Chennai: In a major setback to Church of South India, the Madras high court has upheld an order of the state government to resume the land to an extent of Acres 226.34 cents at Jeyankondam in Ariyalur district, which was originally leased out to Propogation Society by the British Crown in 1903 for the benefit of Panchamas (Dalit people) and subsequently transferred to Church of South India Trust Association in the year 1960.
Justice M.Dhandapani dismissed the petition filed by Church of South India Trust Association, Tiruchirapalli Thanjavur Diocesan Council, which sought to set aside a GO dated September 7, 2004, ordering resumption of 226.34 acres of lands from the Mission for violation of the lease conditions.
The judge directed the authorities to resume the land to the extent of 226.34 acres within 12 weeks. Authorities are directed to fix the land rent to the remaining portion of land, which was occupied by the petitioner within 12 weeks, the judge added.
Senior Counsel K.M.Vijayan, appearing for the petitioner submitted that the petitioner has perfected its title after the lease in 1903 and grant of patta in 1924 was well within the meaning of settled possession which cannot be unsettled without recourse to law by adopting a summary procedure by the impugned GO. The petitioner has established and accrued the rights over the land in the past 100 years preceding the impugned GO and order of resumption of land by an order in a summary proceeding was excess of authority, and total violation of rule of law, he added.
Additional advocate general S.R.Rajagopal assisted by additional government pleader J.Ramesh, submitted that there was express statement in the indenture that the lease shall not use the premises for any other purpose than for the benefit of Panchamas. Moreover, the rent has not been paid by the Mission to the government for several years and the terms of the indenture also clearly specify that the lease can be determined by either parties on giving previous notice to the other, he added.
The judge said in the present case, lease was granted in favour of the Propogation Society in the year 1903 with a condition that the lessee shall divide the said piece or parcel of land into small plots of five acres each and allow such plots to be occupied by a Panchama family and will assist the Panchamas and other depressed classes who may be in occupation of such plots, in building houses for them and their respective families on the plots occupied by them respectively and in providing them with cattle for ploughing such plots respectively and with implements of husbandry. In the indenture, the rent was also fixed for five years that lease was not terminated in the manner known to law.
Without terminating the lease, on what basis the petitioner obtained patta from the revenue authorities in the year 1924 as well as in the year 1984. Further, patta was granted by the authorities when the lease was in subsistence and that creates doubts in the action of the petitioner, the judgeadded.
The judge said it was also undisputed fact that a portion of the land were given to alleged Panchama family. Even in that distribution of land also the State made allegation that the petitioner distributed the land to the Panchama family after converting the persons into Christianity. That was also violation of the condition and the petitioner did not place any record to show that it complies the condition and paid the rent periodically.
Merely because officials did not collect the rent will not give right to the petitioner to claim title over the property. For non-payment of rent, the petitioner may be called as defaulter. Hence, the petitioner claiming title over the property through patta was unsustainable one and the same was not legally permissible. Further the plea of the petitioner that the petitioner has been enjoying the property for a long time and hence the petitioner has perfected its title to the disputed property by way of adverse possession on account of continuous possession and enjoyment of the property also cannot be accepted, the judge added.
The judge said there were several allegations made against the petitioner for violation of lease condition.
However, the petitioner did not deny the allegations of the State, but simply stated that they had obtained patta in the year 1924 and subsequently in the year 1984 and that they had prescribed title. Such a claim was not acceptable and the same was legally unsustainable. The indenture makes it clear that if there was any violation in the lease deed, the state authority has the right to take action against the lessee. In the present case, the petitioner admitted that only 65.80 acres of land were alienated in favour of the alleged Panchamas and nearly 18 acres were used by the petitioner for the purpose of construction of schools, and the remaining portion of the lands were not utilized by the petitioner, the judge added.