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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 325-326 OF 2015 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) Nos.5029-5030 of 2011] Jt. Collector Ranga Reddy Dist. & Anr. Etc. .. Appellants -vs- D. Narsing Rao & Ors. Etc. Etc. .. Respondents

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 325-326 OF 2015
[Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) Nos.5029-5030 of 2011]
Jt. Collector Ranga Reddy Dist. &
Anr. Etc. .. Appellants

-vs-

D. Narsing Rao & Ors. Etc. Etc. .. Respondents

With

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 327 OF 2015
[Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.5031 of 2011]
The Chairman,
Joint Action Committee of Employees
Teachers and Workers A.P. .. Appellant
-vs-

D. Narsing Rao & Ors. etc. etc .. Respondents

J U D G M E N T

C. NAGAPPAN, J.

Leave granted.

These appeals are directed against the common judgment dated 8.6.2010
passed in Writ Appeal No.273 and 323 of 2010 by the Division Bench of High
Court of Andhra Pradesh at Hyderabad.

Broadly speaking, the facts leading to filing of these appeals are as
follows: There is no dispute that Gopanpally village in Ranga Reddy
district was a Jagir village. According to the writ petitioners Survey
Nos.36 and 37 measuring Ac 280.00 guntas and Ac.378.14 guntas of the said
village were Jagir lands and Jagirdar had given Pattas to different persons
who were in possession of the lands and after abolition of Jagirs the same
were reflected as Pattas in Khasra Pahani for the year 1954-55 which was
prepared under Section 4(2) of the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Record
of Rights in land Regulation, 1358F and subsequently the Pattadars had
alienated the lands to the petitioners under registered sale deeds and
they are in possession of the same. It is their further case that Patta was
granted to an extent of Acre 44-00 in Survey No.36 and to an extent of
acre 46-00 in Survey No.37 and while the matter stood thus, the petitioners
on inquiry came to know that the Government has reserved and allotted a
total extent of 477 acres in Survey Nos.36 and 37 of Gopanpally village for
house sites to the Government employees by Government Orders dated
10.7.1991 and 24.9.1991, without mentioning the sub-division Nos. of the
survey numbers and the Patta lands of the petitioners are also sought to be
included within the area reserved and the petitioners challenged the same
by filing writ petition No.21719 of 1997 on the file of the High Court.
The writ petitioners have further stated that the Respondent No.1 at the
instance of Respondent No.2 had issued notice dated 19.12.2003 to the writ
petitioners and others stating that on verification of records i.e. namely
Faisal Patti for the year 1953-54 in respect of the land bearing Survey
Nos.36 and 37 of Gopanpally village there is no “Ain Izafa” (i.e.)
(implementation of changes) taken place in respect of the said land and the
entries in the Khasra Pahani appears to be incorporated by the then Patwari
without order from the competent authority and an enquiry under Section 9
of the Andhra Pradesh Rights in Land to Pattadar Passbooks Act, 1971, is
scheduled for hearing on 27.12.2003 and the writ petitioners challenged the
said notice by filing Writ Petition No.26987 of 2003 and the learned Single
Judge of the High Court allowed the said Writ Petition by order dated
30.8.2004 and set aside the impugned show cause notice. It is further
stated by the writ petitioners that the first respondent on the very same
basis issued subsequent notice dated 31.12.2004 for enquiry under Section
166B of Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act, 1317F fixing the
date of hearing on 5.2.2005 and the petitioners challenged the same in
their writ petition No.1731 of 2005 and the learned single Judge of the
High Court heard both the writ petitions i.e. 21719 of 1997 and 1731 of
2005 together.

The said writ petitions were resisted by the Government by stating that the
Jagirs were abolished on 15.8.1948 by the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area)
(Abolition of Jagirs) Regulation, 1358 fasli and the pre-existing rights in
all the Jagirs were taken away and as per the Khasra Pahani for the year
1954-55 the sub-divisions were made under Survey Nos.36 and 37 of the
village Gopanpally fraudulently by the Patwari and those sub-divisions and
names were not approved by Nizam Jamabandi in Faisal Patti during the year
1954-55 as per the procedure in vogue and the schedule land bearing survey
Nos. 36 and 37 from the time of Jagir abolition on 15.8.1948 is classified
as Chinna Kancha (grazing land) and it belongs to the Government and the
said unauthorized entries in Khasara Pahani made by the then Patwari were
detected by the Revenue Authorities and hence enquiry has been ordered
under Section 166B of Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act,
1317F and only a show cause notice has been issued.

The learned single Judge by common order dated 15.9.2009 set aside the
impugned Government order in GOMS No.850 dated 24.9.1991 insofar as the
lands held by the writ petitioners to the total extent of Acre 90-00 in
Survey Nos.36 and 37 are concerned and also set aside the impugned notice
dated 31.12.2004 and accordingly allowed the writ petitions. Aggrieved by
the same respondents 1 and 2 namely the Government preferred appeal in writ
Appeal Nos. 273 and 323 of 2010 and the Division Bench of the High Court
after hearing both sides dismissed both the writ appeals by common judgment
dated 8.6.2010. Challenging the same the State Government has preferred
the present appeals. Respondent No.13 in writ appeal 323 of 2010 has also
preferred an independent appeal before this Court and all the three appeals
are heard together.

Mr. Nageshwar Rao, learned Additional Solicitor General appearing for the
appellant State contended that the land was held by Jagirs as ‘crown grant’
and it was not heritable and that the Jagir system was abolished on
15.8.1948 and the entire Jagir land by operation of law came to be vested
with the Government and as per the land Revenue records prepared under A.P.
(Telangana Area) Record of Rights in Land Regulation, 1358, Fasli for the
year 1950-52 the land comprised in survey Nos. 36 and 37 of Gopanpally
village was owned by the Government and it is classified as “grazing land
(Kancha China Sarkari non agriculture) and as per land revenue records
called faisal-patti for 1953-54, the said land continued to be “Government
grazing land”. It is his further submission that for the first time in
August 1997 the Respondent Nos. 1-12 by filing Writ Petition No.21719 of
1997 claimed to have acquired right on 75 acre GTS in Survey Nos. 36 and
37 based on their predecessor name recorded in the Khasra Pahani of 1954-
55 whereas no sub-division of the Survey Nos.36 and 37 was ever carried out
and the land was allotted to employees co-operative societies as one
consolidated plot of land as shown in the Government records. According to
the appellants the names of the vendor of the respondents have been
recorded in the Khasra Pahani in the year 1954-55 surreptitiously by the
then Patwari without any order issued by the competent authority under the
relevant provisions of law and no right can be claimed merely on the basis
of the fraudulent entries.

It is his further contention that the High Court failed to appreciate that
the Government cannot be precluded from taking action to correct fraudulent
entries in the Khasra Pahani by citing long lapse of time and the dismissal
of the Writ Appeals is unsustainable in law. Mr. R. Venkataramni, learned
senior counsel appearing for the other appellant also assailed the impugned
order for the same reasons. In support of their submissions reliance was
placed on the following decisions of this Court.
In the decision in Collector and others vs. P. Mangamma and others
(2003) 4 SCC 488 this Court while dealing with suo motu action against
irregular assignments under the Andhra Pradesh Assigned Lands (Prohibition
of Transfers) Act, 1977 held that it would be hard to give an exact
definition of the word “reasonable” and a reasonable period would depend
upon the facts of the case concerned and on the facts of the case in which
the decision arose, suo motu action taken after a period of thirty years
was remitted to the High Court for fresh consideration.
In the decision in State of Maharashtra and another vs. Rattanlal
(1993) 3 SCC 326 this Court while dealing with revisional power under
Section 45 of Maharashtra Agricultural Land (Ceiling and Holdings)Act, 1961
held that suo motu revisional power may not be exercised after the expiry
of three years from the date of the impugned order, however, where
suppression of material facts, namely, existence of the undeclared
agricultural land had come to the knowledge of the higher authorities after
a long lapse of time, the limitation would start running only from the date
of discovery of the fraud or suppression.
In the decision in State of Orissa and others vs. Brundaban Sharma
and another (1995) Supp.(3) SCC 249 this Court while dealing with the power
of revision under Section 38-B of Orissa Estates Abolition Act, 1951 held
that the Board of Revenue exercised the power of revision 27 years after
the date of alleged grant of patta but its authenticity and correctness was
shrouded with suspicious features and, therefore, exercise of revisional
power was legal and valid.
We heard the submissions made by Mr. U.U. Lalit, Mr. Pravin H. Parekh, Mr.
Ranjit Kumar, Mr. P.V. Shetty, learned senior counsels and also the other
learned counsels appearing for the respondents. The main submissions of
the learned counsels appearing for the respondents are that the names of
the predecessors in title of the respondents are found mentioned in the
Khasra Pahani of the year 1954-55 and the purchase of the subject land by
the respondents from them under registered sale deeds are not in dispute
and they have been regularly paying land revenue continuously since the
year 1954 and substantial rights on account of continuous possession and
enjoyment of the subject property has been accrued to the respondents and
the exercise of suo-motu revisional power after long lapse of time is
arbitrary and summary remedy of enquiry and correction of records cannot be
invoked when there is bonafide dispute of title and liberty has been given
to the appellants to work out its remedies by way of filing civil suit and
the findings of the High Court are sustainable on facts and law. In
support of their submissions reliance was placed on the following decisions
of this Court.
In the decision in State of Gujarat vs. Patil Raghav Natha and others
(1969) 2 SCC 187 this Court while adverting to Sections 65 and 211 of the
Bombay Land Revenue Code, 1879 held that though there is no period of
limitation prescribed under Section 211 to revise an order made under
Section 65 of the Act, the said power must be exercised in reasonable time
and on the facts of the case in which the decision arose, the power came to
be exercised more than one year after the order and that was held to be too
late.
In the decision in Mohamad Kavi Mohamad Amin vs. Fatmabai Ibrahim
(1997) 6 SCC 71 this Court while dealing with Section 84-C of Bombay
Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, 1976 held that though the said Section
does not prescribe for any time limit for initiation of proceeding such
power should be exercised within a reasonable time and on the facts of the
case, the suo motu enquiry initiated under the said Section after a period
of nine months was held to be beyond reasonable time.
In the decision in Santoshkumar Shivgonda Patil and others vs.
Balasaheb Tukaram Shevale and others (2009) 9 SCC 352 this Court while
dealing with the power of revision under Section 257 of the Maharashtra
Land Revenue Code, 1966 held as follows :

“11. It seems to be fairly settled that if a statute does not prescribe the
time-limit for exercise of revisional power, it does not mean that such
power can be exercised at any time; rather it should be exercised within a
reasonable time. It is so because the law does not expect a settled thing
to be unsettled after a long lapse of time. Where the legislature does not
provide for any length of time within which the power of revision is to be
exercised by the authority, suo motu or otherwise, it is plain that
exercise of such power within reasonable time is inherent therein.

12. Ordinarily, the reasonable period within which the power of revision
may be exercised would be three years under Section 257 of the Maharashtra
Land Revenue Code subject, of course, to the exceptional circumstances in a
given case, but surely exercise of revisional power after a lapse of 17
years is not a reasonable time. Invocation of revisional power by the Sub-
Divisional Officer under Section 257 of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code
is plainly an abuse of process in the facts and circumstances of the case
assuming that the order of the Tahsildar passed on 30-3-1976 is flawed and
legally not correct.”

In the decision in State of Punjab and others vs. Bhatinda District
Cooperative Milk Producers Union Ltd. (2007) 11 SCC 363 this Court while
dealing with the revisional power under Section 21 of the Punjab General
Sales Tax Act, 1948 held thus :

“17. A bare reading of Section 21 of the Act would reveal that although no
period of limitation has been prescribed therefor, the same would not mean
that the suo motu power can be exercised at any time.
18. It is trite that if no period of limitation has been prescribed,
statutory authority must exercise its jurisdiction within a reasonable
period. What, however, shall be the reasonable period would depend upon the
nature of the statute, rights and liabilities thereunder and other relevant
factors.
19. Revisional jurisdiction, in our opinion, should ordinarily be exercised
within a period of three years having regard to the purport in terms of the
said Act. In any event, the same should not exceed the period of five
years…………….”

In the decision in Ibrahimpatnam Taluk Vyavasaya Coolie Sangham vs.
K. Suresh Reddy and others (2003) 7 SCC 667 this Court while dealing with
suo motu power of revision under Section 50-B(4) of the Andhra Pradesh
(Telangana Area) Tenancy and Agricultural Land Act, 1950 held as follows :

“9. ……………In the absence of necessary and sufficient particulars
pleaded as regards fraud and the date or period of discovery of fraud and
more so when the contention that the suo motu power could be exercised
within a reasonable period from the date of discovery of fraud was not
urged, the learned Single Judge as well as the Division Bench of the High
Court were right in not examining the question of fraud alleged to have
been committed by the non-official respondents. Use of the words “at any
time” in sub-section (4) of Section 50-B of the Act only indicates that no
specific period of limitation is prescribed within which the suo motu power
could be exercised reckoning or starting from a particular date advisedly
and contextually. Exercise of suo motu power depended on facts and
circumstances of each case. In cases of fraud, this power could be
exercised within a reasonable time from the date of detection or discovery
of fraud. While exercising such power, several factors need to be kept in
mind such as effect on the rights of the third parties over the immovable
property due to passage of considerable time, change of hands by subsequent
bona fide transfers, the orders attaining finality under the provisions of
other Acts (such as the Land Ceiling Act). Hence, it appears that without
stating from what date the period of limitation starts and within what
period the suo motu power is to be exercised, in sub-section (4) of Section
50-B of the Act, the words “at any time” are used so that the suo motu
power could be exercised within reasonable period from the date of
discovery of fraud depending on facts and circumstances of each case in the
context of the statute and nature of rights of the parties. Use of the
words “at any time” in sub-section (4) of Section 50-B of the Act cannot be
rigidly read letter by letter. It must be read and construed contextually
and reasonably. If one has to simply proceed on the basis of the dictionary
meaning of the words “at any time”, the suo motu power under sub-section
(4) of Section 50-B of the Act could be exercised even after decades and
then it would lead to anomalous position leading to uncertainty and
complications seriously affecting the rights of the parties, that too, over
immovable properties. Orders attaining finality and certainty of the rights
of the parties accrued in the light of the orders passed must have
sanctity. Exercise of suo motu power “at any time” only means that no
specific period such as days, months or years are not prescribed reckoning
from a particular date. But that does not mean that “at any time” should be
unguided and arbitrary. In this view, “at any time” must be understood as
within a reasonable time depending on the facts and circumstances of each
case in the absence of prescribed period of limitation.”
Consequent to the merger of Hyderabad State with India in 1948 the Jagirs
were abolished by the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Abolition of Jagirs
Regulation, 1358 fasli. ‘Khasra Pahani’ is the basic record of rights
prepared by the Board of Revenue Andhra Pradesh in the year 1954-55. It
was gazetted under Regulation 4 of the A.P. (Telangana Area) Record of
Rights in Land Regulation 1358F. As per Regulation No.13 any entry in the
said record of rights shall be presumed to be true until the contrary is
proved. The said Regulation of 1358-F was in vogue till it was repealed by
the A.P. Rights in Land and Pattadar Pass Books Act, 1971, which came into
force on 15.8.1978. In the 2nd edition (1997) of “The Law Lexicon” by P.
Ramanatha Aiyer (at page 1053) ‘Khasra’ is described as follows:
“Khasra is a register recording the incidents of a tenure and is a
historical record. Khasra would serve the purpose of a deed of title, when
there is no other title deed.”

Admittedly, the names of the predecessors in title of the respondents are
found mentioned in the Khasra Pahani of the year 1954-55 pertaining to
Survey Nos.36 and 37 of Gopanpally village. The purchase of the said
lands by the respondents from them under registered sale deeds are also not
seriously disputed. The further fact is that they have been regularly
paying land revenue continuously since the year 1954. The appellants
herein issued the impugned notice dated 31.12.2004 under Section 166B of
A.P. (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act,1317 F (1907) for cancellation of
entries in the Khasra Pahani of the year 1953-54, by fixing the date of
inquiry as 5.2.2005 and that notice is the subject matter of challenge
here.

Regulation 166B reads as follows:
“166-B. Revision:-
Subject to the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Board of
Revenue Regulation, 1358 F, the Government or any Revenue officer not lower
in rank to a Collector the Settlement Commissioner of Land Records may call
for the record of a case or proceedings from a subordinate department and
inspect it in order to satisfy himself that the order or decision passed or
the proceedings taken is regular, legal and proper and may make suitable
order in that behalf;
Provided that no order or decision affecting the rights of the ryot shall
be modified or annulled unless the concerned parties are summoned and
heard.
(2) Every Revenue Officer lower in rank to a Collector or Settlement
Commissioner may call for the records of a case or proceedings for a
subordinate department and satisfy himself that the order or decision
passed or the proceedings taken is regular, legal and proper and if, in his
opinion, any order or decision or, proceedings should be modified or
annulled, he shall put up the file of the case and with his opinion to the
Collector or Settlement Commissioner as the case may be. Thereupon the
Collector or Settlement Commissioner may pass suitable order under the
provisions of sub-section (1).
(3) The original order or decision or an authentic copy of the original
order or decision sought to be revised shall be filed along with every
application for revision.”

No time limit is prescribed in the above Regulation for the exercise of suo
motu power but the question is as to whether the suo motu power could be
exercised after a period of 50 years. The Government as early as in the
year 1991 passed order reserving 477 acres of land in Survey Nos. 36 and 37
of Gopanpally village for house-sites to the government employees. In
other words the Government had every occasion to verify the revenue
entries pertaining to the said lands while passing the Government Order
dated 24.9.1991 but no exception was taken to the entries found. Further
the respondents herein filed Writ Petition No.21719 of 1997 challenging the
Government order dated 24.9.1991 and even at that point of time no action
was initiated pertaining to the entries in the said survey numbers.
Thereafter, the purchasers of land from respondent Nos.1 and 2 herein filed
a civil suit in O.S.No.12 of 2001 on the file of Additional District
Judge, Ranga Reddy District praying for a declaration that they were lawful
owners and possessors of certain plots of land in survey No.36, and after
contest, the suit was decreed and said decree is allowed to become final.
By the impugned Notice dated 31.12.2004 the suo motu revision power under
Regulation 166B referred above is sought to be exercised after five decades
and if it is allowed to do so it would lead to anomalous position leading
to uncertainty and complications seriously affecting the rights of the
parties over immovable properties.

In the light of what is stated above we are of the view that the Division
Bench of the High Court was right in affirming the view of the learned
single Judge of the High Court that the suo motu revision undertaken after
a long lapse of time, even in the absence of any period of limitation was
arbitrary and opposed to the concept of rule of law.
Thus, we find no merit in these appeals. Consequently they are dismissed
with no order as to costs.
……………………………J.
(C. Nagappan)
New Delhi;
January 13, 2015.
REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NOs. 325-326 OF 2015

(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) Nos.5029-5030 of 2011)

Jt. Collector Ranga Reddy District

& Anr. etc. …Appellants

Versus

D. Narsing Rao & Ors. etc. etc. …Respondents

WITH

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 327 OF 2015

(Arising out of S.L.P. (C) Nos.5031 of 2011)

The Chairman,

Joint Action Committee of Employees

Teachers and Workers A.P. …Appellant

Versus

D. Narsing Rao & Ors. etc. etc. …Respondents

J U D G M E N T

T.S. THAKUR, J.

1. I have had the privilege of reading the order proposed by my esteemed
Brother C. Nagappan, J. Though I entirely agree with the conclusion drawn
by His Lordship that revisional powers vested in the Joint Collector under
Section 166B of A.P. (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act cannot be exercised
50 years after the making of the alleged fraudulent entries and that the
High Court was justified in quashing notice dated 31st December, 2004
issued to the respondents, I would like to add a few lines of my own.

2. The facts giving rise to the filing of the writ petitions and the
writ appeals before the High Court out of which arise the present appeals
have been set out at length by my esteemed Brother in the order proposed by
him. Narration of the factual matrix over again would, therefore, serve no
useful purpose. Suffice it to say that the dispute in these proceedings is
confined to an extent of 44 acres of land situate in Survey No.36 and 46
acres of land in Survey No.37 of Gopanpally village of Ranga Reddy district
in the state of Andhra Pradesh. The case of the respondents (writ
petitioners before the High Court) was that the said extent of land was
granted by the Jagirdar concerned on Patta to persons in actual cultivating
possession. The Patta was, according to the respondents, recongnised by the
Government, with the result that the names of the holders were shown in the
Khasra Phanis since the year 1954-55.

3. In terms of G.O.Ms 850 Rev. (Asn.III) Dept. dated 24th September,
1991 the Government appears to have allotted an extent of 477 acres of land
in Survey Nos. 36 and 37 of Gopanpally village for grant of house sites to
Government employees. This was followed by a notice dated 31st December,
2004 from the Joint Collector, Ranga Reddy District, whereunder the writ-
petitioners (respondents herein) were asked to appear on 5th February, 2005
to show cause why the Khasra Phani entries in respect of land comprising
Survey No.36 measuring 460.07 acres and Survey No.37 measuring 424.17 acres
situate in the village mentioned above should not be cancelled. Aggrieved
by the Government order and the show-cause notice Writ Petitions No.21719
of 1997 and 1731 of 2005 were filed before the High Court which were
disposed of by a learned Single Judge of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh
by his order dated 15th September, 2009. The High Court was of the view
that the entries in the Khasra Pahani for the year 1954-55 reflected the
names of the predecessors-in-title of the writ-petitioners although
according to the Government the said entries were made fraudulently by the
then Patwari of the village. The High Court further held that since the
entries showing ownership and possession of the writ-petitioners had
continued unchallenged for nearly 40 years before the Government issued
G.O.M.s 850 Rev. (Asn.III) Dept. dated 24th September, 1991 the Government
was not justified in making any allotment in disregard of the same. The
High Court also took the view that the proposed correction of the alleged
fraudulent entries nearly 50 years after the entries were first made was
also legally impermissible even when the revisional power being invoked to
do so did not prescribe any period of limitation. The High Court recorded
a finding that the predecessors-in-title of the writ-petitioners had
registered sale-deeds in their favour and that the State Government or its
officers had not denied that the writ-petitioners or their predecessors-in-
title had remained in possession of the subject land. The High Court held
that exercise of revisional powers, even where no period of limitation is
prescribed, must be within a reasonable period.

4. Aggrieved by the order passed by the High Court the appellants
preferred Writ Appeals No.273-323 of 2010 which were also dismissed by a
Division Bench of that Court in terms of its order dated 8th June, 2010.
The Division Bench relying upon the decisions of this Court in Santoshkumar
Shivgonda Patil and Anr. v. Balasaheb Tukaram Shevale (2009) 9 SCC 352 and
Special Director and Anr. v. Mohd. Ghulam Ghouse and Anr. (2004) 3 SCC 440
held that the proposed correction of the revenue entries 50 years after the
same were made was not legally permissible. The present appeals assail the
correctness of that view.

5. The writ-petitioners, as noted earlier, claim to have purchased an
extent of 90 acres of land in Survey Nos.36 and 37 from the erstwhile
Pattadars recorded in the revenue records. The present dispute is,
therefore, limited to that extent of land only. That being so, if the
notice invoking the revisional jurisdiction under Section 166B of A.P.
(Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act has been not assailed by any other
effected party, we should not be understood to be interfering with the same
qua such persons. Having said that the only question which the High Court
has addressed and which has been elaborately dealt with by it in the
impugned orders is whether revisional powers vested in the competent
authority under Section 166B of the Act aforementioned could be invoked 50
years after the alleged fraudulent entries were made. The contention urged
on behalf of the appellant primarily was that since there is no period of
limitation prescribed for invoking the revisional powers under the
provisions mentioned above, there should be no impediment in the exercise
of the same intervening delay notwithstanding. There is no error much less
any perversity in that view. The legal position is fairly well-settled by a
long line of decisions of this Court which have laid down that even when
there is no period of limitation prescribed for the exercise of any power
revisional or otherwise such power must be exercised within a reasonable
period. This is so even in cases where allegations of fraud have
necessitated the exercise of any corrective power. We may briefly refer to
some of the decisions only to bring home the point that the absence of a
stipulated period of limitation makes little or no difference in so far as
the exercise of the power is concerned which ought to be permissible only
when the power is invoked within a reasonable period.

6. In one of the earlier decisions of this Court in S.B. Gurbaksh Singh
v. Union of India 1976 (2) SCC 181, this Court held that excercise of suo
motu power of revision must also be within a reasonable time and that any
unreasonable delay in the exercise may affect the validity. But what would
constitute reasonable time would depend upon the facts of each case.

7. To the same effect is the decision of this Court in Ibrahimpatnam
Taluk Vyavasaya Coolie Sangham V. K. Suresh Reddy and Ors. (2003) 7 SCC 667
where this Court held that even in cases of fraud the revisional power must
be exercised within a reasonable period and that several factors need to be
kept in mind while deciding whether relief sooner be denied only on the
ground of delay. The Court said:

“In cases of fraud, this power could be exercised within a reasonable time
from the date of detection or discovery of fraud. While exercising such
power, several factors need to be kept in mind such as effect on the rights
of the third parties over the immovable property due to passage of
considerable time, change of hands by subsequent bona fide transfers, the
orders attaining finality under the provisions of other Acts (such as the
Land Ceiling Act).”
8. To the same effect is the view taken by this Court in Sulochana
Chandrakant Galande. v. Pune Municipal Transport and Others (2010) 8 SCC
467 where this Court reiterated the legal position and held that the power
to revise orders and proceedings cannot be exercised arbitrarily and
interminably. This Court observed:
“The legislature in its wisdom did not fix a time-limit for exercising the
revisional power nor inserted the words “at any time” in Section 34 of the
1976 Act. It does not mean that the legislature intended to leave the
orders passed under the Act open to variation for an indefinite period
inasmuch as it would have the effect of rendering title of the
holders/allottee(s) permanently precarious and in a state of perpetual
uncertainty. In case, it is assumed that the legislature has conferred an
everlasting and interminable power in point of time, the title over the
declared surplus land, in the hands of the State/allottee, would forever
remain virtually insecure. The Court has to construe the statutory
provision in a way which makes the provisions workable, advancing the
purpose and object of enactment of the statute”.

9. In State of H.P. and Ors. v. Rajkumar Brijender Singh and Ors. (2004)
10 SCC this Court held that in the absence of any special circumstances a
delay of 15 years in suo motu exercise of revisional power was
impermissible as the delay was unduly long and unexplained. This Court
observed:
“We are now left with the second question which was raised by the
respondents before the High Court, namely, the delayed exercise of the
power under sub-section (3) of Section 20. As indicated above, the
Financial Commissioner exercised the power after 15 years of the order of
the Collector. It is true that sub-section (3) provides that such a power
may be exercised at any time but this expression does not mean there would
be no time-limit or it is in infinity. All that is meant is that such
powers should be exercised within a reasonable time. No fixed period of
limitation may be laid but unreasonable delay in exercise of the power
would tend to undo the things which have attained finality. It depends on
the facts and circumstances of each case as to what is the reasonable time
within which the power of suo motu action could be exercised. For example,
in this case, as the appeal had been withdrawn but the Financial
Commissioner had taken up the matter in exercise of his suo motu power, it
could well be open for the State to submit that the facts and circumstances
were such that it would be within reasonable time but as we have already
noted that the order of the Collector which has been interfered with was
passed in January 1976 and the appeal preferred by the State was also
withdrawn sometime in March 1976. The learned counsel for the appellant was
not able to point out such other special facts and [pic]circumstances by
reason of which it could be said that exercise of suo motu power after 15
years of the order interfered with was within a reasonable time. That being
the position in our view, the order of the Financial Commissioner stands
vitiated having been passed after a long lapse of 15 years of the order
which has been interfered with. Therefore, while holding that the Financial
Commissioner would have power to proceed suo motu in a suitable case even
though an appeal preferred before the lower appellate authority is
withdrawn, maybe, by the State. Thus the view taken by the High Court is
not sustainable. But the order of the Financial Commissioner suffers from
the vice of the exercise of the power after unreasonable lapse of time and
such delayed action on his part nullifies the order passed by him in
exercise of power under sub-section (3) of Section 20”.
10. We may also refer to the decision of this Court in M/s Dehri Rohtas
Light Railway Company Ltd. V. District Board, Bhojpur and Ors. (1992) 2 SCC
598 where the Court explained the legal position as under:
“The rule which says that the Court may not enquire into belated and stale
claim is not a rule of law but a rule of practice based on sound and proper
exercise of discretion. Each case must depend upon its own [pic]facts. It
will all depend on what the breach of the fundamental right and the remedy
claimed are and how delay arose. The principle on which the relief to the
party on the grounds of laches or delay is denied is that the rights which
have accrued to others by reason of the delay in filing the petition should
not be allowed to be disturbed unless there is a reasonable explanation for
the delay. The real test to determine delay in such cases is that the
petitioner should come to the writ court before a parallel right is created
and that the lapse of time is not attributable to any laches or negligence.
The test is not as to physical running of time. Where the circumstances
justifying the conduct exist, the illegality which is manifest cannot be
sustained on the sole ground of laches. The decision in Tilokchand case
relied on is distinguishable on the facts of the present case. The levy if
based on the net profits of the railway undertaking was beyond the
authority and the illegal nature of the same has been questioned though
belatedly in the pending proceedings after the pronouncement of the High
Court in the matter relating to the subsequent years. That being the case,
the claim of the appellant cannot be turned down on the sole ground of
delay. We are of the opinion that the High Court was wrong in dismissing
the writ petition in limine and refusing to grant the relief sought for. We
however agree that the suit has been rightly dismissed”.

11. To sum up, delayed exercise of revisional jurisdiction is frowned
upon because if actions or transactions were to remain forever open to
challenge, it will mean avoidable and endless uncertainty in human affairs,
which is not the policy of law. Because, even when there is no period of
limitation prescribed for exercise of such powers, the intervening delay,
may have led to creation of third party rights, that cannot be trampled by
a belated exercise of a discretionary power especially when no cogent
explanation for the delay is in sight. Rule of law it is said must run
closely with the rule of life. Even in cases where the orders sought to be
revised are fraudulent, the exercise of power must be within a reasonable
period of the discovery of fraud. Simply describing an act or transaction
to be fraudulent will not extend the time for its correction to infinity;
for otherwise the exercise of revisional power would itself be tantamount
to a fraud upon the statute that vests such power in an authority.

12. In the case at hand, while the entry sought to be corrected is
described as fraudulent, there is nothing in the notice impugned before the
High Court as to when was the alleged fraud discovered by the State. A
specific statement in that regard was essential for it was a jurisdictional
fact, which ought to be clearly asserted in the notice issued to the
respondents. The attempt of the appellant-State to demonstrate that the
notice was issued within a reasonable period of the discovery of the
alleged fraud is, therefore, futile. At any rate, when the Government
allowed the land in question for housing sites to be given to Government
employees in the year 1991, it must be presumed to have known about the
record and the revenue entries concerning the parcel of land made in the
ordinary course of official business. In as much as, the notice was issued
as late as on 31st December, 2004, it was delayed by nearly 13 years. No
explanation has been offered even for this delay assuming that the same
ought to be counted only from the year 1991. Judged from any angle the
notice seeking to reverse the entries made half a century ago, was clearly
beyond reasonable time and was rightly quashed.

13. Having said that we must make it clear that we have not gone into the
correctness of the alleged fraudulent entry nor have we expressed any
opinion whether, the quashing of the notice dated 21st December, 2004 would
prevent the State from taking such other steps as may be permissible under
any provision of law. The High Court has, as a matter of fact, made it
clear that the State Government shall be free to take any other steps or
proceedings in accordance with law qua the land in question. That liberty
should suffice for we have examined the matter only from the narrow angle
whether the Khasra Phani entry of 1954-55 could be corrected at this
belated stage in exercise of the revisional powers vested in the competent
authority under Section 166-B of the A.P. (Telangana Area) Land Revenue
Act. That question having been answered in the negative these appeals must
fail and are hereby dismissed leaving the parties to bear their own costs.

………………………………….J.

(T.S. THAKUR)

New Delhi

January 13, 2015

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