SC/ST panel has no powers to restore land: Karnataka HC

SC/ST panel has no powers to restore land, rules Karnataka HC

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The High Court has held that the Karnataka State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has no role to play under the statutory provisions of the Karnataka Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prohibition of Transfer of Certain Lands) Act, 1978.

The court said that the Commission has no jurisdiction to entertain petitions seeking restoration of the land and also cannot play the role of an appellate authority.

Justice M Nagaprasanna observed this while passing the order in a petition filed questioning the proceedings initiated by the Commission for resumption of land. The petitioner Ganganna and another person Jayappa H (one of the respondents in the petition before the High Court) were involved in long-standing legal proceedings over a particular land in Shivamogga district.

In the recent proceedings initiated by the assistant commissioner, it was held that both were grantees of land and also held that there was no violation of the provisions of Karnataka Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prohibition of Transfer of Certain Lands) Act.

Instead of approaching the appropriate forum, Jayappa had moved the Commission for the restoration of land in his favour without even making Ganganna a party. Though Ganganna filed an application to implead in the proceedings, the Commission went ahead with the proceedings to restore the land without passing any order. Ganganna moved the high court challenging the proceedings initiated by the Commission.

The court held that under the provisions of Karnataka Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prohibition of Transfer of Certain Lands) Act, the authority empowered to entertain an appeal against the order passed by the assistant commissioner is the deputy commissioner.

The court also said that though the Commission has powers of a civil court under Section 10 of the Karnataka State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act, 2002, it is for the welfare and protection of the SC/ST.

"A reading of the provisions would lead to an unmistakable interpretation that the functions entrusted to the Commission are in the nature of investigation and examination of various safeguards provided to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The provisions of the Act do not clothe the Commission with such powers to entertain the petition that is filed by a grantee seeking restoration of land and investigate into the matter," the court said.