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HC asks Collector to look into encroachment on 450 acres land

bombay high court

Mumbai : The Bombay High Court has directed the Collector of Mumbai Suburban District to look into the allegations made in a PIL about encroachment on 450 acres of ‘Khoti land’ in suburban Mulund.

Under the provisions of law, ‘Khoti land’ is described as a property owned by zamindars or landlords.

The direction was given recently by a bench headed by Chief Justice Dr Manjula Chellur and Justice M S Sonak, who asked the Collector of Mumbai Suburban District to treat the public interest litigation (PIL), filed by activist Bhushan Samant, on the ‘Khoti land’ issue as a representation and decide upon it within four months.

“It would be just and proper for us to direct the respondent to consider the representation of the petitioner and make an enquiry with reference to the factual situation and dispose of the matter within the specified time frame (of one month) since the petitioner’s grievance is that his application is pending since last more than one year,” the bench observed.

“After the department concerned takes a final call on the representation of the petitioner, it would be just and proper for us to consider whether there is application of mind on the part of authorities in analysing the factual situation vis-a-vis the law relied upon by the petitioner,” it said.

“In view of the matter, we are of the opinion that this is not the stage for us to opine regarding the nature of land and so also on consequential reliefs sought upon in the PIL,” the judges said in their order.

According to the petitioner, there is encroachment by trespassing on these lands.

However, the court felt that mere description of these lands as ‘Khoti’ may not allow anyone to say that it is in the hands of unauthorised occupants unless there is application of mind vis-a-vis facts of a particular case with reference to the provisions of law.

“In order to contend that there is unauthorised occupation of these lands after the Khoti land Abolition Act, several factual ascertainment exercise has to be undertaken. By placing the information under the Right to Information Act, we cannot straightway come to a conclusion that the petitioner is entitled to reliefs sought upon,” said the bench.

The petitioner contended that the information received from tahsildar under RTI Act clearly indicates that more than 450 acres of ‘Khoti land’ is unauthorisedly encroached upon by people having support of money and men.

It was contended that inspite of approaching the authorities with all the information obtained under RTI Act, they have slept over the matter without enquiring into the representation forwarded to them.

According to the petitioner, several apartments have come up on these lands. He also annexed photographs to support his contention.

The petitioner further contended that on the date of Maharashtra Khoti Abolition Act coming into force in 1949, the Khoti tenure shall, wherever it prevails, be deemed to have been abolished.

Besides, he said there are other provisions which refer to how Khoti Dharekhari and tenants became occupants of the land and how the commutation of dues of these lands have to be made apart from fixation of occupancy price of commutation value which could be recovered as land revenue arrears.

Moreover, section 8 of the Act says that uncultivated and waste lands vest with the government, the PIL added.

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