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Wangkhem Sunanda Singh & Others v/s Union of India, Represented by Secretary, Ministry of Skill Development, New Delhi & Others


Company & Directors' Information:- D P S DEVELOPMENT PVT LTD [Active] CIN = U45202WB1988PTC044797

Company & Directors' Information:- DEVELOPMENT CORPN PVT LTD [Active] CIN = U13209WB1939PTC009750

    WP(C) Nos. 506, 566, 568 & 956 of 2019 with WP(C) No. 165 of 2020

    Decided On, 22 September 2021

    At, High Court of Manipur

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE K.H. NOBIN SINGH

    For the Petitioners: I. Lalitkumar, Sr. Advocate, A. Mohendro Advocate. For the Respondents: Lenin Hijam, Addl. AG, Moses Pao, Advocate.



Judgment Text

1. Heard Shri I. Lalitkumar, learned Sr. Advocate appearing for the petitioners; Shri Lenin Hijam, learned Addl. AG appearing for the State respondents; Shri A. Mohendro, learned Advocate appearing for the applicants and Shri Moses Pao, learned Advocate appearing for the Union of India.

2. The subject matter in issue relates to the validity and correctness of the letter dated 27-04-2019 issued by the Director (Trade, Commerce & Industries), Government of Manipur; the letter dated 01-06-2019 issued by the Under Secretary, Youth Affairs & Sports Department, Government of Manipur; the sale deed dated 17-07-20-19 and the authorized letter dated 20-07-2019 issued by the Director, Youth Affairs & Sports, Manipur.

3.1. According to the petitioners, they are the owners/ pattadars of the land/ paddy land situated at 44-Yaithibi Loukol, Langthaban Khounou, Khnogjom, Thoubal District, Manipur. They being the cultivators/ farmers, their livelihood depends upon the products from the said land.

3.2. In and around the year, 2014, the Central Government and the State Government launched a scheme for the establishment of a National Sports University in Manipur taking into account the talents being exhibited by the sportspersons from Manipur in the national and international tournaments/ championships. The land situated at 44-Yaithibi Loukol was selected as the site for its establishment. The different forms of agitations/ protests were taken by the villagers and the petitioners raising objections against the proposed acquisition of their land. Several meetings were held amongst the officials of the State Government; the villagers and the petitioners wherein the likely benefits of the National Sports University were explained and the promises for providing employment and other facilities were also made by the State Government.

3.3. In order to acquire the land situated at 44-Yaithibi Loukol, the Commissioner, Youth Affairs & Sports wrote a letter dated 26-08-2014 to the Secretary (Revenue), Government of Manipur requesting him to initiate the process for acquisition of the land. It was also stated therein that the land was needed to be transferred to the Central Government at the earliest so that the construction work could be commenced in few months. In order to strengthen their agitations, the villagers and the petitioners formed an association called 44-Yaithibi Loukol Land Owner’s Association which submitted a representation dated 05-09-2014 not to construct the National Sports University. Shri S. T.Vaiphei, Advocate appears to have submitted a representation/ legal notice dated 12-11-2014 as is evident from the letter dated 13-11-2014 of the Deputy Commissioner, Thoubal. Instead of following the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency of Land Acquisition Act, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act, 2013”), the respondents made the promises for employment and other facilities in the name of acquiring their land.

3.4. To review the position of acquisition of land, a meeting of the officials of the State Government and the Central Government was convened vide Office Memorandum dated 17-11-2014 by the Central Government. In the meantime, a State Cabinet Meeting was held on 14-11-2014 wherein the acquisition of 442.27 acres of land was approved, out of which 247.68 acres were earmarked for the establishment of the National Sports University and the rest was to be reserved for future expansion of educational facilities. The State Cabinet in its meeting held on 18-11-2014 decided and approved a proposal to constitute a Committee under the Chairmanship of the Deputy Commissioner, Thoubal with the officers of the concerned Departments to negotiate the price for the purchase of the land from the willing pattadars. After the State Cabinet’s decision being taken, the Deputy Commissioner, Thoubal vide its letter dated 24-11-2014 informed Shri S.T Vaiphei, Advocate that the issues raised by him were irrelevant as being not supported by the documents.

3.5. After the heavy pressure being exerted by the respondents, the petitioners were convinced and some amount of money was paid to them towards compensation, although the direct purchase system was not accepted by the villagers including the petitioners, because of which the owners/ pattadars have been continuously in possession of the land by doing their agricultural activities. Some of the petitioners in WP(C) No.566 of 2019 have not yet received any kind of price/ compensation. Shri Paonam Brojen Singh, MLA representing Wangjing Tentha Assembly Constituency, summoned the petitioners at his residential quarter at Imphal for a meeting and during the course of the meeting, he dictated them to sign blank white papers as well as blank non-judicial stamp papers with the understanding that they should donate the land for the establishment of National Sports University. Similar is the case with the petitioners in WP(C) No.568 of 2019 who were summoned by Shri D.K. Korungthang, MLA of Tengnoupal Assembly Constituency for a meeting held at MASS Hotel, Thangal Bazar, who did the same thing. The petitioners being ignorant of law, agreed to the dictation of the MLAs who promised to provide jobs and alternative paddy fields. The land was donated for the specific purpose of the establishment of National Sports University. Keeping in mind the interest of promotion of sports persons in the State, the villagers including the petitioners accepted the proposal for the purpose of construction of National Sports University. But the respondents cancelled the said proposed construction and shifted the site for construction of the National Sports University at Koutruk/ Senjam Chirang, Imphal West, Manipur for which the foundation stone was laid on 16-03-2018. The petitioners and others formed an association called 44-Yaithibi Loukol Land Donors Association which submitted several representations relating to their grievances for saving their land.

3.6. The petitioners learnt that since the site for construction of the National Sports University had been shifted as aforesaid, the respondents are proposing for the establishment of Mega food Park, Jewellery park etc. at the land being occupied by them, as is evident from the letter dated 27-04-2019 of the Director, Trade, Commerce & Industries, followed by a letter dated 01-06-2019 of the Department of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of Manipur addressed to the Deputy Commissioner, Thoubal to ascertain the area under its Department by conducting a survey.

3.7. Being aggrieved by the said letters, the above five writ petitions have been filed by the petitioners-one, WP(C) No.606 of 2019 filed by the petitioners belonging to Hindu community; two, WP(C) No.566 of 2019 filed by the petitioners belonging to Muslim community; three, WP(C) No.568 of 2019 filed the petitioners belonging to scheduled tribe; four, WP(C) No.596 of 2019 filed by the petitioners, jointly, belonging to Hindu community and scheduled tribe and five, WP(C) No.165 of 2020 filed by the petitioners belonging to scheduled tribe. The grounds on the basis of which the said writ petitions have been filed, are inter-alia that the land was donated by them for the construction of the National Sports University. The transaction that was done between the petitioners and the respondents, was done without free and full consent of the land owners and also without following the relevant provisions of law including that of the Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Act, 1960 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act, 1960”). Since the respondents had failed to take possession of the land, they should not destroy the rule of law. If the land was not required for the construction of the National Sports University, the respondent should protect the valuable paddy field and return the same to the villagers including the petitioners who are ready to return the amounts which were not adequate and reasonable. The petitioners never abandoned the physical possession of the land, on which the respondents should not make any new plan or scheme which, if planned, should be executed in the hill areas. If the proposed scheme is to be implemented, it would go against the law. Moreover, the respondents have no authority or jurisdiction to issue the impugned letters. The shifting of the site for the construction of the National Sports University at the new site is in tune with the provisions of the Manipur Conservation of Paddy and Wetland Act, 2014 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act, 2014). Moreover, the land belonging to scheduled tribe, cannot be transferred to any member of other communities except in accordance with the provisions prescribed in the Act, 1960. The issuance of the impugned letters is highly unfair and unreasonable. In WP(C) No.944 of 2014, this Court had passed an order 08-12-2014 directing that the process be initiated for acquiring the land of the petitioners therein in accordance with the provisions of the relevant Acts and rules made thereunder in this regard.

4. In the affidavits filed on behalf of the Union of India, it has stated that land measuring 336.93 acres situated at 44-Yaithibi Loukol was handed over by the State of Manipur on 27-08-2015 vide Handing Over and Taking Over document for setting up the National Sports University, for which MOA dated 27-08-2015 was signed between the Government of India and the Government of Manipur. A non-encumbrance certificate dated 24-08-2015 was also issued by the office of the Sub-Registrar, Thoubal to the effect that land was found recorded in the name of the Director (YAS), Government of Manipur and free from any kind of encumbrance. But on further inspection, the land was found unsuitable for the establishment of National Sports University, an alternative site was made available by the Government of Manipur on 29-12-2016 with the result that the land situated at 44-Yaithibi Loukol was formally returned to the Government of Manipur.

5. The stand of the State Government as indicated in their affidavit filed in WP(C) No.568 of 2019, is that after the scheme for construction of Mega Food Park by the Central Government, the Department of Youth Affairs & Sports transferred the land covering 39 dag numbers with a total area of 51.11 acres to the Director, Trade, Commerce & Industries, Manipur in the name of Managing Director, MFICL by executing a sale deed on 17-07-2019. The land covered by 9 dag number is Government khas land. Out of 30 dag numbers, only five pattadars filed the writ petition, after the consideration being received by them. They executed the sale deeds which were duly registered by following the procedure prescribed in law. The petitioners are trying fraudulently to cause a loss to the State exchequer. The writ petitions being misconceived, are not maintainable in the eyes of law and moreover, they do not have any locus standi to file the writ petitions, after their land being sold to the State Government. The project which is meant for allied agricultural purposes and being a Governmental project, it is exempted under the Act, 2014. The land is situated at the foothill which is not ideal for the cultivation. The Mega Food Park will have facilities like 1500 MT cold storage with deep fridge, fruit juice machine, dehydration machine etc. which will help the farmers in general and the local farmers of 44-Yaithibi Khunou in particular. The Mega Food Parks need to be set up at the place close to agricultural /horticulture fields so that their products can be cleaned, stored and processed in order to avoid any wastage. For the establishment of the Mega Food Park, an estimated cost of Rs.81.83 crores with grant-in-aid of Rs.43.254 crores has been approved and sanctioned by the Central Government. The Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Government of India vide its communication dated 11-09-2020 informed the State Government to comply with requirements for releasing the first installment. Relying upon the decisions rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in some of the cases, it has been stated therein that the writ petitions deserves dismissal.

6. In an additional affidavit filed by one of the petitioners, it has been stated that the Managing Director, MFICL, Manipur issued a declaration dated 26-09-2019 that the local people including the affected pattadars would be given first preference for employment in Grade-III and IV posts and other benefits in the proposed setting up of the Manipur Mega Food Park, if the land case was withdrawn with a declaration that they would have no objection to it. It has further been stated that the said declaration made it very clear that the authority still considers that the petitioners are the land owners occupying the land. Some of the petitioners in WP(C) No.568 of 2019 filed an affidavit praying for permission to withdraw from being the petitioners therein on the ground that their grievance could be addressed by the appropriate forum, for which they filed an application being MC(WP) No.21 of 2021

7. On 14-09-2021 when these matters were taken up for consideration, relying upon the decision rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in T.K Lathika Vs.Seth Karsandas Jamnadas, (1999) 6 SCC 632, it was submitted by Shri Lenin Hijam, learned Addl. Advocate General that before the matters could be considered on merit, the preliminary objection raised by him as regards the maintainability of the writ petitions, might be considered and accordingly, the learned counsels appearing for the parties were heard in length but it remained in part. The further hearing is being continued today, ie., 15-09-2021 and after the hearing being concluded, the order thereof has been reserved by this Court.

8. On the issue relating to the maintainability of the writ petitions, it has been submitted by the learned Addl. Advocate General that the land belonging to the petitioners had been purchased by the State Government for the establishment of National Sports University on payment of its price to the tune of Rs.11,52,40,200/- as is evident from the letter dated 29-04-2015 addressed to the Director, Youth Affairs & Sports, Manipur by the Deputy Commissioner, Thoubal. The Sale deeds which had been executed between the State Government and the petitioners, had been registered in accordance with law, copies of which have been filed along with their affidavits filed on 26-02-2020 and 07-09-2020. A non-encumbrance certificate dated 24-08-2015 was issued by the Sub-Registrar, Thoubal to the effect that a total area of 273.16 acres is recorded in the name of the Director, Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of Manipur as per the records maintained by its office. A total area of 336.93 acres was handed over to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India by the State Government by executing the document, ie., Handing Over and Taking Over on 27-08-2015, followed by a Memorandum of Agreement dated 27-08-2015 being signed between the Government of India and the Government of Manipur. After the site for the establishment of National Sports University had been shifted at Koutruk/ Senjam Chirang, the said land was no longer required and accordingly, it was returned to the State Government vide letter dated 08-05-2017 of the Deputy Secretary to the Government of India, Ministry of Youth affairs & Sports. As the said land was not required for the establishment of National Sports University, it was lying unused for almost two years. The State Government took a policy decision to establish Mega Food Park, Logistic park and Jewellery Park in the State, for which the Department of Textiles, Commerce and Industries, Manipur considered the land, situated at 44-Yaithibi Loukol allocated to the Department of Youth affairs & Sports, Manipur, to be locationally advantageous. Therefore, the impugned letter dated 27-04-2019 was sent to the Director, Settlement & Land Records, Government of Manipur to cause a survey and demarcation for the above requirement so that a proposal could be placed before the Cabinet for approval. It has further been submitted by him that since the State Government is the owner of the land after the same being purchased by it from the petitioners, there is nothing wrong in writing such a letter for using the land by the State Government for other development purposes. The petitioners are no longer the owners of the said land and therefore, they have no locus standi to file the writ petitions which are liable to be dismissed by this Court. Shri A. Mahendra, learned Advocate appearing for the applicants who has been permitted to assist the Court, although his application has not been disposed of, has relied upon the decisions rendered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Union of India & ors Vs. Ranbir Singh Rathuar & ors, (2006) 11 SCC 696; Bhartiya Seva Samaj Trust Vs. Yogeshbhai Ambalal Patel & anr, (2012) 9 SCC 310 and Air Commodore Naveen Jain Vs. Union of India & ors, (2019) 10 SCC 34 in support of his contention adopting the stand of the State Government.

9. Combating the submissions of the learned Addl. Advocate General, it has been submitted by Shri I. Lalitkumar, learned Senior Advocate appearing for the petitioners that the land of the petitioners had been purchased by the State Government by way of direct purchase, on payment of some amount which was not adequate, which is not permissible in law. The procedure as prescribed in the Act, 2013 for acquisition of the land of the petitioners, was not followed by the State Government. When the petitioners raised objections, a heavy pressure was exerted upon the State Government which promised to provide employment and other facilities. The local MLAs, as the representatives of the State Government, convinced the petitioners by making similar promises and obtained their signatures on blank papers and blank non-judicial stamp papers taking advantage of the ignorance of law. The petitioners agreed to sell their land only for the establishment of National Sports University. The land of the petitioners is never used at all by the State Government, as the site for establishment of National Sports University had been shifted at Koutruk/ Senjam Chirang. The petitioners have been continuing the possession of the land by carrying out agricultural activities. Since the land will not be used for the establishment of National Sports University, it shall be returned to them who are ready to return the amount received by them. The land shall not be used for any other purpose and keeping in mind their livelihood, they shall be allowed to continue occupying the land for the cultivation. It has further been submitted that the land was donated by them for the establishment of National Sports University and not for anything else. Moreover, since some of the affected pattadars belong to scheduled tribe, their land cannot be transferred in the name of any other person without following the procedure prescribed in the Act, 1960. In support of his contention, he has relied upon the decisions rendered by the Hon’ble Gauhati High Court in Tronglaobi Pisciculture Co-operative Society Ltd. Vs. Chief Commissioner (Administration) of Manipur & ors, AIR 1969 Manipur 84; Nongthombam Ibeton Devi Vs. Nongthombam Shyamkishore Singh & ors, 2005(Suppl.) GLT 609 and the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Hari Bishnu Kamath Vs. Almad Ishaque & ors, AIR 1955 SC 233.

10. It is not in dispute that the petitioners were the owners/ pattadars of the land situated at 44-Yathibi Loukol which was required by the State Government for the establishment of National Sports University. In this regard, the stand of the State Government is that the said land was acquired by the State Government by way of direct purchase from the petitioners. But on perusal of the averments made in the writ petititons, the stand of the petitioners is not clear. In other words, they are unable to make their stand clear to this Court. On the one hand, it has been stated in the writ petitions that their land had been purchased by the State Government, for which some amount was paid to them, although it was not adequate. On the other hand, they have taken the stand that their land had been donated by them for the establishment of National Sports University. It may be noted that the terms “sale” and “donation” are not one and the same, although both of them may have similar effect in respect of a property in the sense that the ownership will stand transferred, when the property is sold or donated in accordance with law to the buyer/donee. The petitioners admitted to have received some amount of money for selling or donating the land to the State Government but the details thereof are not disclosed in the writ petitions. All that has been submitted on behalf of the State Government, is that the land was purchased by it on payment of the price. After the sale deeds being executed, the land had been mutated and recorded in the name of the Director, Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of Manipur and consequently, the petitioners are no longer the owners of the land. The contention of the State Government is based on the documents, whether they are right or wrong, which have shown prima facie case in its favour. It has further been submitted by the learned Addl. Advocate General that the averment made in the writ petitions that the sale deeds are bogus or fraudulent act and that at the time of alleged execution thereof, the petitioners were not present before the Sub-Registrar, Thoubal, is misconceived, as has been held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Prem Singh &ors Vs. Birbal & ors., (2006) 5 SCC 353 wherein the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that there is a presumption that a registered document is validly executed. A registered document, therefore, prima facie would be valid in law. The onus of proof, thus, would be on a person who leads evidence to rebut the presumption. In Satya Pal Anand Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh & ors, (2016) 10 SCC 767, it has been held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court that if the document is required to be compulsorily registered, but while doing so, some irregularity creeps in, that by itself, cannot result in a fraudulent action of the State authority. Non-presence of the other party to the extinguishment deed presented by the Society before the Registering Officer by no standard can be said to be a fraudulent action per se. In any case, in view of the denial by the petitioners about the sale deeds being executed as contended by the State Government, the issue whether the sale deeds have been validly executed before the Sub-Registrar, Thoubal or not, cannot be considered by this Court in a summary proceedings while exercising its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.

11. One of the points which the learned counsel appearing for the petitioners has emphasized, is that when the petitioners raised their objections to the acquisition of their land, a heavy pressure was exerted upon them by the State Government and also through the local MLAs who convinced them with the promise of providing employment and obtained their signatures on blank papers and blank non-judicial stamp papers. But no material has been placed on record to show that the State Government had made such promises to them. The allegations are serious ones but the names of the responsible officers who made the promises on behalf of the State Government, are not disclosed by the petitioners. So far as the local MLAs against whom the allegations have been made by the petitioners, are concerned, they have not been impleaded as party respondents herein and therefore, the allegations made against them, cannot be considered by this Court in their absence and that too, without giving them an opportunity of being heard.

12. In respect of the writ petitions being filed by the petitioners who belong to scheduled tribe, it has been submitted by the counsel appearing for the petitioners that in terms of the provisions of Section 158 of the Act, 1960, the transfer of their land to a non-tribal is invalid except in accordance with sub-section (b) thereof. Transfer of land by a person who is a member of the scheduled tribes to a person who is not a member of such tribe, is valid provided it is made with the previous permission of the Deputy Commissioner. What does the term “person” mean ? It is not defined in the Act. Will it mean and include the State Government as well ? The corollary issue is as to whether the transfer of land by a person who is a member of the scheduled tribes to the State Government for the development purposes, is valid or not. Moreover, it may be noted that in respect of the transfer of land to the State Government like in the present case, it is the Deputy Commissioner concerned, who takes the active role to ensure that the land gets transferred smoothly, in accordance with law, in favour of the State Government. The resolution or for that matter, the adjudication of such issue would depend upon the interpretation of the provisions of Section 158 of the Act, 1960. In the event of such issue being arisen, the other issue is as to which Court will decide it. Section 159 of the Act, 1960 excluded the jurisdiction of the civil court in any matter arising under and provided for by the Act, 1960. But the first proviso thereof states that if in a dispute between parties a question of title is involved, a civil court may be brought for the adjudication of such question. In the present case also, since the validity and correctness of the sale deeds is being questioned by the petitioners, a question of title may arise. But in any case, these issues have something to do with the merits of the case which will have to be gone into or considered only after the preliminary objections as regards the maintainability of the writ petitions, being considered by this Court and being found to be devoid of any merit.

13. Relying upon the law laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Hari Vishnu Kamath case (supra), it has been contended by the learned counsel appearing for the petitioners that Article 226 confers on High Courts wide power to issue appropriate writs to any person or authority within their territories. Since the jurisdiction of the civil courts has been excluded as provided in Section 159 of the Act, 1960

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, it is the High Court which is competent to decide the issues involved herein. His contention appears to be correct to the extent that this Court has wide power and jurisdiction to issue writs for the end of justice but it may be noted that the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in a catena of decisions including the ones rendered in State of Rajasthan Vs. Bhawani Singh & ors, 1993 Supp (1) SCC 306 and Visakhapatnam Port Trust & anr Vs. Ram Bahadu Thakur Pvt. LTd. & ors, (1997) 4 SCC 582, has held that the High Court shall not go into any question arising out of the disputed facts. As has been observed hereiabove, the petitioners are unable to make their stand clear on the issue as to whether their land was purschased by the State Government or they had donated it to the State Government. But the fact remains that some amount of money was admittedly paid to them by the State Government in respect of their land, although the details thereof were not disclosed by them. Serious allegations have been made against the State Government and the local MLAs but no materials have been placed on record disclosing the names of the officials who are responsible nor have the said MLAs been impleaded as party respondents. On top of that, the validity and correctness of the sale deeds alleged to have been executed between the State Government and the petitioners, has been questioned on the ground that they are bogus, forged, manufactured, concocted etc. for the reason that some of the sale deeds do not bear the date of execution and in respect of some of the sale deeds, the signatures of some of the vendee are not there at all. However, there is no material on record to show that the petitioners have ever approached the concerned police station to lodge FIR against the officials who have allegedly committed forgery. They further alleged that they were not present before the Sub-Registrar on the date on which the sale deeds were allegedly registered and on the contrary, what they had alleged, is that their signatures had been obtained by the local MLAs on blank papers as well as on bank non-judicial stamp papers. Since these allegations have not been admitted by the State Government, it is not appropriate for this Court to consider the disputed questions of facts. In other words, in the absence of materials on record in support of their allegations, this Court will not be in a position to be able to examine the correctness of the allegations. To deal with the disputed questions of facts, this Court will have to examine the evidences to be led by the parties, which is not possible in a summary proceeding as contempletaed in Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Therefore, the only remedy available with the petitioners is to approach the appropriate forum for redressal of their grievances. 14. In view of the above and for the reasons stated hereinabove, the instant writ petitions are dismissed as not maintainable.
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