MOHIT KUMAR SHAH,J. -
(1.) With the consent of the parties, all the aforesaid writ petitions have been taken up for hearing together since the same involve same and similar issues as also common question of law and are being disposed off by this common judgment.
(2.) The petitioners of the aforesaid writ petitions have challenged the action of the Collector, Patna, who has issued the impugned letters, whereby and whereunder the lease deeds of the petitioners have been cancelled and it has been directed to resume possession of the land in question along with the structure present over the same.
(3.) The learned counsel for the petitioners have not only challenged the mode and manner in which the lease of the petitioners have been cancelled but have also submitted that any resumption of the lease hold property can only be through the due process of law i.e. by approaching the Civil Court of competent jurisdiction and even if the period of lease has expired or the lease stands cancelled, yet the status of the lease holder would be juridical in nature. It is also submitted that the leases in question being perpetual leases cannot be subject to any interference by the respondent-State. It is further submitted that the leases in question have created a vested legal right in the lease holders to the exclusion of others and the contractual obligations casted on the parties to the lease would bind the parties until the lease is determined by a competent forum. It has also been canvassed that the impugned letters issued by the Collector, Patna cancelling the lease deeds in question as also directing for resumption of possession is bad in law inasmuch as no opportunity has been granted to the leases to rectify the breach, if any, hence on this ground also, the impugned action of the Collector, Patna is bad in law and is fit to be set aside. Some of the learned counsels for the petitioners have also argued that in some cases no notices have been issued by the respondent authorities before cancelling the lease deed, hence the letter issued by the Collector, Patna stands vitiated on the ground of non-compliance of the principles of natural justice. Lastly, the learned counsel for the petitioners have relied on a judgment rendered by this Court, reported in 2021(1) BLJ 5 (Shri Sanjay Singh vs. Patna Municipal Corporation), paragraphs no. 73 to 80 whereof are reproduced herein below:-
'73.The aforesaid provisions of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 would show that determination of a lease has to take place as per the provisions contained under Section 111 of the Transfer of Property Act and any resumption of possession of the lease lands can only be done by taking recourse to the due process of law i.e. necessitating an eviction decree and execution thereof, however, there can be no forcible dispossession contrary to the law by assuming powers that the law does not vest in the Corporation in a relationship of lesser or lessee or sub-lessee. Thus, before exercising the right of resumption of possession of a leased land, lease is required to be first determined under Section 111 of the Transfer of Property Act and only thereafter, resumption of possession of a leased land can be done by taking recourse to the due process of law.
74. It is a well settled law that since the lease is a creation of the Transfer of Property Act, the same can only be cancelled and the possession of the plot can be resumed only by invoking the jurisdiction of the competent civil court by filing a suit and not by an executive order passed either by the Patna Municipal Corporation or by the Empowered Standing Committee, hence, on this ground as well, the impugned orders are fit to be set aside. Reference in this connection be had to the judgment rendered by the Hon'ble Apex Court in the case of Express Newspapers (P) Ltd.vs. Union of India, reported in (1986) 1 SCC 133.
75.It is equally a well-settled law that when a property/ plot has been leased by a statutory authority, the Transfer of Property Act will squarely apply and therefore, any resumption of the possession of the leased lands can only be through the process of law necessitating an eviction decree and execution thereof and there cannot be any forcible dispossession, contrary to the law. Reference be had to a judgment reported in (2011) 3 PLJR 268 (Naintara Sharma and Anr. vs. the State of Bihar and Ors.).
76.In fact even a trespasser cannot be dispossessed without following the due process of law. Reference be had to a judgment reported in AIR1968 SC 620(Lallu Yeshwant Singh v. Rao Jagdish Singh).
77.I would like to refer to a judgment dated 21.12.1994rendered by the Hon'ble Division Bench of the Patna High Court in the case of GAIT Public Library and Institute through its President vs. The State of Bihar and Ors.(CWJC No. 2671 of 1994), reported in (1995) 1 PLJR 585,paragraphs no. 11 to 17 and 27 to 29 whereof are reproduced herein below:-
'11. From the facts, as stated above, it is clear that the lease of the Petitioner expired in the year 1945 and as such at present there is no valid lease existing with regard to the land in dispute.
It is an also admitted position that prior to the passing of the impugned order and resumption and taking possession of the land,the same was in possession of the Petitioner. Even after expiry of the time of the lease the Government granted aid to the Petitioner from time to time and appointed its nominee in the Managing Committee of the Petitioner (see Annexure-15 series and 16).
12. The only question which has to be answered in this case is as to whether the Respondent's action in resuming and taking possession of the land under Rule 21 of the Bihar Government Estates (Khas Mahal) Manual has any sanctionin the eye of law.
13. In the case of Midnapur Zamindary Co.Ltd. v. Naresh Narayan Roy, 51 Ind App.293 at page 299 it was held by the Privy Council that 'In India persons are not permitted to take forcible possession; they must obtain such possession as they are entitled to through a Court'.
14. In the case of Krishna Ram Mahale(dead) by his L.Rs. vs. Mrs. Shobha Venkat Rao : A.I.R 1989 S.C. 2097, it was held that it is well settled in this country that where a person is in settled possession of property,even on the assumption that he had no right to remain on the property, he cannot be dispossessed by the owner of the property except by recourse to law.
15. In the case of State of U.P. and Ors. vs. Maharaja Dharmander Prasad Singh etc. :A.I.R., 1989 S.C. 997, it was held that though in exercise of power under Section 225 of the Constitution of India the Court cannot go into question as to whether forfeiture and cancellation of the lease is valid or not, it was observed that a lessor, with the best of title has no right to resume possession extra judicially by use of force, from a lessee, even after the expiry or earlier termination of the lease by forfeiture or otherwise. The use of the expression re-entry in the lease deed does not authorise extrajudicial methods to resume possession. Under law, the possession of lease,even after the expiry or its earlier termination is juridicial possession and forcible dispossession is prohibited; a lessee cannot be dispossessed otherwise than in due course of law.
16. In Civil Appeal No. 1024 of 1967 Mohan Lal v. The State of Punjab, disposed of on25.11.69 the Apex Court speaking through Hegde, J, observed that under our jurisprudence even an unauthorised occupant can be evicted only in the manner authorised by law. This is the essence of the rule of law. It was also observed that a person in unauthorised occupation of the suit premises can invoke the jurisdiction of the High Court under Articles 226and 227 of the Constitution, if they are being evicted in a manner not authorised by law.
17. Thus, it is clear that if the lessee has remained in possession even after the expiry of the lease his possession is juridicial possession and he can be evicted only according to the procedure known in law. He cannot be evicted forcibly or in any manner not authorised in law.
No doubt, if there is a forfeiture and cancellation of the lease the matter cannot be agitated under Article 226 of the Constitution as the determination on the said point requires investigation as to factual matters and the writ application would not be an appropriate remedy but even after cancellation of forfeiture of the lease the lessor can take possession only in a manner known or recognised by law. He cannot take possession by adopting a manner not authorised by law.
27. By the impugned order the State has attempted to take possession of the land in a purported exercise of Rule 21. It has no applicability in the case and as such the impugned order has no sanction in law and has to be quashed. The action of the Respondent State and the Collector and his Subordinate officers in taking forcible possession on the basis of the said order is also unauthorised. As stated above, the Petitioner is continuing in possession for more them 70 years over the land and has constructed building and the same is being used as a library and institute and for some other purpose also. Even after the expiry of the lease its possession is juridical one and that can be taken away only by the process known in law.
The Respondents have no authority in law to resume and take possession of the land by virtue of an order which stated above is nonest in the eye of law. Accordingly, the impugned order is quashed and it is held that the act of the Respondents in taking possession of the land in question is unauthorised and arbitrary. In view of such high handed act on the part of the State and its officers this Court with a view to maintain majesty of law has to pass an order for restoration of possession of the Petitioner.
28. Accordingly, the impugned order contained in Annexure-7 is quashed and the Respondent Collector is directed to hand over the possession of the premises and all books with regard to which inventory has been prepared in pursuance of the order passed by this Court to the Petitioner within three weeks from today.
29. In the result the application is allowed with the aforesaid observation. In the facts and circumstances, Respondents are directed to pay a cost of Rs. 10,000/- to the Petitioner. The amount of cost should be spent by the library for purchasing books for the children.'
78. Thus the contention of the Ld. Counsel for the respondents to the effect that since the petitioners have violated the terms and conditions of the lease deed in question inasmuch as not only a portion of the lease land has been transferred but the petitioners have also engaged in making construction for commercial purposes, hence, the lease in question has been rightly cancelled and the possession of land/under construction building has been validly resumed by the Municipal Commissioner, Patna Municipal Corporation, is misconceived and fit to be rejected, moreso in view of the Law laid down by the Hon'ble Apex Court in the cases of Express Newspapers(P) Ltd. (Supra), Lallu Yeshwant Singh (Supra),Krishna Ram Mahale (dead) by his L.Rs. (Supra) and State of U.P. and Ors. v. Maharaja Dharmander Prasad Singh (Supra).
79. The reliance of the Ld. Counsel for the respondents on a Judgment reported in (2018) 4 PLJR 411 (SC) [Dalip Singh& Ors. vs. State of Haryana and Ors.] is also misplaced inasmuch as the same is not only distinguishable but has also got no applicability in the facts and circumstances of the present cases, apart from the fact that the said case pertains to allotment of industrial plot and is not a case of a registered lease and moreover, allotment has been made under a scheme for achieving rapid industrial growth under the provisions of Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) Act, 1977. In fact under Section 17 of the HUDA Act,1977 itself the power of resumption has been expressly vested in the estate officer unlike the present cases where the power to resume lies with the lessor i.e at present the Patna Municipal Corporation and there being no delegation made in this regard to the Municipal Commissioner, he is not competent to pass an order of resumption or determination of lease.
80. Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case and for the grounds mentioned herein above, this Court finds that the impugned orders dated 16.07.2014, 01.08.2014 and 28.11.2014 passed by the Commissioner, Patna Municipal Corporation, whereby and whereunder the Commissioner, Patna Municipal Corporation, has directed for resuming the possession of the premises in question along with the under construction building, is illegal, beyond the power vested with the Commissioner, Patna Municipal Corporation, de hors the provisions of law, as referred to herein above by this Court and contrary to the due process of law as also antithetical to the Law laid down by the Hon'ble Apex Court, hence, the order dated 16.07.2014 passed in Vigilance Case No. 118A of 2013, the order dated 01.08.2014 passed in Vigilance Case No. 99A of 2013 and the order dated 28.11.2014passed in Vigilance Case No. 97A of 2013, by the Commissioner, Patna Municipal Corporation, Patna are set aside. Consequently, the respondent Patna Municipal Corporation, Patna is directed to hand over the possession of the premises in question along with the building constructed thereupon, to the petitioners forthwith.' ;