The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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SC snubs land order

New Delhi, Feb. 11 (PTI): Jharkhand High Court “erred” in dismissing a petition by a tribal, who alleged that over 10,000 acres of “notified tribal land” had been usurped in the state by mining contractors in collusion with government officials.

Rejecting the high court’s view that the plea involved only private interest, the Supreme Court has allowed the petitioner, Surendra Dehri, to file a fresh petition.

The apex court also directed the high court to consider Dehri’s petition expeditiously on merits after hearing the views of the Jharkhand government and others.

A bench of Justices B.N. Agarwal and P.P. Naolekar disapproved the action of the high court and observed that the allegation of flagrant violation of constitutional guarantees given to the tribals could not be held to be related to “private interest”.

The petitioner had pointed out that under Schedule V and Article 244 of the Constitution, land specifically notified for the welfare of Scheduled Tribes in the scheduled areas can neither be sold nor transferred to any non-tribal.

Neither the state nor the Centre has the power to sell, acquire or transfer land that is notified by the government as scheduled for the purpose of rehabilitating tribals.

Under the Santhal Parganas Tenancy (Supplementary Provisions) Act, 1949, enacted to give effect to the constitutional mandate, the government had set aside several thousand acres for the exclusive use of tribals.

The petitioner claimed that a large part of the land has been illegally encroached and that some of the mining contractors in Santhal Pargana had fraudulently produced documents to claim such land to be theirs.

The petitioner accused state government officials of colluding with the mining contractors. After Jharkhand High Court dismissed the plea, the petitioner approached the apex court through counsel Vidya Bhushan Mishra.

After perusing the file, the Supreme Court observed that “in our view the high court was not justified in dismissing the writ application on the ground that the same could not have been treated to be a public interest litigation as it was a private interest litigation”.

The apex court felt that the appellants should be given opportunity to file a fresh writ application before the high court in the nature of a public interest litigation and demonstrate that there have been flagrant violation of the provisions of the tenancy act.

“If such a writ application is filed, the same shall be considered expeditiously on merits in accordance with law,” the bench said while disposing of the appeal.

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