10 June 2024


Supreme Court

Shridhar C. Shetty (Deceased) thr. L.Rs. Vs. The Additional Collector and Competent Authority and Ors.




Competent authority being a creature of the statute cannot act beyond its statutory jurisdiction

The Appellant is aggrieved by the order of the High Court affirming the demand by Respondent No. 1 for Rs. 51,97,196 plus interest, penalty and recovery expenses as arrears of land revenue. The demand was raised consequent to the failure of the Appellant to handover seven tenements to government nominees as required under the conditions of exemption granted under Sections 20 and 21 of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976. The Additional Commissioner as the appellate authority affirmed the same.

Both the Sections 20 and 21 of the Act, contain provisions that if the Government or the competent authority, as the case may be is satisfied that any of the conditions subject to which exemption was granted is not complied with, it shall be competent for it to withdraw the order of exemption or to declare such land to be excess land under Section 21 of the Act with its attendant consequences as provided under the Act. The order of exemption dated 2nd March, 1988 contained conditions which were in accord with the statutory provisions. The certificate was conditional in nature and not absolute.

There is no dispute with regard to the fact that there had been a breach by the Appellant in terms of the exemption. The authority under the Act also did not take any steps to withdraw the exemption because of such breach. The tenements have been constructed and sold. No directions therefore can be issued to hand over seven more tenements from the constructions so raised. The question that arises for consideration however is whether the competent authority under the Act possesses the power to recover the market value of seven tenements for failure to hand over possession in terms of the order of exemption. The undertaking dated 16th May, 2005 by the Appellant, to pay the price of the same in the event of the failure to do so, cannot expand the statutory powers of the competent authority under the provisions of Sections 20 and 21 of the Act. The Appellant has justifiably raised a pure question of law before present Court for the first time, which was acknowledged not to have been raised earlier either before the appellate authority or the High Court under Section 38(4) of the Act.

It being a pure question of law, the facts being undisputed, there is no reason not to allow the Appellant to raise the same before present Court for the first time. The competent authority under the Act could have certainly withdrawn the exemption in the event of breach along with all its attended consequences. Failure to do so, did not deprive the statutory authority of its powers to proceed appropriately under the Act. But the competent authority being a creature of the statute under Section 2(d) of the Act, cannot act beyond its statutory jurisdiction and the exercise of its powers shall remain circumscribed by the provisions of the Act. Any undertaking by the Appellant cannot expand the statutory jurisdiction of the competent authority. The demand for the market value of the remaining seven tenements, falling outside the purview of the Act, cannot be construed as money due to the Government so as to vest in it the nature of an arrears of land revenue recoverable under Section 265 of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code, 1966.

The impugned demand is dehors the provisions of the Act and unsustainable being beyond the statutory powers of the competent authority and thus arbitrary. The order of the High Court is set aside. Appeal allowed.

Tags : Demand Confirmation Legality

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