In a significant decision, after 14 years of litigation, the Punjab and Haryana high court on Wednesday ordered return of 2,218 kanal shamlat deh (gover nment) prime land worth crores at Bajghera village of Gurgaon to the village panchayat for common use, which was illegally being owned by the proprietors and was being eyed by builders.
The land in question adjoins the national capital territory of Delhi and there are a number of farmhouses constructed on it by interested parties in connivance with the unauthorised proprietors.
The decision came from the division bench comprising justices Hemant Gupta and Fateh Deep Singh while allowing an appeal filed by the Bajghera village panchayat challenging the single judge bench's order vide which its petition was dismissed in February 2011.
Appearing for the petitioner panchayat, advocate Ashish Aggarwal had submitted that the single judge had erred in his decision though the land under question was shamlat deh and vested in village panchayat as per the jamabandis (revenue records) since 1939 as per the Punjab Village Common Land Act.
It was in May 1999 that the assistant collector first grade, Gurgaon, had initially decided the issue in favour of the village panchayat saying the land vested with the panchayat for common purposes. Thus eight private unauthorised owners of the land were ordered to be ejected.
Challenging the assistant collector's order, an appeal was filed before the collector, who also dismissed the appeal in November 1999. Thereafter, a revision petition was filed before the commissioner by the private proprietors.
The commissioner in August 2001 remanded back the matter to the assistant collector for a fresh decision. In June 2002, the assistant collector gave the decision in favour of the private proprietors.
Finally, the village panchayat's appeal reached the financial commissioner and in April 2008 the officer dismissed the revision petition on the ground that no second revision is maintainable. This forced the panchayat to approach the high court.
But the single judge bench after going through all revenue records allowed private proprietors as owners of the land just because in the writ petition the grounds to challenge the orders of the authorities below on merits were not mentioned properly.
Ultimately, the village panchayat was forced to file an appeal before the division bench.