Merely because the same caste is recognized as Scheduled Caste in the migrant State, a migrant cannot be recognized as Scheduled Caste of that State: SC

Supreme Court: The Division Bench comprising of M. R. Shah* and A.S. Bopanna, JJ., held that a person belonging to Scheduled Caste of one State and being an ordinarily and permanent resident of that State, cannot claim benefit of a Scheduled Caste in another State for the purpose of purchase of land belonging to a Scheduled Caste person of the latter State, which was given to the original allottee as Scheduled Caste landless person.

The dispute in question was with respect to the land which was allotted to one Chunilal as Scheduled Caste landless person and father of the respondent–original plaintiff. As per the case of the respondent, in the year 1972, the said Chunilal borrowed a sum of Rs.5000 from one Puran Singh and under the guise of documentation, the said Puran Singh belonging to Jat High Caste fraudulently made Chunilal sign the sale deed in favour of the appellant-original defendant
(a person belonging to schedule cast), who was a resident of Punjab.

Background

The said Chunilal filed a suit for ejectment against Puran Singh and Bhadar Ram on the ground that he was the allottee of the land and the sale deed dated 21-06-1972 was void and ineffective as the same was in violation of Section 42 of the Rajasthan Tenancy Act, 1955 and Section 13 of the Rajasthan Colonization Act, 1954.

The Trial Court held that the land was in possession of Puran Singh who was not a Scheduled Caste person and that the sale deed was in violation of Section 13 of the Rajasthan Colonization Act, 1954 as well as in breach of Section 42 of the Rajasthan Tenancy Act, 1955 and therefore, the said Puran Singh was liable to be evicted. However, in appeal the Board of Revenue settled the matter in favour of the appellant by giving him benefit of compounding on payment of compounding fees to the respondent under Section 13 of the Rajasthan Colonization Act, 1954.

As the decision of Board was challenged before the High Court, the High Court, by the impugned judgment and order had held that the appellant, being the resident and Scheduled Caste belonging to the State of Punjab, he could not have taken the benefit of his being Scheduled Caste in the State of Rajasthan. Reliance, in this regard was placed by the High Court on the decision in Action Committee on Issue of Caste Certificate to S and ST in the State of Maharashtra v. Union of India(1994) 5 SCC 244.

Schedule Cast Status and Effects of Migration

Evidently, the appellant was belonging to Scheduled Caste in the State of Punjab and was the permanent resident of State of Punjab. However, it was the case of the appellant that he had migrated to Rajasthan and as his grandfather and father had purchased the agricultural lands in the State of Rajasthan, he could be said to be the permanent resident of Rajasthan.

Rejecting the contention of the appellant the Bench opined that merely because his grandfather and father had purchased the agricultural lands in the State of Rajasthan, the appellant could not be said to be an ordinarily resident of Rajasthan.

As per Section 42 of the Rajasthan Tenancy Act, 1955, there is a restriction on sale, gift or bequest by a member of Scheduled Caste in favour of a person, who is not a member of Scheduled Caste. Looking to the object and purpose of such a provision, the Bench opined, “the said provision is to protect a member of the Scheduled Caste belonging to the very State he belongs i.e., in the instant case the State of Rajasthan.”

In the case of Marri Chandra Shekar Rao v. Geth G.S. Medical College, (1990) 3 SCC 130, the Supreme Court had observed that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in some States had to suffer the social disadvantages and did not have the facilities for development and growth, and ordinarily resident cannot be deemed to be so in relation to any other State on his migration to that State for the purpose of employment, education etc…Coincidentally it may be that a caste or tribe bearing the same nomenclature is specified in two States but the considerations on the basis of which they have been specified may be totally different. So also the degree of disadvantages of various elements which constitute the input for specification may also be totally different. Therefore, the Bench had held that merely because a given caste is specified in State A as a Scheduled Caste does not necessarily mean that if there be another caste bearing the same nomenclature in another State, the person belonging to the former would be entitled to the rights, privileges and benefits admissible to a member of the Scheduled Caste of the latter State.

Rejecting the argument of the appellant that the ratio of Action Committee on Issue of Caste Certificate to SC and ST[i] could not be applicable on the instant case as in that case the Court was considering the issue with respect to employment, education while in the instant case dispute was with respect to sale/sale of property, the Bench stated that,

We see no reason to restrict the applicability of the decision of this Court in the case of Action Committee (supra) only with respect to employment, education or the like and not to make applicable the same with respect to purchase and sale of the property.”

Factual Analysis

Noticing that the appellant was a Scheduled Caste belonging to State of Punjab and was an ordinarily and permanent resident of the State of Punjab, the Bench held that he could not claim the benefit of a Scheduled Caste in the State of Rajasthan for the purpose of purchase of the land belonging to a Scheduled Caste person of State of Rajasthan, which was given to original allottee as Scheduled Caste landless person, and therefore, it was rightly held by the Division Bench of the High Court, the sale transaction in favour of the appellant was in clear breach of Section 42 of the Rajasthan Tenancy Act, 1955.

Even otherwise, the sale transaction in favour of the appellant original defendant was also in breach of Section 13 of the Rajasthan Colonization Act, 1954. Evidently, the Board of Revenue granted the benefit of provisions of Section 13A of the Rajasthan Colonization Act, 1954 in favour of the appellant permitting him to pay compounding fees and regularized the transaction when the order of ejection was already passed against the appellant and the possession was already handed over to the respondent. The Bench clarified,

“Section 13(A)(2) of the Rajasthan Colonization Act, 1954 would be applicable only in a case where an order of ejectment has been passed, but a person against whom an order of ejectment has been passed has not actually been ejected from the land transferred.”

Hence, the Bench concluded that no order of compounding in favour of the appellant or even Puran Singh could have been passed by the Board of Revenue in exercise of power under Section 13(A)(2) of the Rajasthan Colonization Act, 1954.  Hence, the sale was held to be in breach of Section 13 of the Rajasthan Colonization Act, 1954 and Section 42 of the Rajasthan Tenancy Act, 1955. Accordingly, the impugned order was affirmed and the instant appeal was dismissed.

[Bhadar Ram (D) v. Jassa Ram, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 13, decided on 05-01-2021]


*Judgment by: Justice M. R. Shah


[i] (1994) 5 SCC 244


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

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