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State of Kerala and Ors. Vs. Mohammed Basheer - (Supreme Court) (22 Jan 2019)

When enactment enjoins that any evidence would be treated as conclusive proof, law would forbid other evidence to be adduced for contradicting aforesaid conclusiveness

MANU/SC/0057/2019

Property

The Respondent herein filed a petition in the Forest Tribunal, under Section 8 of the Kerala Private Forests (Vesting and Assignment) Act, 1971 ('the KPF Act') for settlement of the dispute in relation to land. The Appellants filed a counter-affidavit disputing the claim of the Respondent. It was contended that, the land has not been cultivated and that the certificate of purchase produced by the Respondent is not binding on them. The Respondent was not in possession of the land as on the date of vesting or subsequent to that date. The land was vested in the government on 10th May, 1971 and is under the custody of the Forest Department since then. Since there is no evidence to show the Respondent's title or possession over the land on the appointed day, his claim under Sections 3(2) and 3(3) of the KPF Act is not sustainable.

The Tribunal by its order dismissed the petition. The Respondent challenged the said order by filing an appeal before the High Court. The High Court, by its order, allowed the writ petition and set aside the order of the Tribunal. The review petition filed by the Appellant-State was dismissed by the High Court.

Sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the KPF Act provides for the exemption of the private forest from vesting. It states that the land comprised in private forest held by an owner under his personal cultivation is exempted from vesting, if the ceiling limit under the Kerala Land Reforms Act is not exceeded. The land in question measures about 2 acres. It is not the case of the Appellants that, the land exceeds the ceiling limit under the Kerala Land Reforms Act. The expression 'held by the owner under his personal cultivation' contained in Sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the KPF Act is crucial. To bring the land under the exempted category, the claimant should hold the same as an owner and that it should be under his personal cultivation. 'To own' is to have good legal title to hold and possess the property.

It is well settled that, when the enactment enjoins that any evidence would be treated as a conclusive proof of certain factual situation or legal hypothesis, the law would forbid other evidence to be adduced for the purpose of contradicting or varying the aforesaid conclusiveness. This is the principle embodied in Section 4 of the Evidence Act, 1872 when it defines "conclusive proof"

In the instant case, the land in question is jenmam land. The Land Tribunal initiated suo motu proceedings Under Rule 5 of the Land Reform Rules, after obtaining information that the cultivating tenant had been in possession, obviously on a report of the revenue inspector. It is evident from Section 74 of the Land Reforms Act that any tenancy after 01.04.1964 is prohibited. Any tenancy created after that date is invalid. The Land Tribunal initiating proceedings under Section 72B in favour of the cultivating tenant would be considering the possession of a tenant as on the said date which is far earlier than the KPF Act. Possession and title under the certificate of purchase have to relate back to a date prior to the date of vesting under the Land Reforms Act. Therefore, there is no question of vesting of the land in the Government under the KPF Act which has come into force subsequent to the date of Land Reforms Act. As noted above, the certificate of purchase issued under the Land Reforms Act is attributed with statutory conclusiveness as regards ownership/title Under Sub-section (2) of Section 72K. The certificate issued by a competent Land Tribunal after finding that the tenant was in possession of the property as a cultivating tenant is a conclusive proof of possession as well.

The certificate of purchase was issued by the Land Tribunal, under Sub-section (1) of Section 72K. Sub-section (2) of Section 72K of the Land Reforms Act clearly states that, the certificate of purchase issued under Sub-section (1) shall be a conclusive proof of the assignment to the tenant of the right, title and interest of the landlord and the intermediaries, if any, over the holding or portion thereof to which the assignment relates. Thus whatever right, title and interest, the landlord had in the land, has been assigned in favour of the Respondent under the certificate of purchase.

Therefore, the Respondent is the owner of the land as he has legal title to hold the said land. The certificate is also a conclusive proof of the fact that, the Respondent has been in possession of the land as a cultivating tenant right from the date of vesting of the land under the Kerala Land Reforms Act. The land in question is exempted from vesting in the State under Sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the KPF Act. In the instant case, the Respondent has established that he is the owner and in possession of the land on the appointed day on the basis of certificate of purchase and other materials placed on record. The appeals dismissed.

Tags : LAND   TITLE   PROOF  

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