This writ petition is filed for a mandamus to declare the action of respondent No.2 in issuing notices dated 08.04.2011 and 27.04.2011 under the Andhra Pradesh Revenue Summonses Act, 1869 (for short ‘the 1869 Act’) as arbitrary and without jurisdiction.
The petitioner purchased property bearing Nos.3-4-3, 3-4-3/1 and 3-4-3/2 (corresponding to old premises No.1579 known as Ashokvihar) situated at Station Road, Kachiguda, Hyderabad, together with appurtenant open land admeasuring 2554 sq. yards from five private individuals under registered sale deed dated 31.07.2008. When the petitioner was preparing to construct a building for hospital over the said land, respondent No.2 issued notice dated 08.04.2011 summoning the present occupier of the premises to appear before him along with all the related documents on 16.04.2011. The petitioner claimed to have submitted a copy of the sale deed in response to the said summons. Thereafter, respondent No.2 has issued another notice dated 27.04.2011 directing the petitioner to produce the order copies of judgment in O.P.No.103 of 1975, dated 15.04.1976, succession certificate/legal heir certificate in favour of Sri Vivek Anand Shrikande and ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the District Collector, Hyderabad, within three days from the date of the said notice. Both these notices have been questioned in this writ petition on the ground that the same have been issued by respondent No.2 without jurisdiction.
Sri D.Prakash Reddy, learned senior counsel appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the power to issue summons as done by respondent No.2 is available under the 1869 Act only if the summoning authority is authorised to hold an inquiry and that while in his notice dated 08.04.2011, respondent No.2 has not specified the purpose for which the summons were issued, in the notice dated 27.04.2011, he has indicated that if the documents required by him are not produced by the petitioner, necessary action will be initiated under the Andhra Pradesh Escheats and Bona Vacantia Act, 1974 (for short ‘the 1974 Act’). The learned senior counsel further submitted that respondent No.2 does not fall within the definition of ‘local officer’ under Section 2 (vi) of the 1974 Act and that therefore, as he has no power to hold an inquiry under the said Act, both the impugned notices are without jurisdiction.
The learned Government Pleader for Revenue (Telangana Area) submitted that under the 1869 Act, respondent No.2 is empowered to issue summons and that therefore, the impugned notices do not suffer from any jurisdictional error.
I have carefully considered the submissions of the learned counsel for both the parties.
Under Section 1 of the 1869 Act, the revenue officers such as Collectors, Sub-Collectors, Assistant Collectors, Deputy Collectors, Tahsildars and Deputy Tahsildars etc., are empowered to summon any person whose evidence may appear to them to be necessary for the investigation of any matter in which they are authorised to hold an inquiry, and also to require the production of any document or other article relevant to the matter under inquiry, which may be in possession or under the control of such person. Thus, the power to summon under Section 1 of the 1869 Act can be exercised only by such persons as named in the said provision who are authorised to hold an inquiry. The phrase ‘authorised’ shall necessarily mean that either the officer is authorised by any provision of any enactment or by delegation of power by an authority which is permitted to delegate his power under the extant enactment to hold an inquiry. Thus, Section 1 is not a stand alone provision. Unless the authority concerned is vested with the power to hold an inquiry under any other enactment, he cannot exercise the power under the said provision.
In the first notice dated 08.04.2011, respondent No.2 has not disclosed the purpose for which he has issued the summons. However, in the second notice dated 27.04.2011, he has indicated that if the documents mentioned therein are not produced, action under the provisions of the 1974 Act will be initiated. Under the said Act, only local officer as defined under Section 2(vi) read with Section 5 is empowered to hold an inquiry for declaring any property as an escheat or bona vacantia. Under Section 5 of the 1974 Act, the Government is authorised to appoint by notification the District Collector or such other officers as they deemed fit to be the local officers for each district to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned by or under the Act subject to the general control and directions of the competent authority.
The learned senior counsel for the petitioner drew the attention of this Court to G.O.Ms.No.1426, Revenue, dated 31.10.1977, published in the Andhra Pradesh Revenue Code, Ninth Edition-2012, Volume 1, by Padala Rama Reddi. A perusal of the said G.O. shows that the Governor of Andhra Pradesh has appointed the Joint Collectors as the local officers within the jurisdiction of their respective Districts to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned by or under the 1974 Act and has also appointed the Tahsildars and the independent Deputy Tahsildars as the officers to assist the local officers appointed for the purpose of the 1974 Act within the jurisdiction of their taluks and the sub-taluks respectively.
Thus, it is quite evident that the Tahsildar is not authorised to inquire under the provisions of the 1974 Act to enable him to invoke the provisions of Section 1 of the 1869 Act. Respondent No.2 was merely appointed to assist the Joint Collector in an inquiry that may be initiated by the latter under the 1974 Act.
Therefore, I have no h
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esitation to hold that the two impugned notices dated 08.04.2011 and 27.04.2011 issued by respondent No.2 are without jurisdiction and they are accordingly quashed. However, the local officer concerned is left free to initiate appropriate proceedings if he is of the opinion that the petitioner is in possession of any property, which falls under the provisions of the 1974 Act. The Writ Petition is accordingly allowed. As a sequel to allowing the writ petition, interim order dated 30.04.2011 in W.P.M.P.No.16320 of 2011 is vacated and W.P.M.P.No.16320 of 2011 and W.V.M.P.No.1113 of 2012 shall stand disposed of as infructuous.