SC: Panchayath/Municipality which claims that a land has been surrendered voluntarily, has to prove claim

Property Sale Contract Law Insider

Sakunjay Vyas

Published on: April 27, 2022 at 00:23 IST

The Two Judge Bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Vikram Nath of the Supreme Court overturned the judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam, dismissing the writ petition of the appellants and setting aside the decision of the Single Bench.

The Supreme Court recently ruled that the Panchayath/Municipality, which claims that land has been surrendered voluntarily, has an obligation to prove the claim.

The Apex Court, after going through all the material facts and evidence, The Court stated that in the present matter, it had been alleged by the panchayat/municipality that the land in question had been surrendered voluntarily without any demand in exchange.

That the Apex Court was of the opinion that if a municipality/panchayat is claiming that land has been transferred voluntarily, the burden relies on them to prove the same.

That a memorandum or an agreement or a written document ought to have been executed by the appellants stating their free will to surrender for no consideration in favour of the Panchayat/Municipality.

“What is being alleged is that it was a voluntarily surrender of rights for no consideration. This is the stand taken by Panchayat/Municipality. If the Panchayat/Municipality is taking this stand, the burden would be on the Panchayat/Municipality to establish such voluntary surrender.” the Court said.

The Apex Court, while dealing with the statement made by the panchayat/municipality that no scheme was providing monetary exchange in return for the land acquired for road development, stated that in the absence of a scheme, either the State or the Panchayat are to blame.

To say that there was no scheme is one thing, and the landowner surrendering his land voluntarily without payment of compensation would be different.

That when there was no such scheme, it would be even more critical to get the surrender, if any, documented by the Panchayat/Municipality, the State, or the Public Welfare Department, as the case may be.

The Apex Court stated that not paying the compensation in return for the land was an arbitrary and unreasonable action on the authorities’ part. Also, It is a clear violation of Article 300-A.

The Court further stated that the appellants involved are farmers and cannot be cheated in this way.

“Article 300A clearly mandates that no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law. In the present case, we do not find, under which authority of law, the land of the appellants was taken and they were deprived of the same.”

“If the Panchayat and the PWD failed to produce any evidence that appellants have surrendered their lands voluntarily, depriving the appellants of the property would be in violation of Article 300-A of the Constitution.”, the Court said.

As a result, the Apex Court overturned the impugned Judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam by stating that the judgement and order of the Division Bench of the High Court of Kerala dated 12.09.2018 in W.A. No. 2108 of 2016 is hereby set aside, and that of the Single Judge dated 26.08.2016 passed in W.P. (C) No. 2329 of 2014 is maintained. There shall be no order as to costs.

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