High Court hold 47 year old land gift deed as illegal

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh High Court has declared a 47 year old land gift deed as null and void that is not binding on the state and asked the government to take possession of all the land involved in the unlawful transfer of village common lands in the case.

The case before the court consideration was legality of a registered gift deed executed on 19.9.1966, whereby Rachhailu Panchayat in Kangra gifted 25 acres of village common land to Servants of People Society, New Delhi.

As Himachal Pradesh only became a full-fledged state of the Indian Union on 25th January, 1971, the land in question was then governed by Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act 1961.

For obtaining the village land, the society had committed to construct a public library and hall in memory of freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai, something that it had been unable to do so for 47 years.

With the setting up of Gagal Airport, over 14 acres of the gifted land was acquired in 1989 and a compensation of Rs 33.37 lakhs was paid to the society. For the land acquired, 10 acres of land in Village Jugher was transferred to the society.

The HP High Court took cognizance of the issue in January 1995 after affected villagers from Rachhialu and Kuthman made a presentation to the then chief justice.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice Kuldip Singh two days ago decreed that the panchayat blatantly misused its powers in gifting village common lands to the society.

Moreover the society did not fulfill its commitment to construct a public library and hall on the land gifted for the purpose. Writing for the bench Justice Kuldip Singh observed, “The gift is shrouded with suspicious circumstances.”

The court ruled that gift is in violation of rule … hence gift is void ab initio …. and distance of time in questioning the gift is immaterial.

After holding the gift illegal and not binding on the state, the court ordered that all land would vest with the state, which included the land obtained in compensation for one that was acquired for building the airport.

The state was also entitled to all the compensation that the society was given for the land acquired by the airport authority. Much of this amount was lying with a bank as the matter was in dispute.

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