Judiciary duty bound to protect public land: SC

“It is our considered view that where an encroacher, illegal occupant or land grabber of public property raises a plea that he has perfected title by adverse possession, the court    is duty bound to act with greater seriousness, care and circumspection,’’ said a bench of Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly recently.

Expressing concern over the regularisation of illegal constructions, the bench said: “No amount of vigil can stop encroachments and unauthorised occupation of public land by unscrupulous elements, who act like vultures to grab such land, raise illegal constructions and, at times, succeeded in manipulating the state apparatus for getting their occupation/possession and construction regularised.’’

While making these observations, the apex court set aside an order of the AP High Court that upheld the claim of Goundla Mallaiah, the predecessor of Goundla Venkaiah, on five acres of government land that his family had been  possessing for over 50 years. The court justified the possession saying the silence of the authorities — from 1959 till a petition before a special tribunal in 1990 — clearly indicated they had acquiesced with the family’s stand that as landless poor, they were entitled to the plot.

It also said if the authorities were seriously considering the option to evict Mallaiah, they would not have allowed the family to retain the possession of the land for 50 years and collected revenue from them. The court also overturned the rulings by a special court and the tribunal set up under the Andhra Pradesh Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 1982.
The Supreme Court has also directed Venkaiah to hand over the land to the District Magistrate of Rangareddy district within two months.

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