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Thursday, December 29, 2016

No Remand when there is no basic case to fill the gaps = the High Court noticed amongst others, that the applications filed were all in a cyclostyled form which did not adequately contain the particulars of the lands. That the amendment applications did not contain the required endorsements to indicate the dates on which those had been submitted and taken on record, was noted as well. It took noticed too, that by such amendment applications, an attempt had been made to enhance the duration of cultivating possession of the petitioner from 20-22 years to 40-50 years. It recorded the finding of the Tribunal that except the 7/12 extracts/mutation entries for the year 1982-83 showing the names of 25 persons as cultivators and some mutation entries in the names of the legal representatives of the corresponding original applicants, no other document had been produced. That all the applicants had not examined themselves was marked as well. The High Court recorded that on the basis of the materials available, the Tribunal had disbelieved the contents of the applications submitted in the cyclostyled forms. It noticed the observation of the Tribunal that the documents/records sought to be produced before it (Tribunal) had not been offered in the earlier rounds of enquiry and that too without any explanation. The conclusion of the Tribunal that though there were documents referring to agricultural lands with survey number thereof along with the particulars of the applicants as cultivators but the same were not relatable to the disputed lands was also taken in consideration. 10. The High Court thus, on a scrutiny of the available datas, disapproved the direction of the Tribunal, in spite of its above findings, to remand the matter to the concerned revenue authorities for a fresh round of audit of the rival assertions by allowing the parties to adduce fresh evidence. According to it, if notwithstanding the several arduous bauts of the parties, spanning over three decades, the factum of possession of the petitioners of the plots involved as on the Tiller's Day, as agriculturists, could not be demonstrated by valid evidence, there was no justification for the remand, as ordered by the Tribunal. The revision petitions filed by the petitioners were therefore dismissed as a whole, decisively affirming for all intents and purposes, the findings of the first appellate authority i.e. Sub-Divisional Officer, Thane, negating the claim of the petitioners.

                                                      REPORTABLE

                         IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                          CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                      S.L.P. (CIVIL) NO. 10706 OF 2014


LALITA RAMESH LASE & ORS.              ....PETITIONERS

                                 VERSUS

JAIRAJ KANTILAL SONAWALA & ORS.     ….RESPONDENTS  WITH

SLP(C) No. 24080/2014
SLP(C) No. 22322/2015
SLP(C) No. 23092/2014
SLP(C) No. 28382/2014
SLP(C) No. 18491/2014
SLP(C) No. 594/2015
SLP(C) No. 28380/2014
SLP(C) No. 22327/2015
SLP(C) No. 22329/2015
SLP(C) No. 28367/2014
SLP(C) No. 28324/2014
SLP(C) No. 18495/2014
SLP(C) No. 18033/2015
SLP(C) No. 36132/2014
SLP(C) No. 22328/2015
S.L.P.(C)...CC No. 11227/2014
SLP(C) No. 28393/2014
SLP(C) No. 28363/2014
SLP(C) No. 21992/2015
SLP(C) No. 28417/2014
SLP(C) No. 632/2015
SLP(C)  D. No. 10476/2015
SLP(C) No. 23099/2014
SLP(C) No. 28391/2014
SLP(C) No. 28396/2014
SLP(C) No. 22315/2015
SLP(C) No. 28316/2014
SLP(C) No. 18490/2014
SLP(C) No. 28381/2014
SLP(C) No. 22332/2015
SLP(C)  D. No. 22563/2015
SLP(C) No. 22326/2015
SLP(C) No. 18492/2014
SLP(C)  D. No. 22559/2015
SLP(C)  D No. 1206/2014


                               J U D G M E N T

AMITAVA ROY, J.

1.    Delay condoned.

2.    The procrastinated dissension in these Special Leave  Petitions  under
Article 136 of the Constitution of India has its inception in  the  dogmatic
claim  of  the petitioners of'  being  tenants  in  respect  of   individual
plots claimed to be in their possession and  utilized  for  cultivation,  as
envisaged under the Bombay Tenancy and  Agricultural  Land  Act,  1948  (for
short hereinafter refer to as ‘the Act’).   The  exercise  launched  by  the
petitioners herein to achieve  this  elusive  distinction  is  traceable  to
applications filed by them and others claiming to be equally  placed,  under
Section 70(B) of the  Act  in  the  office  of  Tehsildar,  Thane  for  such
declaration.  After several ups and downs with reversals  in  fortunes,  the
Maharashtra  Revenue  Tribunal  (hereinafter  also  referred  to   as   “the
Tribunal”) interfered with  the  decision  of  the  Sub-Divisional  Officer,
Thane Division, Thane and remanded  the  matter  to  the  concerned  tenancy
authority for a fresh round of scrutiny on facts.  By  the  ruling  assailed
in the present Special Leave Petition,  the  High  Court  of  Judicature  at
Bombay has set  at  naught  this  determination  of  the  Tribunal  and  has
rejected the claim of the petitioners.

3.    Though at the first instance, 124 Special  Leave  Petitions  had  been
filed, this Court by order dated 04.05.2016  has  dismissed  all  except  36
therefrom,  as  only  in  the  surviving  special   leave   petitions,   the
petitioners therein had ventured to offer  documents  in  support  of  their
claim.  This was  more  so,  as  by  earlier  orders  dated  11.07.2014  and
14.03.2016,  the  petitioners  were  required  to   produce   documents   to
substantiate their claim of tenancy under the Act as  on  the  Tiller's  Day
i.e. 01.04.1957.  Be that as it may, the instant scrutiny, as  a  corollary,
is limited to the aforementioned 36  special leave petitions.

4.    As referred  to  hereinabove,  the  petitioners  and  others  claiming
themselves to  be  tenants  in  respect  of  the  plots  involved  did  file
individual  applications  under  Section  70(B)  of  the  Act   before   the
Tehsildar,  Thane  seeking  declaration  of  their  status  as  such.    The
Tehsildar acceded to the prayer made and  allowed  the  applications.  Being
aggrieved, the  respondents-landlords  questioned  the  tenability  of  this
decision before the Assistant Collector,  Thane  by  invoking  the  latter's
revisional   jurisdiction.    The   Revision   Petitions   filed   by    the
respondent/landlords were allowed and  the  matters  were  remanded  to  the
Tehsildar,  Thane  for  a  fresh  adjudication.   Significantly  after  such
remand, the petitioners  and  other  tenants  filed  amendment  applications
modifying their averment of being in cultivating possession of  their  plots
for 20-22 years.  In their amended pleading, they asserted  to  be  in  such
possession for last 40-45 years.

5.    The Tehsildar vide his determination  made  in  the  year  2001  again
allowed the applications of the petitioners and others holding  them  to  be
protected tenants in respect of the  plots  involved.   In  course  of  such
adjudication, the Tehsilidar made site inspections  of  the  land  and  also
noted the standing paddy cultivation thereon.  This revenue  authority  also
recorded that the petitioners  had  been  cultivating  the  plots  prior  to
01.04.1957.  Their status of  protected  tenants  under  the  Act  was  thus
declared.

6.    The respondents/landlords next took  the  challenge  before  the  Sub-
Divisional Officer, Thane by filing equal  number  of  appeals,  which  were
allowed  between  December,  2002  to  2005  observing  that  no  sufficient
evidence had been  adduced  by  the  petitioners  and  other  applicants  in
support of their status of tenants.

7.    The petitioners and others, in  their  relentless  pursuit  moved  the
Tribunal for invocation of its revisional jurisdiction.  The Tribunal, by  a
common order, set aside the orders  passed  by  the  two  lower  forums  and
remanded the contest to  the  Tehsildar  to  decide  the  issues  afresh  by
permitting the parties to lead evidence.

8.    The   respondents-landlords next invoked the writ jurisdiction of  the
High Court to laciniate this adjudication of the Tribunal and  to  reiterate
by the verdict impeached herein, the impugnment was upheld and the  revision
applications filed by the petitioners before the Tribunal were dismissed  in
entirety.

9.    As the text of the decision oppugned herein  would  reveal,  the  High
Court noticed amongst others, that the applications  filed  were  all  in  a
cyclostyled form which did not adequately contain  the  particulars  of  the
lands.  That  the  amendment  applications  did  not  contain  the  required
endorsements to indicate the dates on which those  had  been  submitted  and
taken on record, was noted as well.  It  took  noticed  too,  that  by  such
amendment applications, an attempt had been made to enhance the duration  of
cultivating possession of the petitioner from 20-22 years  to  40-50  years.
It  recorded  the  finding  of   the   Tribunal   that   except   the   7/12
extracts/mutation entries for the year  1982-83  showing  the  names  of  25
persons as cultivators and some mutation entries in the names of  the  legal
representatives of the corresponding original applicants, no other  document
had been produced.  That all the applicants had not examined themselves  was
marked as well.  The High Court recorded that on the basis of the  materials
available, the Tribunal had disbelieved the  contents  of  the  applications
submitted in the cyclostyled forms.   It  noticed  the  observation  of  the
Tribunal  that  the  documents/records  sought  to  be  produced  before  it
(Tribunal) had not been offered in the earlier rounds of  enquiry  and  that
too without any explanation.  The conclusion of  the  Tribunal  that  though
there were documents referring to  agricultural  lands  with  survey  number
thereof along with the particulars of the applicants as cultivators but  the
same  were  not  relatable  to  the  disputed  lands  was  also   taken   in
consideration.

10.    The  High  Court  thus,  on  a  scrutiny  of  the  available   datas,
disapproved the direction of the Tribunal, in spite of its  above  findings,
to remand the matter to the concerned revenue authorities for a fresh  round
of audit of the rival assertions by allowing the  parties  to  adduce  fresh
evidence.  According to it, if notwithstanding the several arduous bauts  of
the parties, spanning over three decades, the factum of  possession  of  the
petitioners  of  the  plots  involved   as   on   the   Tiller's   Day,   as
agriculturists, could not be demonstrated by valid evidence,  there  was  no
justification for the remand, as ordered  by  the  Tribunal.   The  revision
petitions filed by the petitioners were  therefore  dismissed  as  a  whole,
decisively affirming for all intents  and  purposes,  the  findings  of  the
first appellate authority i.e. Sub-Divisional Officer, Thane,  negating  the
claim of the petitioners.

11.     Before  this  Court,  in  terms  of  the  order  dated   11.07.2014,
additional irreconcilable pleadings have been exchanged by  the  parties  in
the special  leave  petitions,  presently  under  consideration,  so  as  to
identify per se the plots involved  by  their  particulars  in  the  revenue
records with those claimed by the petitioners.

12.     Whereas, it has been assiduously urged on behalf of the  petitioners
that the High Court,  without  adverting  to  the  essential  and  important
aspects  addressed  by  the  Tribunal  and  the  reasons  cited  by  it  had
interfered with its order of remand and that having regard to the  cause  of
social justice, which the petitioners seek in terms of Section  70B  of  the
Act,  the  enquiry,  as  directed,  ought  to  be  permitted,  it  has  been
emphatically urged on behalf of the  respondents  that  the  claims  of  the
petitioners  are  expressly  false,  frivolous  and  fictitious   warranting
summary dismissal of the special leave petitions.  It has been  insisted  on
behalf of the  respondents  that  the  petitioners,  in  spite  of   several
opportunities granted, had utterly failed to  produce  any  proof,  oral  or
documentary to establish their status of protected  tenants  under  the  Act
and therefore, this protracted controversy  ought  to  be  awarded  a  final
quietus for all times to come.  It has been  maintained  that  the  original
tenancy applications of the petitioners were on the basis  of  gut  numbers,
whereas the 7/12 extracts/ mutation  entries  presently  produced  by  them,
contain survey numbers and that one does not correspond  to  the  other.  In
course of the arguments, our attention has been drawn to  several  instances
of the mis-match between the gut numbers and the  survey  numbers,  provided
by the petitioners in respect of the plots claimed by them.

13.     Noticeably, in the chart appended by the petitioners to the  written
arguments laid for our perusal, the above demurral  of  the  respondents  is
writ large on the face thereof.  There are several instances  in  the  chart
submitted by the petitioners exhibiting the inconsistencies pointed  out  by
the respondents.  The admission of the petitioners amongst  others  is  also
that wrong gut numbers had  been  mentioned  in  the  initial  applications.
This  chart  of  the  petitioners  patently  demonstrates  that  though  the
original applications were made on  the  basis  of  gut  numbers,  the  7/12
extracts and mutation entries, as mentioned in their  additional  affidavit,
do refer only to survey numbers.  To reiterate, though the petitioners  have
sought to relate the survey numbers with the  gut  numbers,  it  is  hyaline
clear that those do not match in most of  the  cases  with  the  particulars
referred  to  in  their  applications.   The  explanations  offered  by  the
petitioners on the basis of their  possession  of  the  plots  involved,  in
spite of the  above  anomalies  involved  highly  disputed  and  contentious
questions of  facts.   Having  regard  to  the  prolonged  backdrop  of  the
litigation and the several rounds of enquiries already undertaken,  we  feel
disinclined in the overall  fact  situation,  to  interfere  with  the  well
considered decision of the High Court.  The petitioners,  according  to  us,
have failed over the years, in spite  of  several  opportunities,  to  prove
their claim of protected tenants under  the  Act,  by  producing  consistent
convincing and cogent evidence in support thereof.

14.   Judged in the totality of the attendant facts  and  circumstances,  we
are of the unhesitant view that the impugned  judgment  of  the  High  Court
does not merit any interference.   The  Special  Leave  Petitions  are  thus
dismissed. Cost easy.



  ….....…....................................J.
                               (DIPAK MISRA)



   …...........................................J.
                                (AMITAVA ROY)
NEW DELHI;
DECEMBER 16, 2016

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