Calcutta High Court Asserts State’s Duty: Orders Compensation for Unlawful Possession

LI Network

Published on: January 4, 2024 at 10:40 IST

The Calcutta High Court stressed the government’s duty to safeguard citizens’ property rights and directed the State to compensate for wrongfully seizing possession, highlighting the obligation to respect the constitutional right to property.

In a Second Appeal filed by the State against an Appellate Court’s order instructing possession restitution and compensation payment, the High Court noted the State’s unlawful eviction of the Plaintiffs during legal proceedings. Consequently, the Court ordered compensation for this wrongful possession.

Justice Siddhartha Roy Chowdhury emphasized the State’s responsibility to protect citizens’ property rights, asserting, “The State is obliged to compensate for unlawfully seizing property, considering it a constitutional right.”

The High Court examined a Second Appeal contesting the reversal of the Trial Court’s decision by the Appellate Court.

Sri Achinta Roy @ Achinta Roy Ghatak Choudhury and siblings initiated legal action claiming their deceased mother’s rightful ownership of the disputed property. Responding to a State notice in 1999 asserting ownership and demanding clarification for unauthorized occupation, the Plaintiffs, fearing eviction, filed a suit seeking title declaration and a permanent injunction.

The Court acknowledged the Plaintiffs’ arguments, noting their mother’s name in the Record of Rights (ROR) through LR operation, while Azizur Rahaman Khan’s name was in the RS ROR. After their mother’s demise in 1987, acknowledged as legal heirs by the State, the Plaintiffs claimed ownership.

Moreover, the dispute emerged in 1999 when the State claimed ownership, citing Section 8A of the West Bengal Public Land Act, indicating that the suit was outside civil court jurisdiction and vested in the Collector.

Based on the likelihood of facts, the Court affirmed that the Plaintiffs’ mother lawfully acquired the property through a state auction. She maintained possession during her lifetime, updating her name in official records by fulfilling obligations like tax payments.

Contrarily, the State failed to present evidence to challenge the presumption favoring the Plaintiffs. The Court stressed that while this presumption allows assuming accuracy under specific legal conditions, it’s not absolute and can be countered by evidence.

Additionally, the Bench noted the meticulous process behind the presumption favoring the accuracy of records, rooted in public notice, notification, and hearings, remaining valid until disproven.

Despite the State’s claim of civil court jurisdiction breach, the Court upheld the Plaintiffs’ right to approach the civil court under Section 9 of the CPC. It also highlighted the State’s failure to contest the presumption of correctness.

Ultimately, the Court disposed of the Appeal in favor of the Plaintiffs.

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