If a Panchami land is alienated to a person not from the depressed classes the government can repossess it

The Government can take possession without payment of any compensation if Panchami lands are alienated to anyone who is not a member of the depressed classesIn the case of Prem Nagar Minvariya Kudi Erupor Nala Sangam and V.G.P. Housing Private Limited Vs The State of Tamil Nadu and others, a single judge held that the lands were allotted to members of the Scheduled Caste Community, subject to the conditions as per Standing Order No.15 of the Board of Revenue.

The conditions are that the lands cannot be alienated to any person for 10 years from the date of assignment and thereafter, they can only be alienated to a person belonging to the depressed classes and if they are so alienated to persons other than the depressed classes, the Government has the power to repossess the land.

Bench observation

Aggrieved by the decision, the petitioners appealed to a division bench of the Madras High Court. The division bench observed that based on the report submitted by the then Chengalpet District Collector J.H.A. Tremen Heere, a British officer in 1891, the British Parliament passed the Depressed Class Land Act in the year 1892 and 12,00,000 acres of land were distributed to them in Tamil Nadu.

The officer noted in the report that even after the abolition of slavery in 1844, the practice continued in the name of Padiyaal (bonded labour).

On seeing the plight of the depressed classes and their socio-economic, political and cultural conditions, he reported that, "The small or marginal land holdings, housing, literacy, free labour without force/bondage, self-respect and dignity are the factors that could lead to transformation in (their lives)".

These lands were called Panchami lands and were given away under certain conditions, viz., that they cannot sell the lands or lease them out or give as gifts or pledge them for the first 10 years and after the expiry of the 10-year period, the lands could be transferred, but only to persons belonging to the depressed classes and any breach of these conditions will entail cancellation of the assignment.

It would appear that these conditions were imposed bearing in mind that it would be easy to exploit persons belonging to the depressed classes who had long been kept subjugated.

Violations

Vast extents of the lands so distributed are now with the persons who do not belong to the depressed classes. Therefore, the conditions appear to have been violated without any restraint or check.

The Special Form-D applies to order for assignment of lands to Scheduled Castes and Condition No. 9 reads as follows :“If the land is alienated to any person within a period of ten years from the date of the grant by way of sale, gift, mortgage or lease of any kind, or after that period, to any person who is not a member of the Scheduled Caste..., the grant will be liable to be resumed by the Government who will be entitled to re-enter and take possession of the land without payment of any compensation or refund of the purchase money."Several Government Orders have been passed, as for instance, G.O. Ms. No.2217, Revenue dated 1.10.1941; G.O. Ms. No.3092, Revenue dated 12.12.1946, etc. which affirm the same conditions.

The division bench, in its decision of 5-4-2010, upheld the view of the single judge and dismissed the petition.

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