At, High Court of Kerala
By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE A. MUHAMED MUSTAQUE
For the Petitioner: Philip J. Vettickattu, Advocate. For the Respondents: R1-R2, Government Pleader, K.J. Manuraj, GP.
1. The short point that arises in this case is whether a vehicle can be seized or confiscated merely on an apprehension that transportation of red earth in the vehicle is for reclamation of paddy land or wetland. This question arises unless the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land & Wet Land Act, 2008 (hereinafter called Paddy Act, 2008). It is appropriate to refer section 19 of Paddy Act, 2008 which reads thus.
“Power of entry and seizure- (1) Any officer of the Revenue Department not below the rank (of Village Officer) or any Officer authorised by the Government in this behalf or any police officer not below the rank of a Sub-Inspector, with a view to ensure the compliance of the provisions of this Act, may enter and search any premises and seize any vessel, vehicle or any other conveyance (or any clay, sand, earth etc., removed from the paddy land or wetland or any brick, tile made of all or any of them) or machinery used or deemed to have been used for any activity in contravention of the provisions of this Act, and a report regarding such seizure, whether prosecution proceedings have been initiated or not, shall be given to the (District Collector) having jurisdiction over that area within forty eight hours of such seizure.”
2. As seen from the above provision such vehicle can be seized if the same is deemed to have been used for any activity in contravention of the provisions of the Act. That means it must be actually used for reclamation of any paddy land or wetland. If the vehicle has not been used so far for reclamation activity such vehicle cannot be proceeded under Section 19 of Paddy Act, 2008.
3. As seen from the Mahazar itself, the vehicle was seized on apprehension that the vehicle was transporting red earth for the purpose of reclamation of the paddy land. The report of the Village Officer produced along with the memo filed by the Learned Government Pleader also shows that the vehicle was seized near to the converted land.
4. As seen from the statutory provision, power under Section 19 of Paddy Act, 2008 can be invoked, if the vehicle has been used for the purpose of reclamation of paddy land or wetland.
In the light of the above facts and circumstances, I am of the view that the proceedings initiated
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against the petitioner are illegal and unsustainable and without authority. Accordingly the entire proceedings are quashed. The vehicle is directed to be released to the petitioner forthwith. The writ petition is disposed of as above.