Ori HC | ST Order to be read as it is: Not permissible to say a tribe is ‘synonymous’ to the one mentioned in the Order 

Orissa High Court: The Bench of Dr A.K. Rath, J., allowed the writ petition which revolved around the issue of ascertaining as to whether the caste ‘Raj Gond’ is synonymous to ‘Gond’ as was mentioned in the Record of Rights (ROR).

The facts were that opposite party 1 and 2 filed an application under Section 23 of the Orissa Land Reforms Act, 1960 (“OLR Act”) before the Sub-Collector to declare a sale deed void and restore possession. The Contention was that they were scheduled tribe persons. They belonged to caste ‘Gond’. The father of opposite party 1 and 2 had transferred the land in favor of the predecessor-in-interest of the petitioners without obtaining permission from the Revenue Officer under Section 22 of the Orissa Land Reforms Act, 1960.

The petitioners (herein Opposite Party 1 and 2) contended that they were Raj Gond by caste. They did not belong to caste ‘Gond’ thus no permission was required for alienation of the land. Their vendor, the father was a literate person and in the sale deed, he described his caste as ‘Raj Gond’. In the course of hearing, opposite party 1 and 2 stated that they belonged to ‘Gond’ by caste but in the ROR, their caste was mentioned as ‘Raj Gond’. Their father was the zamindar of Loisingha. In 1936 settlement, he was bestowed with the title of “Raja”. After 1936 settlement; he used to write Raja before their caste, though he belonged to ‘Gond’ caste. The opposite party No. 3 came to hold that the caste of opposite party 1 and 2 was ‘Gond’, not ‘Raj Gond’. They were scheduled tribe persons and no permission was accorded by the authority thus the deed was a void one. Accordingly, the possession was restored to them and a writ of delivery of possession of the same was issued. The petitioners then filed an appeal before the Additional District Magistrate, Balangir. The appellate authority held that in the sale deed, caste was mentioned as ‘Raj Gond’. No authority could interpret ‘Raj Gond’ as ‘Chief Gonds’ or synonymous to ‘Gond’ thus no permission under Section 22 of the OLR Act was necessary for alienation of land. The appeal was thus allowed. Mrs Sahoo, the Advocate for the petitioners, submitted that the father was not a scheduled tribe person. Thus permission under Section 22 of the OLR Act was not a sine qua non for alienation of the land.

High Court held that no roving inquiry is permissible to ascertain as to whether the caste ‘Raj Gond’ is synonymous to ‘Gond’. Section 22 and Section 23 of the OLR Act would not come into play. The impugned order was thus quashed and the writ application was allowed. [Belmati Pradhan v. Jaya Krushna Singh Rai, 2019 SCC OnLine Ori 144, decided on 29-03-2019]

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