Common purpose lands can’t revert after Gram Sabha part merged with civic body: SC

The Supreme Court on Thursday said common purpose land, carved out as part of agrarian reforms and vested with the panchayat, cannot be returned to proprietors, due to a part of Gram Sabha being merged with the municipality.

A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian said: “Even if a part of Sabha area is merged into the municipality, the municipality will have control over the land so reserved for the erstwhile village community which will now form part of the urban area. In view thereof, we do not find any merit in the argument raised on behalf of the proprietors and dismiss the writ petitions filed by them while allowing the appeals of the state.”

The bench, in its 98-page judgment, added: “Such vesting is not a part of agrarian reforms but shall be on account of extension of municipal limits. When the municipal limits were extended, the residents of the panchayat also became residents of the municipality. The common purposes of the village community prior to extension of the municipal limits would be deemed to be common purposes for which land can be utilised by the municipality.”

The bench noted that such vesting of land reserved for common purposes is not an acquisition for the first time but transition of the land reserved for common purposes in the changed scenario when the land vest with the municipality.

The top court’s verdict came on a batch of appeals challenging the full bench verdict of Punjab and Haryana High Court, which examined the legality of sub-section 6 of Section 2(g) of the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1961.

The bench said: “In respect of the land taken from the proprietors from their permissible ceiling limits, it is the management and control alone which would vest with the panchayat. The management and control include leasing of land and use of the land by non-proprietors, Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribes etc. which is for the benefit of the village community.”

Stressing the argument of the proprietors that the land which is not capable of being used for common purposes of the inhabitants of a particular village shall be reverted to the proprietors is untenable and unsustainable, the bench said that such land would not be available for sale so as to confer title on the purchaser in view of the fact that the panchayat is not the full owner of the land but while exercising control and management, is duty bound to safeguard the land for the benefit of the village community.

“Though the land vests with the panchayat, but such land should be utilised only for common purposes for the benefit of village community. Such benefits to the village community is not limited to traditional benefits of the village community i.e., land for grazing of cattle, dumping of dead animals, schools and hospitals but also the activities which would be required in future, keeping in view the modernisation of the village economy which will ultimately for the benefit of the village community,” it added.

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