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When are vested forests deemed to be reserved forest?

This case arises due to dissatisfaction with the impugned judgement and order dated 23.11.2017 passed by the High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam in Writ Appeal No. 29/2011.

Legal Provision:

The Kerala Private Forests (Vesting and Assignment) Act, 1971 (‘1971 Act’) came into force in the year 1971. Section 3 of the 1971 Act provides that the ownership and possession of all private forests in the State of Kerala shall by virtue of the 1971 Act stand transferred to and vested in the Government free from all encumbrances, and the right, title and interest of the owner or any private forest shall stand extinguished. Section 4 of the 1971 Act provides that all vested forests are deemed Reserved Forests. 

Facts:

The area in question was notified as a vested forest on 8.7.1977 under section 4 of the 1971 Act. The Land Tribunal issued Purchase Certificates in favour of the respondents in respect of 12 acres of land in Naduvil Village. It was found that part of the property involved was actually the vested forest in Naduvil village. The survey sketch by the Tahsildar and the Taluk Surveyor was produced before the Land Tribunal in the objections filed by the Forest department. A counter affidavit was filed on behalf of the appellants before the Forest Tribunal.

Appellant’s Contention: 

The counsel appearing on behalf of the appellants has submitted that both the Division Bench of the High Court and the learned Single Judge of the High Court have not appreciated that the disputed land in question is vested with the forest department and it is a private forest land for which a notification has been issued as far back as in the year 1975 and there is no question of accepting any basic tax from the respondents. It is submitted that so long as the land in question is vested with the forest department pursuant to the notification issued under the 1971 Act and the Jenmam rights and purchase certificates in favour of the respondents have been cancelled. It is also submitted that no further proceedings are initiated by the respondents under the provisions of 1971 Act. It is also submitted that the High Court ought to have appreciated the mala fide intention on the part of the respondents in seeking a writ of mandamus directing the revenue authorities to accept the basic tax. The appellants contended that the High Court has committed a grave error in issuing a writ of mandamus.

Respondent’s Contention:

The appeal is opposed by the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents. It is submitted that the properties involved are two pieces of land of 12 acres each owned by the respondents. The respondents initially obtained possession of the properties in the year 1956 on leasehold rights and they were regularly paying tax. It is submitted that though the said certificates of purchase were cancelled subsequently, the appellate authority set aside the said other of cancellation and remanded the matter to the Land Tribunal. It is submitted that the appellants herein admitted in their counter affidavits filed before the Forest Tribunal that they are in possession of 12 acres each and the department does not have a claim over the said properties, there is no “dispute for settlement” so as to be raised under section 8 of the 1971 Act and therefore the dismal of the two OAs by the Forest Tribunal. It is prayed to dismiss the appeal.

Observations: 

It is noted that the respondents filed writ petition before the Single Judge for a writ of mandamus directing the revenue authorities to accept the basic tax leviable. The High Court has accepted the same and issued a writ of mandamus. However, the court has not at all appreciated or considered the fact that as such Jenmam rights and purchase certificates which were earlier issued in the year 1975 and 1979 in favour of the respondents have been cancelled by the appropriate authority. 

Judgement:

For the reasons stated above, the appeal is allowed. The impugned judgements and order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court dated 23.11.2017 passed in Writ Appeal No. 29/2011 and the judgement and the order dated 08.07.2010 passed. Also, the order passed on 22.10.2010 is hereby quashed. In the facts and the circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs.

 

Name: S. Harishri

College Name: SASTRA Deemed to be University

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