No Remand when there is no basic case to fill the gaps = the High Court noticed amongst others, that the applications filed were all in a cyclostyled form which did not adequately contain the particulars of the lands. That the amendment applications did not contain the required endorsements to indicate the dates on which those had been submitted and taken on record, was noted as well. It took noticed too, that by such amendment applications, an attempt had been made to enhance the duration of cultivating possession of the petitioner from 20-22 years to 40-50 years. It recorded the finding of the Tribunal that except the 7/12 extracts/mutation entries for the year 1982-83 showing the names of 25 persons as cultivators and some mutation entries in the names of the legal representatives of the corresponding original applicants, no other document had been produced. That all the applicants had not examined themselves was marked as well. The High Court recorded that on the basis of the materials available, the Tribunal had disbelieved the contents of the applications submitted in the cyclostyled forms. It noticed the observation of the Tribunal that the documents/records sought to be produced before it (Tribunal) had not been offered in the earlier rounds of enquiry and that too without any explanation. The conclusion of the Tribunal that though there were documents referring to agricultural lands with survey number thereof along with the particulars of the applicants as cultivators but the same were not relatable to the disputed lands was also taken in consideration. 10. The High Court thus, on a scrutiny of the available datas, disapproved the direction of the Tribunal, in spite of its above findings, to remand the matter to the concerned revenue authorities for a fresh round of audit of the rival assertions by allowing the parties to adduce fresh evidence. According to it, if notwithstanding the several arduous bauts of the parties, spanning over three decades, the factum of possession of the petitioners of the plots involved as on the Tiller’s Day, as agriculturists, could not be demonstrated by valid evidence, there was no justification for the remand, as ordered by the Tribunal. The revision petitions filed by the petitioners were therefore dismissed as a whole, decisively affirming for all intents and purposes, the findings of the first appellate authority i.e. Sub-Divisional Officer, Thane, negating the claim of the petitioners.

REPORTABLE

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

S.L.P. (CIVIL) NO. 10706 OF 2014
LALITA RAMESH LASE & ORS. ….PETITIONERS

VERSUS

JAIRAJ KANTILAL SONAWALA & ORS. ….RESPONDENTS WITH

SLP(C) No. 24080/2014
SLP(C) No. 22322/2015
SLP(C) No. 23092/2014
SLP(C) No. 28382/2014
SLP(C) No. 18491/2014
SLP(C) No. 594/2015
SLP(C) No. 28380/2014
SLP(C) No. 22327/2015
SLP(C) No. 22329/2015
SLP(C) No. 28367/2014
SLP(C) No. 28324/2014
SLP(C) No. 18495/2014
SLP(C) No. 18033/2015
SLP(C) No. 36132/2014
SLP(C) No. 22328/2015
S.L.P.(C)…CC No. 11227/2014
SLP(C) No. 28393/2014
SLP(C) No. 28363/2014
SLP(C) No. 21992/2015
SLP(C) No. 28417/2014
SLP(C) No. 632/2015
SLP(C) D. No. 10476/2015
SLP(C) No. 23099/2014
SLP(C) No. 28391/2014
SLP(C) No. 28396/2014
SLP(C) No. 22315/2015
SLP(C) No. 28316/2014
SLP(C) No. 18490/2014
SLP(C) No. 28381/2014
SLP(C) No. 22332/2015
SLP(C) D. No. 22563/2015
SLP(C) No. 22326/2015
SLP(C) No. 18492/2014
SLP(C) D. No. 22559/2015
SLP(C) D No. 1206/2014
J U D G M E N T

AMITAVA ROY, J.

1. Delay condoned.

2. The procrastinated dissension in these Special Leave Petitions under
Article 136 of the Constitution of India has its inception in the dogmatic
claim of the petitioners of’ being tenants in respect of individual
plots claimed to be in their possession and utilized for cultivation, as
envisaged under the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Land Act, 1948 (for
short hereinafter refer to as ‘the Act’). The exercise launched by the
petitioners herein to achieve this elusive distinction is traceable to
applications filed by them and others claiming to be equally placed, under
Section 70(B) of the Act in the office of Tehsildar, Thane for such
declaration. After several ups and downs with reversals in fortunes, the
Maharashtra Revenue Tribunal (hereinafter also referred to as “the
Tribunal”) interfered with the decision of the Sub-Divisional Officer,
Thane Division, Thane and remanded the matter to the concerned tenancy
authority for a fresh round of scrutiny on facts. By the ruling assailed
in the present Special Leave Petition, the High Court of Judicature at
Bombay has set at naught this determination of the Tribunal and has
rejected the claim of the petitioners.

3. Though at the first instance, 124 Special Leave Petitions had been
filed, this Court by order dated 04.05.2016 has dismissed all except 36
therefrom, as only in the surviving special leave petitions, the
petitioners therein had ventured to offer documents in support of their
claim. This was more so, as by earlier orders dated 11.07.2014 and
14.03.2016, the petitioners were required to produce documents to
substantiate their claim of tenancy under the Act as on the Tiller’s Day
i.e. 01.04.1957. Be that as it may, the instant scrutiny, as a corollary,
is limited to the aforementioned 36 special leave petitions.

4. As referred to hereinabove, the petitioners and others claiming
themselves to be tenants in respect of the plots involved did file
individual applications under Section 70(B) of the Act before the
Tehsildar, Thane seeking declaration of their status as such. The
Tehsildar acceded to the prayer made and allowed the applications. Being
aggrieved, the respondents-landlords questioned the tenability of this
decision before the Assistant Collector, Thane by invoking the latter’s
revisional jurisdiction. The Revision Petitions filed by the
respondent/landlords were allowed and the matters were remanded to the
Tehsildar, Thane for a fresh adjudication. Significantly after such
remand, the petitioners and other tenants filed amendment applications
modifying their averment of being in cultivating possession of their plots
for 20-22 years. In their amended pleading, they asserted to be in such
possession for last 40-45 years.

5. The Tehsildar vide his determination made in the year 2001 again
allowed the applications of the petitioners and others holding them to be
protected tenants in respect of the plots involved. In course of such
adjudication, the Tehsilidar made site inspections of the land and also
noted the standing paddy cultivation thereon. This revenue authority also
recorded that the petitioners had been cultivating the plots prior to
01.04.1957. Their status of protected tenants under the Act was thus
declared.

6. The respondents/landlords next took the challenge before the Sub-
Divisional Officer, Thane by filing equal number of appeals, which were
allowed between December, 2002 to 2005 observing that no sufficient
evidence had been adduced by the petitioners and other applicants in
support of their status of tenants.

7. The petitioners and others, in their relentless pursuit moved the
Tribunal for invocation of its revisional jurisdiction. The Tribunal, by a
common order, set aside the orders passed by the two lower forums and
remanded the contest to the Tehsildar to decide the issues afresh by
permitting the parties to lead evidence.

8. The respondents-landlords next invoked the writ jurisdiction of the
High Court to laciniate this adjudication of the Tribunal and to reiterate
by the verdict impeached herein, the impugnment was upheld and the revision
applications filed by the petitioners before the Tribunal were dismissed in
entirety.

9. As the text of the decision oppugned herein would reveal, the High
Court noticed amongst others, that the applications filed were all in a
cyclostyled form which did not adequately contain the particulars of the
lands. That the amendment applications did not contain the required
endorsements to indicate the dates on which those had been submitted and
taken on record, was noted as well. It took noticed too, that by such
amendment applications, an attempt had been made to enhance the duration of
cultivating possession of the petitioner from 20-22 years to 40-50 years.
It recorded the finding of the Tribunal that except the 7/12
extracts/mutation entries for the year 1982-83 showing the names of 25
persons as cultivators and some mutation entries in the names of the legal
representatives of the corresponding original applicants, no other document
had been produced. That all the applicants had not examined themselves was
marked as well. The High Court recorded that on the basis of the materials
available, the Tribunal had disbelieved the contents of the applications
submitted in the cyclostyled forms. It noticed the observation of the
Tribunal that the documents/records sought to be produced before it
(Tribunal) had not been offered in the earlier rounds of enquiry and that
too without any explanation. The conclusion of the Tribunal that though
there were documents referring to agricultural lands with survey number
thereof along with the particulars of the applicants as cultivators but the
same were not relatable to the disputed lands was also taken in
consideration.

10. The High Court thus, on a scrutiny of the available datas,
disapproved the direction of the Tribunal, in spite of its above findings,
to remand the matter to the concerned revenue authorities for a fresh round
of audit of the rival assertions by allowing the parties to adduce fresh
evidence. According to it, if notwithstanding the several arduous bauts of
the parties, spanning over three decades, the factum of possession of the
petitioners of the plots involved as on the Tiller’s Day, as
agriculturists, could not be demonstrated by valid evidence, there was no
justification for the remand, as ordered by the Tribunal. The revision
petitions filed by the petitioners were therefore dismissed as a whole,
decisively affirming for all intents and purposes, the findings of the
first appellate authority i.e. Sub-Divisional Officer, Thane, negating the
claim of the petitioners.

11. Before this Court, in terms of the order dated 11.07.2014,
additional irreconcilable pleadings have been exchanged by the parties in
the special leave petitions, presently under consideration, so as to
identify per se the plots involved by their particulars in the revenue
records with those claimed by the petitioners.

12. Whereas, it has been assiduously urged on behalf of the petitioners
that the High Court, without adverting to the essential and important
aspects addressed by the Tribunal and the reasons cited by it had
interfered with its order of remand and that having regard to the cause of
social justice, which the petitioners seek in terms of Section 70B of the
Act, the enquiry, as directed, ought to be permitted, it has been
emphatically urged on behalf of the respondents that the claims of the
petitioners are expressly false, frivolous and fictitious warranting
summary dismissal of the special leave petitions. It has been insisted on
behalf of the respondents that the petitioners, in spite of several
opportunities granted, had utterly failed to produce any proof, oral or
documentary to establish their status of protected tenants under the Act
and therefore, this protracted controversy ought to be awarded a final
quietus for all times to come. It has been maintained that the original
tenancy applications of the petitioners were on the basis of gut numbers,
whereas the 7/12 extracts/ mutation entries presently produced by them,
contain survey numbers and that one does not correspond to the other. In
course of the arguments, our attention has been drawn to several instances
of the mis-match between the gut numbers and the survey numbers, provided
by the petitioners in respect of the plots claimed by them.

13. Noticeably, in the chart appended by the petitioners to the written
arguments laid for our perusal, the above demurral of the respondents is
writ large on the face thereof. There are several instances in the chart
submitted by the petitioners exhibiting the inconsistencies pointed out by
the respondents. The admission of the petitioners amongst others is also
that wrong gut numbers had been mentioned in the initial applications.
This chart of the petitioners patently demonstrates that though the
original applications were made on the basis of gut numbers, the 7/12
extracts and mutation entries, as mentioned in their additional affidavit,
do refer only to survey numbers. To reiterate, though the petitioners have
sought to relate the survey numbers with the gut numbers, it is hyaline
clear that those do not match in most of the cases with the particulars
referred to in their applications. The explanations offered by the
petitioners on the basis of their possession of the plots involved, in
spite of the above anomalies involved highly disputed and contentious
questions of facts. Having regard to the prolonged backdrop of the
litigation and the several rounds of enquiries already undertaken, we feel
disinclined in the overall fact situation, to interfere with the well
considered decision of the High Court. The petitioners, according to us,
have failed over the years, in spite of several opportunities, to prove
their claim of protected tenants under the Act, by producing consistent
convincing and cogent evidence in support thereof.

14. Judged in the totality of the attendant facts and circumstances, we
are of the unhesitant view that the impugned judgment of the High Court
does not merit any interference. The Special Leave Petitions are thus
dismissed. Cost easy.

……..…………………………………J.
(DIPAK MISRA)

……………………………………….J.
(AMITAVA ROY)
NEW DELHI;
DECEMBER 16, 2016