Orissa High Court: Dr A.K. Rath, J. quashed the impugned order of Tahasildar against the opposite party under Section 8(1)(c) of the Orissa Land Reforms Act (“OLR Act”), whereby the petitioner was evicted from the land in question on the ground that he had lost his ‘rayati’ status.

The petitioner was the owner of land in the district of Balasore where he used to prepare bricks. He was duly paying royalty and water tax of Rs 3238, surface rent Rs 4, dead rent Rs 41, penalty Rs 2000 (total Rs 5283). The Tahasildar initiated a case against him on the basis of the report of the Revenue Inspector (RI) that the petitioner had used the land for non-agricultural purpose in contravention of Section 8(1)(c) of the OLR Act. Notice to show cause was issued to him. Since he did not file any reply, he was evicted from the land and lost his rayati status. A counter affidavit was also filed stating that the petitioner has unauthorisedly constructed brick kiln over the same land in question which again was in contravention of Sections 3 and 5 of the Orissa Minor and Minerals Concession Rules, 2004. A penalty of Rs 5283 was imposed on him, which he duly paid. The said order was passed as he had constructed the brick kiln for commercial purpose besides using the bricks for construction of his own house. Further, the merger of the suit land in Government Khata would have ensured proper utilisation of fertile agricultural land for agricultural purpose and dissuaded others who use agricultural land for non-agricultural purpose.

The petitioner argued that he had prepared the bricks over his land for construction of his house as he was poor. Another case was initiated against him even after paying the penalty and even when he was not preparing any bricks after imposition of penalty. The defendant argued that when the Revenue Inspector had visited the spot, he saw that 25000 bricks were stacked in the land. The petitioner has converted agricultural land to non-agricultural purpose without prior permission of the competent authority. In view of the same, he was evicted from the land and therefore there was no infirmity in the impugned order.

On a bare reading of clause (c) of sub-section (1) of Section 8 of the OLR Act, a raiyat can be evicted, if the land has been used for any purpose other than agriculture. The Court held that since a penalty had already been imposed and realized from the petitioner, who is an agriculture labourer, the order of the Tahasildar must be quashed. There was also no material on record to prove that the petitioner was actually preparing bricks over the land after the imposition of penalty. None of the reports submitted in the court reveal that 25000 bricks were prepared on the land in question. The Court also relied on the Supreme Court’s decision in Commissioner of Police, Bombay v. Gordhandas Bhanji, AIR 1952 SC 16, where Justice Vivian Bose had held that, “the public orders, publicly made, in exercise of a statutory authority cannot be construed in the light of explanations subsequently given by the officer making the order of what he meant, or of what was in his mind, or what he intended to do”.

The petition was allowed.[Binod Behera v. Tahasildar, 2019 SCC OnLine Ori 283, decided on 13-08-2019]

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