Kerala HC urges centre, state to check land encroachment

Kerala High Court | Photo: Mathrubhumi Archives

Kochi: Large scale encroachment of public and government land is being carried out in Kerala by some religious and charitable organisations due to the inaction on the part of government, political leaders and the society at large, the High Court said on Thursday and asked the Centre to explore making a law to regulate such entities.

The high court said both the Centre and state government were duty bound to "follow the constitutional mandate and to preserve properties of bona vacantia (ownerless lands) and property belonging to the public at large".

The court also said the state government was duty bound to take over all properties of bona vacantia and directed it to constitute a high level body to supervise the survey to find out the incidents of encroachments.

"Necessarily, the State Government is duty bound to take over all property of bona vacantia and to preserve it, remove all sorts of encroachment over the Government land, to scrutinize the validity of pattayam, if any obtained under the garb of Land Assignment Act by misusing its provisions and to conduct a survey in order to find out such incident all over Kerala," the court said.

The order further said for this purpose, "the State Government (the Chief Secretary) shall constitute a state wise high power body for its implementation and to supervise the survey besides formation of District level body headed by the respective District Collector and revenue head of each district and the Tahsildar".

It said assistance of forest officials can also be obtained whenever it is found necessary.

The court said this in its order in a case related to the alleged irregularities in the sale of land belonging to the Syro-Malabar Church.

The high court said it is also advisable for the state government to legislate a state law by incorporating provision for periodical/quinquennial survey so as to find out any encroachment or invasion over the property of State Government/public property/property of bona vacantia.

"Needless to say that the state government is also bound to register cases against the erring officers and the culprits under the provisions of Land Conservancy Act. The survey has to be completed by the state government within a period of six months from today and report", Justice P Somarajan said in the order.

The court said the misdeeds and mischief done by various persons/institution to extort the property of public shall be investigated through the agencies available under the state government such as Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau etc.

"I may also request the Central Government to explore the possibility of a uniform central legislation to regulate the functioning of charitable organization/institution and religious institutions listed in entry No 28 of concurrent list of VIIth schedule of Constitution of India including the constitution of a centralized body to address the issues pertaining to the income, expenditure, acquisition and disposal of assets of such bodies", the court said.

The possibility of constitution of a centralised force/body for that purpose may be explored by the Central Government, it said and posted the matter to May 31, 2023 for further consideration.


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