No law in force conferring a right on encroachers to claim the lands illegally encroached upon, to be regularised

Hyderabad High Court: Analyzing the principles and concepts behind the doctrine of promissory estoppel and alienation of property, the Division Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan, ACJ., and Uma Devi, J., examined the present writ petition challenging the eviction order passed against the members of the petitioner association who were residing on a land owned by the Indian Railways. The Bench disposed the petition stating that the petitioners are unauthorized occupants of the Railways owned land, thereby liable to be evicted. The Court also observed that there is no statutory right to claim preferential right for allotment of the subject land and their attention has not been drawn towards any law in force which confers a right on encroachers to claim that the lands, which they have illegally encroached upon, should be regularised by allotment of plots in their favour.

As per the facts, the Railways decided to alienate the subject land in favour of the State Government (Andhra Pradesh) and the State Government in turn, had assured the Railway Society and the NGGO Society that the land would be allotted to them in accordance with the terms agreed to by the Railway Administration. The petitioners contended that on the basis of the assurances given by the Chief General Manager and the Chief General Engineer, South Central Railway, the petitioner-Associations had made payment, receipt of which was acknowledged by the Railways; after having received the entire sale consideration, it is not open to the Railways to now contend that a higher price should be paid; the doctrine of promissory estoppel is attracted, and the petitioners are entitled to be allotted plots in accordance with the amounts already paid by them.

Perusing the facts and the arguments, the Court cited multiple case laws to examine the doctrine of promissory estoppel which is, where one party has by his words or conduct made to the other a clear and unequivocal promise which is intended to create legal relations or affect a legal relationship to arise in the future, knowing or intending that it would be acted upon by the other party to whom the promise is made, and it is in fact so acted upon by the other party, the promise would be binding on the party making it; and he would not be entitled to go back upon it. However the Bench noted that the Chief General Manager, by his letter acknowledged receipt of the demand drafts submitted by the petitioners, and informed the District Collector that further action would be taken for relinquishment of the said land, but the words “further action” cannot be construed as a promise to relinquish the subject land. The Court also refused to fix the price at which the subject land should be transferred, stating that price fixation is not the function of the Court. [The Annavarappadu Hut Peoples Association v. The Government of A.P, WPs Nos. 11826 of 1993, decided on 04.01.2018]

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