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LAND REFORMS IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE - CASE LAWS AND STATISTICS

The High Court of Patna in Kameshwar v. State of Bihar [AIR 1951 Patna 91] held that a Bihar legislation relating to land reforms was unconstitutional while the High Court of Allahabad and Nagpur upheld the validity of the corresponding legislative measures passed in those States. The parties aggrieved had filed appeals before the Supreme Court. At the same time, certain Zamindars had also approached the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution. It was, at this stage, that Parliament amended the Constitution by adding Articles 31-A and 31-B to assist the process of legislation to bring about agrarian reforms and confer on such legislative measures immunity from possible attack on the ground that they contravene the fundamental rights of the citizen. Article 31-B was not part of the original Constitution. It was inserted in the Constitution by the Constitution (First Amendment) Act, 1951. The same amendment added after Eighth Schedule a new Ninth Schedule containing thirteen items, all relating to land reform laws, immunizing these laws from challenge on the ground of contravention of Article 13 of the Constitution. Article 13, inter alia, provides that the State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by Part III and any law made in contravention thereof shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void. The Constitutional validity of the First Amendment was upheld in Sri Sankari Prasad Singh Deo v. Union of India and State of Bihar [(1952) SCR 89]. The main object of the amendment was to fully secure the constitutional validity of Zamindari Abolition Laws in general and certain specified Acts in particular and save those provisions from the dilatory litigation which resulted in holding up the implementation of the social reform measures affecting large number of people. Upholding the constitutional amendment and repelling the challenge in Sajjan Singh v. State of Rajasthan [(1965) 1 SCR 933] the law declared in Sankari Prasad was reiterated. It was noted that Articles 31A and 31B were added to the Constitution realizing that State legislative measures adopted by certain States for giving effect to the policy of agrarian reforms have to face serious challenge in the courts of law on the ground that they contravene the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizen by Part III. The Court observed that the genesis of the amendment made by adding Articles 31A and 31B is to assist the State Legislatures to give effect to the economic policy to bring about much needed agrarian reforms. In I.C. Golak Nath & Ors. v. State of Punjab & Anr. [(1967) 2 SCR 762] a Bench of 11 Judges considered the correctness of the view that had been taken in Sankari Prasad and Sajjan Singh (supra). By majority of six to five, these decisions were overruled. The decision in Kesavananda Bharati's case was rendered on 24th April, 1973 by a 13 Judges Bench and by majority of seven to six Golak Nath's case was overruled. The majority opinion held that Article 368 did not enable the Parliament to alter the basic structure or framework of the Constitution. LAND REFORMS CASE OF Vijayakumar Shankarayya Sardar vs State Of Karnataka ILR 1993 KAR 2586 Karnataka High Court held that “For proper appreciation of the matter, the provisions of Section 79A of the Act can be read as follows:- "On and from 1st March 1974, no person who or a family or a joint family which has an assured annual income of not less than rupees Fifty thousand (RS TWO LAKH AT PRESENT) from sources other than Agricultural lands shall be entitled to acquire any land whether as land owner, landlord, tenant or mortgagee with possession or otherwise or partly in one capacity and partly in another." LOCUS STANDI CASE OF The Supreme Court in FERTILIZER CORPORATION KAMAGAR UNION (Regd) SINDRI AND ORS. v. UNION OF INDIA AND ORS AIR 1981 SC 344. It was observed thus:"We have no doubt that in competition between Courts and streets as dispenser of justice, the Rule of law must win the aggrieved person for the law Court and wean him from the lawless street. In simple terms, locus standi must be liberalised to meet the challenges of the times. Ubi jus ibi remedium must be enlarged to embrace all interests of public-minded citizens or organisations with serious concern for conservation of public resources and the direction and correction of public power so as to promote justice in its truine facets." In S.P. GUPTA v. PRESIDENT OF INDIA AND ORS . (Popularly known as Judges case), it was held that the lawyers have interest and locus standi to file the petitions and they could not be told off at the gate. The Supreme Court and different High Courts have repeatedly invoked and applied the rule that a person who does not disclose all material facts has no right to be heard on the merits of his grievance - State of Haryana v. Karnal Distillery Co. Ltd. (1977) 2 SCC 431, Vijay Kumar Kathuria v. State of Haryana (1983) 3 SCC 333, Welcome Hotel and others v. State of Andhra Pradesh and others etc. (1983) 4 SCC 575, G. Narayanaswamy Reddy (dead) by LRs. and another v. Government of Karnataka and another (1991) 3 SCC 261, S.P. Chengalvaraya Naidu (dead) by L.Rs. v. Jagannath (dead) by LRs. and others (1994) 1 SCC 1, Agricultural and Processed Food Products v. Oswal Agro Furane and others (1996) 4 SCC 297, Union of India and others v. Muneesh Suneja (2001) 3 SCC 92, Prestige Lights Ltd. v. State Bank of India (2007) 8 SCC 449, Sunil Poddar and others v. Union Bank of India (2008) 2 SCC 326, K.D. Sharma v. Steel Authority of India Ltd. and others (2008) 12 SCC 481, G. Jayshree and others v. Bhagwandas S. Patel and others (2009) 3 SCC 141. When Supreme Court is implementing such principle of law, then false set of material facts disclosed / declared by a person in order to violate the land reforms act should be thrown of this society itself . In a case before KAT in Manjunath vs The Assistant Commissioner Mysore in APL 400/2009 decided on 21-08-2009 by Hon’ble A. Ramaswamy and N.K. Sudhindra Rao it is observed as follows:- Appellant ………… submitted certificate showing his annual income was 70,000-00………… The Certificate bears the heading Jati / Adaya Pramana Patra and has been issued by the Tahsildar, Mysore Taluk. The Karnataka Land Reforms Act has stipulated that the certificate that the income as assessed to Income Tax under Income Tax Act 1961 should be filed for a period of 5 years preceding the date of sale and the average of five years has to be taken to arrive at a conclusion whether the income is within the stipulated limit or otherwise. The certificate of Tahsildar is of no use as far as the case is concerned”….. “It is pertinent to note that appellant having purchased the lands in question for 11,37,500/- claims that he is an agriculturist and does not account for the income from the agricultural sources bifurcating the same from the non agricultural sources………… It is also necessary to point out that the appellant is silent to mention about the status of the lands in question as on 01-03-1974…………. Not explained the sources of income…….. documents filed by the appellant which is a copy of the declaration U/s 81-A has to be taken into consideration and its validity and relevance to the case on the hand has to be discussed and gone into carefully………. “ The Hon’ble High Court of Karnataka while rendering its decision in the case of Gowtham Tendulkar vs State of Karnataka reported in 2001 (2) Kar LJ 485 has held that provisions of section 79A and 79B results in serious consequences depriving a person of his right to enjoy his property and is in the nature of penalty and that it is obligatory on the part of the Revenue Officer to confirm that requirements of the said provisions are strictly complied with. It is very strange to see that The Income Tax appellate tribunal in New Delhi has understood the implications of Karnataka Land Reforms in below stated words but our Revenue Department Officials are showing intellectual blindness : In M.V. Chandrashekar (Huf) vs Asstt. Cit, Circle 4(1) on 29 September, 2005 Reported in 2006 5 SOT 960 Delhi, As per the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961, the purchase of agricultural land by the following persons is prohibited under section 80 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act: (1) One who is not an agriculturist (2) One being an agriculturist holds land exceeding ceiling limits (54 acres - 'D' Class land) (3) One who is not an agricultural labourer (4) One whose annual income from non-agricultural sources exceeds Rs. 50,000 (earlier the limit was Rs. 12,000) the same has been increased through KLR (2nd Amendment) 1950 Karnataka Act of 1991 with effect from 5-2-1999). New limit 2 lakhs. In Moulasaheb Lalesaheb Mulla vs Aminsha ILR 1992 KAR 247, It is observed that:- “Therefore, we have independently examined the scope of Section 79A(1) of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act. Under Sub-section (3) thereof acquisition by a person who has assured income of Rs. 12,000/- or more per annum from sources other than agriculture would not be entitled to sustain such acquisition and as such the acquisition would be null and void. Though Sub-sections (3) and (1) read together do convey that impression, such acquisition is not ipso facto null and void. It will become void, only when action is initiated suo moto or on the complaint of others as provided under Section 82 of the said Act and after enquiry being held by the specified officer under Section 83 of the Act if a declaration to that effect is made……………………………….The provisions of the above quoted Section were discussed by this Court in Shivannappa Sidramappa Prantur v. Virupaxappa Allappa Bagi as also in other Judgments referred to above. Under Sections 82 and 83 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, after completion of sale it is incumbent on the village officer and every officer of the revenue, registration and land records to report to the prescribed authority i.e., the Assistant Commissioner of the Division about the transaction in respect of any land which is in contravention of the provisions of this Act, and, it is on such report, the Assistant Commissioner is required to make an enquiry regarding the illegal transaction…………………………… Assistant Commissioner ……………… gets his jurisdiction only when the sale is complete and the illegality is reported under Section 82 of the Act. By implication it is not possible to confer jurisdiction which is not envisaged by the Statute.” GENERAL INFORMATION:- Although agriculture contributes only 21% of India’s GDP, its importance in the country’s economic, social, and political fabric goes well beyond this indicator. The rural areas are still home to some 72 percent of the India’s 1.1 billion people, a large number of whom are poor. Most of the rural poor depend on rain-fed agriculture and fragile forests for their livelihoods. Since inception of the ceiling laws on agricultural holdings, according to available reports upto the 30th September, 1998, the total quantum of land declared surplus in the entire country was 73.74 lakh acres, out of which about 65.11 lakh acres have been taken possession of an a total area of 53.05 lakh acres have been distributed to 55.37 lakh beneficiaries, of whom around 36% belong to the Scheduled Castes and Around 14% belong to the Scheduled Tribes. INCOME TAX ACT AND ITS IMPLICATIONS UNDER LAND REFORMS Correctness of assessment not to be questioned. 242. In a claim under this Chapter, it shall not be open to the assessee to question the correctness of any assessment or other matter decided which has become final and conclusive or ask for a review of the same, and the assessee shall not be entitled to any relief on such claim except refund of tax wrongly paid or paid in excess. Return of income, etc., not to be invalid on certain grounds. 292B. No return of income, assessment, notice, summons or other proceeding, furnished or made or issued or taken or purported to have been furnished or made or issued or taken in pursuance of any of the provisions of this Act shall be invalid or shall be deemed to be invalid merely by reason of any mistake, defect or omission in such return of income, assessment, notice, summons or other proceeding if such return of income, assessment, notice, summons or other proceeding is in substance and effect in conformity with or according to the intent and purpose of this Act. Restrictions on transfer of immovable property. 269UC. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 (4 of 1882), or in any other law for the time being in force, 80[no transfer of any immovable property in such area and of such value exceeding five lakh rupees, as may be prescribed81], shall be effected except after an agreement for transfer is entered into between the person who intends transferring the immovable property (hereinafter referred to as the transferor) and the person to whom it is proposed to be transferred (hereinafter referred to as the transferee) in accordance with the provisions of sub-section (2) at least 82[four] months before the intended date of transfer. Restrictions on registration, etc., of documents in respect of transfer of immovable property. 269UL. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, no registering officer appointed under the Registration Act, 1908 (16 of 1908), shall register any document which purports to transfer immovable property exceeding the value prescribed under section 269UC unless a certificate from the appropriate authority that it has no objection to the transfer of such property for an amount equal to the apparent consideration therefor as stated in the agreement for transfer of the immovable property in respect of which it has received a statement under sub-section (3) of section 269UC, is furnished along with such document. Failure to comply with the provisions of sections 269UC, 269UE and 269UL. 276AB. Whoever fails to comply with the provisions of section 269UC or fails to surrender or deliver possession of the property under sub-section (2) of section 269UE or contravenes the provisions of sub-section (2) of section 269UL shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years and shall also be liable to fine : Provided that in the absence of special and adequate reasons to the contrary to be recorded in the judgment of the court, such imprisonment shall not be for less than six months. Wilful attempt to evade tax, etc. 276C. (1) If a person wilfully attempts in any manner whatsoever to evade any tax, penalty or interest chargeable or imposable under this Act, he shall, without prejudice to any penalty that may be imposable on him under any other provision of this Act, be punishable,— (i) in a case where the amount sought to be evaded exceeds one hundred thousand rupees, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to seven years and with fine; (ii) in any other case, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three months but which may extend to three years and with fine. Explanation.—For the purposes of this section, a wilful attempt to evade any tax, penalty or interest chargeable or imposable under this Act or the payment thereof shall include a case where any person— (i) has in his possession or control any books of account or other documents (being books of account or other documents relevant to any proceeding under this Act) containing a false entry or statement; or (ii) makes or causes to be made any false entry or statement in such books of account or other documents; or (iii) wilfully omits or causes to be omitted any relevant entry or statement in such books of account or other documents; or (iv) causes any other circumstance to exist which will have the effect of enabling such person to evade any tax, penalty or interest chargeable or imposable under this Act or the payment thereof.] False statement in verification, etc. 277. If a person makes a statement in any verification under this Act or under any rule made thereunder, or delivers an account or statement which is false, and which he either knows or believes to be false, or does not believe to be true, he shall be punishable,— (i) in a case where the amount of tax, which would have been evaded if the statement or account had been accepted as true, exceeds one hundred thousand rupees, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to seven years and with fine; (ii) in any other case, with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three months but which may extend to three years and with fine. Obligation to furnish annual information return 285BA. (1) Any person, being— (a) an assessee; or (b) the prescribed person in the case of an office of Government; or……………… (d) the Registrar or Sub-Registrar appointed under section 6 of the Registration Act, 1908 (16 of 1908); or……………… (g) the Collector referred to in clause (c) of section 3 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1 of 1894); or who is responsible for registering, or, maintaining books of account or other document containing a record of any specified financial transaction, under any law for the time being in force, shall furnish an annual information return , in respect of such specified financial transaction which is registered or recorded by him during any financial year beginning on or after the 1st day of April, 2004 and information relating to which is relevant and required for the purposes of this Act, to the prescribed income-tax authority or such other authority or agency as may be prescribed. COLLECTED FROM THE JUDGEMENT OF SAMATHA VS STATE OF AP & ORS : AIR 1997 SC 3297, In Superintendent and Legal Remembrancer, State of West Bengal v. Corporation of Calcutta a Bench of nine Judges of Supreme Court held that the archaic rule based on prerogative and protection of the Crown has no relevance to a democratic republic. It is inconsistent with the rule of law based on the doctrine of equality and introduces conflicts and anomalies. The normal construction, viz., that an enactment applies to citizens as well as to the State, unless it expressly or by necessary implication exempts the State from its operation, steers clear of all the anomalies and is consistent with the philosophy of equality enshrined in the Constitution. In Union of India v. Jubbi a three-Judge Bench had held that a statute applies to State as much it does to a citizen, unless, it expressly or by necessary implication, exempts the State from its operations. If the Legislature intended to exclude the applicability of the Act to the State, it could have easily stated in Section 11 itself or by a separate provision that the Act was not to be applied to the Union or to the lands held by it. In the absence of such a provision, in a constitutional set up like the one we have in this country, and of which the overriding basis is the broad concept of equality, free from any arbitrary discrimination, the presumption would be that a law of which the avowed object is to free the tenant of landlordism and to ensure to him security of tenure would bind all landlords irrespective of whether such a landlord is an ordinary individual or the Union. Constitution envisions to establish an egalitarian social order rendering to every citizen, social, economic and political justice in a social and economic democracy of the Bharat Republic. Article 261(1) of the Constitution provides that full faith and credit shall be given, throughout the territory of India, to public acts, record and judicial decisions of the Union and of every State. In Secretary, Jaipur Development Authority v. Daulat Mal Jain , a Bench of this Court had held thus: The Governor runs the Executive Government of a State with the aid and advice of the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers which exercise the powers and performs its duties by the individual Ministers as public officers with the assistance of the bureaucracy working in various Departments and Corporate sectors etc. Though they are expressed in the name of the Governor, each Minister is personally and collectively responsible for the actions, acts and policies. They are accountable and answerable to the people. Their powers and duties are regulated by the law and the rules. The legal and moral responsibility or liability for the acts done or omissions, duties performed and policy laid down rest solely on the Minister of the Department. Therefore, they are indictable for their conduct or omission, or misconduct or misappropriation. The Council of Ministers are jointly and severally responsible to the Legislature. He/they is/are also publicly accountable for the acts or conducts in the performance of duties. The Minister holds public office though he gets constitutional status and performs functions under Constitution, law or executive policy. The acts done and duties performed are public acts or duties as holder of the public office. Therefore, he owes certain accountability for the acts done or duties performed. In a democratic society governed by rule of law, power is conferred on the holder of the public office or the concerned authority by the Constitution by virtue of appointment. The holder of the office, therefore, gets opportunity to abuse or misuse of the office. The politician who holds public office must perform public duties with the sense of purpose, and a sense of direction, under rules or sense of priorities. The purpose must be genuine in a free democratic society governed by the rule of law to further socio-economic democracy. The executive Government should frame its policies to maintain the social order, stability, progress and morality. All actions of the Government are performed through/by individual persons in collective or joint or individual capacity. Therefore, they should morally be responsible for their actions. When a Government in office misuses its powers, figuratively, we refer to the individual Minister/ Council of Ministers who are constituents of the Government. The Government acts through its bureaucrats, who shapes its social, economic and administrative policies to further the social stability and progress socially, economically and politically. Actions of the Government, should be accounted for social morality. Therefore, the actions of the individuals would reflect on the actions of the Government. The actions are intended to further the goals set down in the Constitution, the laws or administrative policy. The action would, therefore, bear necessary integral connection between the 'purpose' and the end object of public welfare and not personal gain. The action cannot be divorced from that of the individual actor. The end is something aimed at and only individuals can have and shape the aims to further the social, economic and political goals. The ministerial responsibility thereat comes into consideration. The Minister is responsible not only for his actions but also for the job of the bureaucrats who work or have worked under him. He owes the responsibility to the electors for all his actions taken in the name of the Governor in relation to the Department of which he is the head. The bureaucracy --an arm of the political executive -- assists as an integral part of administrative mechanism. Their actions or the acts, individually or collectively, are directed to elongate and fulfil the socio-economic goals set down in the Constitution to establish the egalitarian social order in which socio-economic justice is secured to the poor and weaker sections of the society including the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, in particular, as enjoined in Article 46 of the Constitution, to promote their socioeconomic interest and protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation. Justice is an attribute of human conduct. Law, as a social engineering, is to remedy existing imbalances, as a vehicle to establish an egalitarian social order in a Socialist Secular Bharat Republic. The Upanishad says that, "let all be happy and healthy, let all be blessed with happiness and let none be unhappy". Bhagwatgeeta preaches through Yudhishtra that, "I do not long for kingdom, heaven or rebirth, but I wish to alleviate the sufferings of the unfortunate". Dias, in his "Jurisprudence" (5th Edn.) on 'distributive justice' in Chapter 4 at page 66, has stated that justice is not synonymous with equality: equality is one aspect of it. Justice is not something which can be captured in a formula once and for all. It is a process, a complex and shifting balance between many factors including equality. Justice is never given, it is always a task to be achieved. Justice is just allocation of advantages and disadvantages, preventing the abuse of power, preventing the abuse of liberty by providing facilities and opportunities to the poor and disadvantaged and deprived social segments for a just decision of disputes adapting to change. The founding fathers with hind sight, engrafted with prognosis, not only inalienable human rights as part of the Constitution but also charged the State as its policy to remove obstacles, disabilities and inequalities for human development and positive actions to provide opportunities and facilities to develop human dignity and equality of status and of opportunity for social and economic democracy. Economic and social equality is a facet of liberty without which meaningful life would be hollow and mirage. In Minerva Mills Ltd. v. Union of India , the Constitution Bench had held that the edifice of our Constitution is built upon the concept crystallised in the Preamble. We "the People" resolved to constitute ourselves a socialist State which carries with it the obligation to secure to the people, justice -- social, economic and political. We, therefore, put Part IV in to our Constitution containing Directive Principles of State policy which specifies the socialistic role to be achieved. In D. S. Nakara v. Union of India , another Constitution Bench had dealt with the object to amend the Preamble by the Constitution (42nd Amendment) Act and pointed out that the concept of Socialist Republic was to achieve socio-economic revolution to end poverty, ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity. It was pointed out that socialism is a much misunderstood word. Values determine contemporary socialism -- pure and simple. The principle aim of socialist State is to eliminate inequality in income and status and standards of life. The basic framework of socialism is to provide a decent standard of life to the working people especially to provide security from cradle to grave. The less equipped person shall be assured a decent minimum standard of life and exploitation in any form shall be prohibited. There will be equitable distribution of national cake and the worst off shall be treated in such a manner as to push them up the ladder. Supreme court of India in a series of cases, entitled Vineet Narain vs. Union of India:- 1996 (2) Scale (SP) 42, 1996 (2) SCC 199, 1997(4) SCC. 778, 1998(1) SCC 226, 1998 (8) SCC. 661. In these judgments, the Supreme Court has directed the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Revenue authorities to fairly and properly conduct and complete the investigation expeditiously against every person involved, irrespective of position and status. The Supreme Court observed that it is the bounden duty of the judiciary to enforce the rule of law and to see that investigation into corruption “is conducted in accordance with law and is not scuttled by anybody”. The Court further observed:- “the holders of public offices are entrusted with certain powers to be exercised in public interest alone and, therefore, the office is held by them in trust for the people. Any deviation from the path of rectitude by any of them amounts to breach of trust and must be severely dealt with instead of being pushed under the carpet. If the conduct amounts to an offence, it must be promptly investigated and the offender against whom a prima-facie case is made out should be prosecuted expeditiously so that the majesty of law is upheld and the rule of law vindicated.

KARNATAKA LAND LAWS