 50-B of the Act could be exercised  even  after  decades  and
then it  would  lead  to  anomalous  position  leading  to  uncertainty  and
complications seriously affecting the rights of the parties, that too,  over
immovable properties. Orders attaining finality and certainty of the  rights
of the parties  accrued  in  the  light  of  the  orders  passed  must  have
sanctity. Exercise of suo motu power  "at  any  time"  only  means  that  no
specific period such as days, months or years are not  prescribed  reckoning
from a particular date. But that does not mean that "at any time" should  be
unguided and arbitrary. In this view, "at any time" must  be  understood  as
within a reasonable time depending on the facts and  circumstances  of  each
case in the absence of prescribed period of limitation."


Consequent to the merger of Hyderabad State with India in 1948  the   Jagirs
were abolished by the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area)  Abolition  of  Jagirs
Regulation, 1358 fasli.  'Khasra Pahani' is  the   basic  record  of  rights
prepared by the Board of Revenue Andhra Pradesh in  the  year  1954-55.   It
was gazetted under Regulation 4 of  the  A.P.  (Telangana  Area)  Record  of
Rights in Land  Regulation 1358F.  As per Regulation No.13 any entry in  the
said record of rights shall be presumed  to be true until  the  contrary  is
proved.  The said Regulation of 1358-F was in vogue till it was repealed  by
the A.P. Rights in Land and Pattadar Pass Books Act, 1971, which  came  into
force  on 15.8.1978.  In the 2nd edition  (1997) of "The Law Lexicon" by  P.
Ramanatha Aiyer (at page 1053) 'Khasra' is described as follows:
 "Khasra is a register  recording  the  incidents  of  a  tenure  and  is  a
historical record.  Khasra would serve the purpose of a deed of title,  when
there is no other title deed."

Admittedly,  the names of the predecessors in title of the  respondents  are
found mentioned in the Khasra Pahani  of  the  year  1954-55  pertaining  to
Survey Nos.36 and 37 of Gopanpally  village.    The  purchase  of  the  said
lands by the respondents from them under registered sale deeds are also  not
seriously disputed.  The further fact  is  that  they  have  been  regularly
paying land revenue  continuously  since  the  year  1954.   The  appellants
herein issued the impugned notice dated 31.12.2004  under  Section  166B  of
A.P. (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act,1317 F (1907)  for  cancellation   of
entries in the Khasra Pahani of the year 1953-54,  by  fixing  the  date  of
inquiry as 5.2.2005 and that notice  is  the  subject  matter  of  challenge
here.

      Regulation 166B reads as follows:
 "166-B. Revision:-
Subject to the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana  Area)  Board  of
Revenue Regulation, 1358 F, the Government or any Revenue officer not  lower
in rank to a Collector the Settlement Commissioner of Land Records may  call
for the record of a case or proceedings from a  subordinate  department  and
inspect it in order to satisfy himself that the order or decision passed  or
the proceedings taken is regular, legal and proper  and  may  make  suitable
order in that behalf;
Provided that no order or decision affecting the rights of  the  ryot  shall
be modified or annulled  unless  the  concerned  parties  are  summoned  and
heard.
(2) Every Revenue Officer  lower  in  rank  to  a  Collector  or  Settlement
Commissioner may call for the  records  of  a  case  or  proceedings  for  a
subordinate department and  satisfy  himself  that  the  order  or  decision
passed or the proceedings taken is regular, legal and proper and if, in  his
opinion, any order  or  decision  or,  proceedings  should  be  modified  or
annulled, he shall put up the file of the case and with his opinion  to  the
Collector or Settlement Commissioner as  the  case  may  be.  Thereupon  the
Collector or Settlement Commissioner  may  pass  suitable  order  under  the
provisions of sub-section (1).
(3)   The original order or decision or an authentic copy  of  the  original
order or decision sought to be revised  shall  be  filed  along  with  every
application for revision."

No time limit is prescribed in the above Regulation for the exercise of  suo
motu power but the question is as to whether the suo  motu  power  could  be
exercised after a period of 50 years.  The Government as  early  as  in  the
year 1991 passed order reserving 477 acres of land in Survey Nos. 36 and  37
of Gopanpally village  for house-sites  to  the  government  employees.   In
other words  the  Government  had  every  occasion  to  verify  the  revenue
entries pertaining to the said lands  while  passing  the  Government  Order
dated 24.9.1991 but no exception was taken to the  entries  found.   Further
the respondents herein filed Writ Petition No.21719 of 1997 challenging  the
Government order dated 24.9.1991 and even at that point of time   no  action
was initiated  pertaining  to  the  entries  in  the  said  survey  numbers.
Thereafter, the purchasers of land from respondent Nos.1 and 2 herein  filed
a civil suit in O.S.No.12 of 2001    on  the  file  of  Additional  District
Judge, Ranga Reddy District praying for a declaration that they were  lawful
owners  and possessors of certain plots of land in survey No.36,  and  after
contest, the suit was decreed and said decree is allowed  to  become  final.
By the impugned Notice dated 31.12.2004 the suo motu  revision  power  under
Regulation 166B referred above is sought to be exercised after five  decades
and if it is allowed to do so it would lead to  anomalous  position  leading
to uncertainty and complications  seriously  affecting  the  rights  of  the
parties over immovable properties.

 In the light of what is stated above we are of the view that  the  Division
Bench of the High Court was right in  affirming  the  view  of  the  learned
single Judge of the High Court that the suo motu revision  undertaken  after
a long lapse of time, even in the absence of any period  of  limitation  was
arbitrary and opposed to the concept of rule of law.


Thus, we find no merit in these appeals.  Consequently  they  are  dismissed
with no order as to costs.


                                         .................................J.
                                                               (C. Nagappan)
New Delhi;
January 13, 2015.


                                                   REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                    CIVIL APPEAL NOs. 325-326    OF 2015

              (Arising out of S.L.P. (C) Nos.5029-5030 of 2011)



Jt. Collector Ranga Reddy District

& Anr. etc.                                  ...Appellants

Versus

D. Narsing Rao & Ors. etc. etc.              ...Respondents





                                    WITH

                       CIVIL APPEAL NO.  327   OF 2015

                (Arising out of S.L.P. (C) Nos.5031 of 2011)





The Chairman,

Joint Action Committee of Employees

Teachers and Workers A.P.                    ...Appellant



Versus

D. Narsing Rao & Ors. etc. etc.              ...Respondents







                               J U D G M E N T

T.S. THAKUR, J.

1.    I have had the privilege of reading the order proposed by my  esteemed
Brother C. Nagappan, J. Though I entirely agree with  the  conclusion  drawn
by His Lordship that revisional powers vested in the Joint  Collector  under
Section 166B of A.P. (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act cannot  be  exercised
50 years after the making of the alleged fraudulent  entries  and  that  the
High Court was justified  in  quashing  notice  dated  31st  December,  2004
issued to the respondents, I would like to add a few lines of my own.



2.    The facts giving rise to the filing of  the  writ  petitions  and  the
writ appeals before the High Court out of which arise  the  present  appeals
have been set out at length by my esteemed Brother in the order proposed  by
him. Narration of the factual matrix over again would, therefore,  serve  no
useful purpose. Suffice it to say that the dispute in these  proceedings  is
confined to an extent of 44 acres of land situate in  Survey  No.36  and  46
acres of land in Survey No.37 of Gopanpally village of Ranga Reddy  district
in the  state  of  Andhra  Pradesh.   The  case  of  the  respondents  (writ
petitioners before the High Court) was that the  said  extent  of  land  was
granted by the Jagirdar concerned on Patta to persons in actual  cultivating
possession. The Patta was, according to the respondents, recongnised by  the
Government, with the result that the names of the holders were shown in  the
Khasra Phanis since the year 1954-55.

3.    In terms of G.O.Ms 850 Rev.  (Asn.III)  Dept.  dated  24th  September,
1991 the Government appears to have allotted an extent of 477 acres of  land
in Survey Nos. 36 and 37 of Gopanpally village for grant of house  sites  to
Government employees. This was followed by a  notice  dated  31st  December,
2004 from the Joint Collector, Ranga Reddy District,  whereunder  the  writ-
petitioners (respondents herein) were asked to appear on 5th February,  2005
to show cause why the Khasra Phani entries in  respect  of  land  comprising
Survey No.36 measuring 460.07 acres and Survey No.37 measuring 424.17  acres
situate in the village mentioned above should not be  cancelled.   Aggrieved
by the Government order and the show-cause notice  Writ  Petitions  No.21719
of 1997 and 1731 of 2005  were  filed  before  the  High  Court  which  were
disposed of by a learned Single Judge of the High Court  of  Andhra  Pradesh
by his order dated 15th September, 2009.  The High Court  was  of  the  view
that the entries in the Khasra Pahani for the  year  1954-55  reflected  the
names  of  the  predecessors-in-title  of  the   writ-petitioners   although
according to the Government the said entries were made fraudulently  by  the
then Patwari of the village. The High Court  further  held  that  since  the
entries  showing  ownership  and  possession  of  the  writ-petitioners  had
continued unchallenged for nearly 40  years  before  the  Government  issued
G.O.M.s 850 Rev. (Asn.III) Dept. dated 24th September, 1991  the  Government
was not justified in making any allotment in  disregard  of  the  same.  The
High Court also took the view that the proposed correction  of  the  alleged
fraudulent entries nearly 50 years after the entries  were  first  made  was
also legally impermissible even when the revisional power being  invoked  to
do so did not prescribe any period of limitation.  The High  Court  recorded
a  finding  that  the  predecessors-in-title  of  the  writ-petitioners  had
registered sale-deeds in their favour and that the State Government  or  its
officers had not denied that the writ-petitioners or their  predecessors-in-
title had remained in possession of the subject land. The  High  Court  held
that exercise of revisional powers, even where no period  of  limitation  is
prescribed, must be within a reasonable period.



4.    Aggrieved by the  order  passed  by  the  High  Court  the  appellants
preferred Writ Appeals No.273-323 of 2010 which were  also  dismissed  by  a
Division Bench of that Court in terms of its order  dated  8th  June,  2010.
The Division Bench relying upon the decisions of this Court in  Santoshkumar
Shivgonda Patil and Anr. v. Balasaheb Tukaram Shevale (2009) 9 SCC  352  and
Special Director and Anr. v. Mohd. Ghulam Ghouse and Anr. (2004) 3  SCC  440
held that the proposed correction of the revenue entries 50 years after  the
same were made was not legally permissible. The present appeals  assail  the
correctness of that view.



5.    The writ-petitioners, as noted earlier, claim  to  have  purchased  an
extent of 90 acres of land in  Survey  Nos.36  and  37  from  the  erstwhile
Pattadars  recorded  in  the  revenue  records.  The  present  dispute   is,
therefore, limited to that extent of  land  only.  That  being  so,  if  the
notice invoking the revisional  jurisdiction  under  Section  166B  of  A.P.
(Telangana Area) Land Revenue  Act  has  been  not  assailed  by  any  other
effected party, we should not be understood to be interfering with the  same
qua such persons. Having said that the only question which  the  High  Court
has addressed and which has  been  elaborately  dealt  with  by  it  in  the
impugned orders  is  whether  revisional  powers  vested  in  the  competent
authority under Section 166B of the Act aforementioned could be  invoked  50
years after the alleged fraudulent entries were made. The  contention  urged
on behalf of the appellant primarily was that since there is  no  period  of
limitation  prescribed  for  invoking  the  revisional  powers   under   the
provisions mentioned above, there should be no impediment  in  the  exercise
of the same intervening delay notwithstanding.  There is no error much  less
any perversity in that view. The legal position is fairly well-settled by  a
long line of decisions of this Court which have laid  down  that  even  when
there is no period of limitation prescribed for the exercise  of  any  power
revisional or otherwise  such power must be exercised  within  a  reasonable
period.  This  is  so  even  in  cases  where  allegations  of  fraud   have
necessitated the exercise of any corrective power. We may briefly  refer  to
some of the decisions only to bring home the point that  the  absence  of  a
stipulated period of limitation makes little or no  difference in so far  as
the exercise of the power is concerned  which ought to be  permissible  only
when the power is invoked within a reasonable period.



6.    In one of the earlier decisions of this Court in S.B.  Gurbaksh  Singh
v. Union of India 1976 (2) SCC 181, this Court held that  excercise  of  suo
motu power of revision must also be within a reasonable time  and  that  any
unreasonable delay in the exercise may affect the validity.  But what  would
constitute reasonable time would depend upon the facts of each case.



7.    To the same effect is the decision  of  this  Court  in  Ibrahimpatnam
Taluk Vyavasaya Coolie Sangham V. K. Suresh Reddy and Ors. (2003) 7 SCC  667
where this Court held that even in cases of fraud the revisional power  must
be exercised within a reasonable period and that several factors need to  be
kept in mind while deciding whether relief sooner  be  denied  only  on  the
ground of delay.  The Court said:

"In cases of fraud, this power could be exercised within a  reasonable  time
from the date of detection or discovery  of  fraud.  While  exercising  such
power, several factors need to be kept in mind such as effect on the  rights
of the  third  parties  over  the  immovable  property  due  to  passage  of
considerable time, change of hands by subsequent bona  fide  transfers,  the
orders attaining finality under the provisions of other Acts  (such  as  the
Land Ceiling Act)."


8.    To the same effect is the  view  taken  by  this  Court  in  Sulochana
Chandrakant Galande. v. Pune Municipal Transport and  Others  (2010)  8  SCC
467 where this Court reiterated the legal position and held that  the  power
to revise  orders  and  proceedings  cannot  be  exercised  arbitrarily  and
interminably.  This Court observed:


"The legislature in its wisdom did not fix a time-limit for  exercising  the
revisional power nor inserted the words "at any time" in Section 34  of  the
1976 Act. It does not mean  that  the  legislature  intended  to  leave  the
orders passed under the Act open  to  variation  for  an  indefinite  period
inasmuch  as  it  would  have  the  effect  of  rendering   title   of   the
holders/allottee(s) permanently precarious  and  in  a  state  of  perpetual
uncertainty. In case, it is assumed that the legislature  has  conferred  an
everlasting and interminable power in point of  time,  the  title  over  the
declared surplus land, in the hands of  the  State/allottee,  would  forever
remain  virtually  insecure.  The  Court  has  to  construe  the   statutory
provision in a way  which  makes  the  provisions  workable,  advancing  the
purpose and object of enactment of the statute".



9.    In State of H.P. and Ors. v. Rajkumar Brijender Singh and Ors.  (2004)
10 SCC this Court held that in the absence of any  special  circumstances  a
delay  of  15  years  in  suo  motu  exercise  of   revisional   power   was
impermissible as the delay was  unduly  long  and  unexplained.  This  Court
observed:


"We are  now  left  with  the  second  question  which  was  raised  by  the
respondents before the High Court,  namely,  the  delayed  exercise  of  the
power  under  sub-section  (3)  of  Section  20.  As  indicated  above,  the
Financial Commissioner exercised the power after 15 years of  the  order  of
the Collector. It is true that sub-section (3) provides that  such  a  power
may be exercised at any time but this expression does not mean  there  would
be no time-limit or it is in infinity.  All  that  is  meant  is  that  such
powers should be exercised within a reasonable  time.  No  fixed  period  of
limitation may be laid but unreasonable  delay  in  exercise  of  the  power
would tend to undo the things which have attained finality.  It  depends  on
the facts and circumstances of each case as to what is the  reasonable  time
within which the power of suo motu action could be exercised.  For  example,
in  this  case,  as  the  appeal  had  been  withdrawn  but  the   Financial
Commissioner had taken up the matter in exercise of his suo motu  power,  it
could well be open for the State to submit that the facts and  circumstances
were such that it would be within reasonable time but  as  we  have  already
noted that the order of the Collector which has  been  interfered  with  was
passed in January 1976 and the  appeal  preferred  by  the  State  was  also
withdrawn sometime in March 1976. The learned counsel for the appellant  was
not able to point out such other special  facts  and  [pic]circumstances  by
reason of which it could be said that exercise of suo motu  power  after  15
years of the order interfered with was within a reasonable time. That  being
the position in our view, the order of  the  Financial  Commissioner  stands
vitiated having been passed after a long lapse of  15  years  of  the  order
which has been interfered with. Therefore, while holding that the  Financial
Commissioner would have power to proceed suo motu in a  suitable  case  even
though  an  appeal  preferred  before  the  lower  appellate  authority   is
withdrawn, maybe, by the State. Thus the view taken by  the  High  Court  is
not sustainable. But the order of the Financial  Commissioner  suffers  from
the vice of the exercise of the power after unreasonable lapse of  time  and
such delayed action on his  part  nullifies  the  order  passed  by  him  in
exercise of power under sub-section (3) of Section 20".


10.   We may also refer to the decision of this Court in  M/s  Dehri  Rohtas
Light Railway Company Ltd. V. District Board, Bhojpur and Ors. (1992) 2  SCC
598 where  the Court explained the legal position as under:


"The rule which says that the Court may not enquire into belated  and  stale
claim is not a rule of law but a rule of practice based on sound and  proper
exercise of discretion. Each case must depend upon its  own  [pic]facts.  It
will all depend on what the breach of the fundamental right and  the  remedy
claimed are and how delay arose. The principle on which the  relief  to  the
party on the grounds of laches or delay is denied is that the  rights  which
have accrued to others by reason of the delay in filing the petition  should
not be allowed to be disturbed unless there is a reasonable explanation  for
the delay. The real test to determine  delay  in  such  cases  is  that  the
petitioner should come to the writ court before a parallel right is  created
and that the lapse of time is not attributable to any laches or  negligence.
The test is not as to physical running  of  time.  Where  the  circumstances
justifying the conduct exist, the illegality which  is  manifest  cannot  be
sustained on the sole ground of laches.  The  decision  in  Tilokchand  case
relied on is distinguishable on the facts of the present case. The  levy  if
based on  the  net  profits  of  the  railway  undertaking  was  beyond  the
authority and the illegal nature of the  same  has  been  questioned  though
belatedly in the pending proceedings after the  pronouncement  of  the  High
Court in the matter relating to the subsequent years. That being  the  case,
the claim of the appellant cannot be turned  down  on  the  sole  ground  of
delay. We are of the opinion that the High Court  was  wrong  in  dismissing
the writ petition in limine and refusing to grant the relief sought for.  We
however agree that the suit has been rightly dismissed".



11.   To sum up, delayed exercise  of  revisional  jurisdiction  is  frowned
upon because if actions or transactions  were  to  remain  forever  open  to
challenge, it will mean avoidable and endless uncertainty in human  affairs,
which is not the policy of law.  Because, even when there is  no  period  of
limitation prescribed for exercise of such powers,  the  intervening  delay,
may have led to creation of third party rights, that cannot be  trampled  by
a belated exercise of  a  discretionary  power  especially  when  no  cogent
explanation for the delay is in sight.  Rule of law  it  is  said  must  run
closely with the rule of life.  Even in cases where the orders sought to  be
revised are fraudulent, the exercise of power must be  within  a  reasonable
period of the discovery of fraud. Simply describing an  act  or  transaction
to be fraudulent will not extend the time for its  correction  to  infinity;
for otherwise the exercise of revisional power would  itself  be  tantamount
to a fraud upon the statute that vests such power in an authority.



12.   In the case at hand,  while  the  entry  sought  to  be  corrected  is
described as fraudulent, there is nothing in the notice impugned before  the
High Court as to when was the alleged fraud  discovered  by  the  State.   A
specific statement in that regard was essential for it was a  jurisdictional
fact, which ought to be  clearly  asserted  in  the  notice  issued  to  the
respondents. The attempt of the  appellant-State  to  demonstrate  that  the
notice was issued within  a  reasonable  period  of  the  discovery  of  the
alleged fraud is, therefore, futile.   At  any  rate,  when  the  Government
allowed the land in question for housing sites to  be  given  to  Government
employees in the year 1991, it must be presumed  to  have  known  about  the
record and the revenue entries concerning the parcel of  land  made  in  the
ordinary course of official business.  In as much as, the notice was  issued
as late as on 31st December, 2004, it was delayed by  nearly  13  years.  No
explanation has been offered even for this  delay  assuming  that  the  same
ought to be counted only from the year 1991.   Judged  from  any  angle  the
notice seeking to reverse the entries made half a century ago,  was  clearly
beyond reasonable time and was rightly quashed.



13.   Having said that we must make it clear that we have not gone into  the
correctness of the alleged  fraudulent  entry  nor  have  we  expressed  any
opinion whether, the quashing of the notice dated 21st December, 2004  would
prevent the State from taking such other steps as may be  permissible  under
any provision of law. The High Court has, as  a  matter  of  fact,  made  it
clear that the State Government shall be free to take  any  other  steps  or
proceedings in accordance with law qua the land in  question.  That  liberty
should suffice for we have examined the matter only from  the  narrow  angle
whether the Khasra Phani  entry  of  1954-55  could  be  corrected  at  this
belated stage in exercise of the revisional powers vested in  the  competent
authority under Section 166-B of the  A.P.  (Telangana  Area)  Land  Revenue
Act. That question having been answered in the negative these  appeals  must
fail and are hereby dismissed leaving the parties to bear their own costs.



                                  ........................................J.

                                                (T.S. THAKUR)

New Delhi

January 13, 2015

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