SASIDHARAN Vs. DISTRICT COLLECTOR
HIGH COURT OF KERALA
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CHANDRASEKHARA MENON,J. -
(1.) ON the basis of a report and mahazar prepared by a Village Officer and forwarded to the Tahsildar,Kottarakkara,a Land Conservancy case numbered as L.C.82/71 was taken against one Issac Pappachan and two others.The case was persons named in the report and mahazar encroached upon on the Government land in Survey No.457/1A of Mylom village and cut and attempted to remove four black wood trees standing thereon.The report showed that this Issac Pappachan was the instigator of this cutting and six other persons were named therein who had taken part in this operation.The three persons including Pappachan to whom notices under section 12 of the Land Conservancy Act had been issued appeared before the Tahsildar and seems to have filed statements denying the charge against them and at the same time accusing the present petitioners who are personnel belonging to the Revenue Department as those who were involved in the cutting of trees.
(2.) NOTICES were then issued to the petitioners in what is prescribed as the B form under the Act.The notices were under section 12 of the Act.They appeared before the Tahsildar who recorded their statements.They denied having any knowledge of the occurrence.
It might be stated here that the petitioners were neither given the copies of statements taken from those who are alleged to have accused them of the offence or even an extract or summary of the allegations contained therein.After recording of the statements,without any further enquiry into the matter,the Tahsildar passed an order holding the petitioners along with the other defendants in the case guilty of the accusation made against them and directed realisation of three times the value of the trees cut which was fixed at Rs.5,601 from the petitioners as well as the other accused in the case.Ext.P -3 which is the copy of the said proceedings of the Tahsildar would indicate that the Tahsildar had recorded statements from seven persons.The petitioners contend that these statements were taken behind their back and they were not informed about the contents of these statements.The petitioners were,it is further alleged,not afforded any opportunity,to controvert the allegations made against them in these statements.They were riot allowed to cross - examine those persons.
(3.) THE petitioners were not,it is stated,even served with the copy of this Order.They came to know of it only when the Tahsildar issued notice to them in Form C calling upon them to remit the amount awarded as damages as per Ext.P -3.They then appealed before the Revenue Divisional Officer,who dismissed the same.In regard to the contention that the order of the Tahsildar was vitiated by violation of the rules of natural justice the appellate authority said that the Tahsildar need only comply with rules provided under the Land Conservancy Rules.How that Authority had approached these questions could best be pointed out by extracting the following passage from his order. The records would show that the appellants who were given an opportunity did not take pains to adduce evidence against the materials gathered by the Tahsildar.There is no force in the argument that the burden to supply the appellants with the materials gathered was with the Tahsildar.Actually the ball was in their court and the appellants should have realised that the Tahsildar had strong evidences against them.They have failed evidently to probe deeper,presumably taking things in a lighter vein.I can only say that the omission on the part of the appellants in not having taken up the opportunity given to them when they were served with a B form notice cannot be made good at this stage.;
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