The Bombay High Court has directed the Collector of Mumbai Suburban District to look into the allegations made in a PIL about encroachment on 450 acres of ‘Khoti land’ in suburban Mulund.
Under the provisions of law, ‘Khoti land’ is described as a property owned by zamindars or landlords.
The direction was given recently by a bench headed by Chief Justice Dr Manjula Chellur and Justice M S Sonak, who asked the Collector of Mumbai Suburban District to treat the public interest litigation (PIL), filed by activist Bhushan Samant, on the ‘Khoti land’ issue as a representation and decide upon it within four months.
“It would be just and proper for us to direct the respondent to consider the representation of the petitioner and make an enquiry with reference to the factual situation and dispose of the matter within the specified time frame (of one month) since the petitioner’s grievance is that his application is pending since last more than one year,” the bench observed.
“After the department concerned takes a final call on the representation of the petitioner, it would be just and proper for us to consider whether there is application of mind on the part of authorities in analysing the factual situation vis-a-vis the law relied upon by the petitioner,” it said.
“In view of the matter, we are of the opinion that this is not the stage for us to opine regarding the nature of land and so also on consequential reliefs sought upon in the PIL,” the judges said in their order.
According to the petitioner, there is encroachment by trespassing on these lands.
However, the court felt that mere description of these lands as ‘Khoti’ may not allow anyone to say that it is in the hands of unauthorised occupants unless there is application of mind vis-a-vis facts of a particular case with reference to the provisions of law.
“In order to contend that there is unauthorised occupation of these lands after the Khoti land Abolition Act, several factual ascertainment exercise has to be undertaken. By placing the information under the Right to Information Act, we cannot straightway come to a conclusion that the petitioner is entitled to reliefs sought upon,” said the bench.