RESTRICTION ON URCHASE OF SCHEDULE CASTES GRANT PROPERTY

In a Democratic Country, welfare of the poor, depressed, have-nets is one of the concerns of the Government. To mitigate the suffering of such people government often grants land, so that they cultivate the land and earn their livelihood and imposes restriction on transfer of such granted land for certain period to ensure that the desired welfare objectives are not defeated. Members of Scheduled Castes and Schedule Tribes are the most exploited.

As discussed many times the sale and purchase of agricultural land in Karnataka has various restrictions. Government of Karnataka has put more severe restrictions on transfer of lands granted to Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes. The relevant legislation is ‘The Karnataka Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes (prohibition of transfer of certain lands) Act’ 1978 and Rules 1979This is a social agrarian legislation to empower the down trodden and also prevent their exploitation. This act has overriding effect and takes control of all granted lands, irrespective of law under which they were granted be it under Karnataka Land Reforms Act, Karnataka Land Revenue Act, Mysore Land revenue Code, or those of erstwhile provinces like Bombay, Coorg, Hyderabad, Madras and prohibits transfer of such lands without the permission of the Government. This Act has come into force from 01.07.1979. However, the Act covers lands granted even before the commencement of the Act.
Granted land, is any land granted by the Government of Karnataka to the person belonging to any of the Schedule Castes or Schedule Tribes.
It also includes lands granted to such persons under any relevant law in force for time being pertaining to agrarian reforms, land ceiling abolition, of Inams except those relating to hereditary offices or rights, that is the lands granted under hereditary offices like thoti, Neeruganti etc., which are not covered under this act.
The Presidential orders 1950, under articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution of India have proclaimed the state-wise list of Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes. The list has relevance to the State in which the members of the community reside. A caste categorized as Schedule Caste in one State may not be so in another State. Persons who do not follow the religion of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhists, are not deemed as members of scheduled castes.
The Act prohibits not only sale but also any type of transfer of land, without prior permission of the government. The word transfer as used in this act encompasses sale, gift, exchange, mortgage, lease or any other similar transaction. It prohibits the mortgage whether with or without possession. It includes creation of charge, or an agreement to sell, exchange, mortgage. But partition among family members and disposition by will are not covered. Transfer of granted land to another member of Schedule caste or tribe is a violation of this Act.
Section 4 of this Act is more crucial and important. It spells out that transfer of any land granted before commencement of the Act or after, in contravention of terms of grant is null and void, which means such transfer is inoperative. The transferee will not get legally valid title or interest right to such property. Further, it clearly mandates that any transfer of granted land needs prior permission of Government. Permission of the Government is also necessary for sale of the land in execution of any decree or order of  a civil court or any authority. This makes it very clear that any transfer of granted land even after complying with terms of grant needs the prior permission of Government. Even entering into agreement to sell needs prior permission of the Government.
 The land might have been granted free of cost, or at reduced price (up set price). Reduced price means the price based on land revenue and not market price. In many cases, the grantee that is the person to whom the land was granted will be asked to pay price equal to land revenue of some years. It has been held in one case that prohibition of non- transfer of land can be imposed only in case of lands granted free of cost or reduced (up set) price. Land granted on receipt of market price is sale and not grant. But it is advisable to obtain permission from the Government for purchase of any type of grant land from members of Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes.
I. The grantee shall not transfer the land for a period of 15 years from the date of taking possession.
2. The land should be brought under cultivation within three years from taking possession.
3. The grantee shall cultivate the land personally.
4. The land shall be used for the purposes for which it was granted and any change of use requires prior
permission of the Government.
5. The grantee shall plant within a period of one year one tree for every ten guntas or 10 trees for one hectare.
The land may be granted not only for agricultural purpose but also for constructing residential accommodation with restrictions on transfer. Though the restrictions on transfer of the granted land are 15 years, the government may permit the transfer after a lapse of five years depending upon the circumstances and the needs of the grantee. The procedures for grant of lands are governed by Karnataka Land grant Rules 1969. Transfer of any type of lands granted to the members Scheduled Castel Tribe requires prior permission of the government.
As stated earlier the transferee will not get any legally valid title, interest, right in such property. Further the Government, represented by the Assistant Commissioner, after an enquiry may take possession of such land; by evicting the persons who are in possession of land.
After taking the possession of such transferred grant land the Government restores the land to the
original grantee or his legal heirs. If it is practically not possible to restore such land to the rantee or legal heirs, the land will vest with government free of all encumbrances.
The Government may grant such land to any other member of Schedule Caste or Schedule Tribe eligible for grant. If the enquiring authority finds that the transfer of land has not violated any provisions of the Karnataka Schedule Caste and Schedule Tribes Act 1978, orders will be passed accordingly.
The Government has g powers to initiate action by the mere fact that the granted land is in the possession of the persons other than original grantee or his legal heirs. It is not necessary that the original grantee or his legal heirs to lodge the complaint. Any interested person or on information provided by any person or the government on its own may initiate action. The Act also provides for appeal by the aggrieved persons.
who has lost the possession of the land purchased. He may appeal to the DeputyCommissioner having jurisdiction within three months from the date on which order of Assistant Commissioner was communicated to him. Deputy Commissioner has also powers to condole the delay in preferring appeal, if satisfied about the cause for delay. Deputy Commissioner will dispose the case based on merits. TheAct prohibits the registration of any document of transfer of such granted land without compliance of the provisions of this Act that is without prior permission of the government.
Every registering office will be provided with a list of granted lands falling in its jurisdiction. However, this prohibition will not apply to transfer of granted land in favor of State Government, Central Government, local authority or bank.
What is more serious is the punishment prescribed for acquiring the land granted to the Schedule Castes and Schedule Tribes in violation of the provisions of this Act, that is without prior permission of the Government and in contravention of terms of grant. Such transferee on conviction may be punished with imprisonment up to six months or fine up to two thousand Rupees or both. Following are some of the important judicial verdicts pertaining to the Act.
[!] Unless proved otherwise, if a person other than grantee is in possession of the granted land, it has
to be presumed that the land is transferred and it is null and void (ILR 1997 (I ) KLR 474.
[!] Possession by a trespasser will not amount to transfer under the Act (lLR 2002(2) KAR2431.
[!] Alienation to bank is not prohibited (ILR2002 (3) KAR 3780.
[!] Alienation of granted land in form of mortgage without prior permission of the Government is void (2000(2) KLR SN21)
[!] When authority-granting land has not imposed the condition of alienation, the authority issuing Saguvali chit” cannot impose such condition (ILR 1999(1) KAR 261.
[!] To avail the advantage of adverse possession, such possession should be for thirty years prior to the Act coming into force 1999(5) KLJ732. Whether the grant is for upset price or otherwise the prohibition is applicable 1991(1) KLR 373
[!] Only when land was granted free or at reduced price, the only non- alienation condition can be imposed
(1996(3) KLJ34 DB).
[!] If the transferee has made some improvements he cannot claim compensation on eviction (1992(4)
KLll.
Though the acts is socio-agrarian legislation in its action, aimed at improving the social and economic status of the members of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes, the chances of its misuse is not rare. Many grantees, legal heirs sell the granted lands to innocent people, who are unaware of the provisions of this Act, and later on claim that such transfer as null and void. Though ignorance of law is no excuse, the government should also educate the public and land records like RTC. RRPR etc should clearly indicate the nature of the land and restrictions on its transfer.
But the RTC or RRPR never discloses this prohibition. Though there is prohibition on registration of such land in the Act, there is no punitive provision for violation by sub- registrars.
Many registering officers register the transfer of such granted land many times in connivance with the seller.
The ultimate victim will be the innocent purchaser who loses the property and money and is also at risk of facing imprisonment and fine. Any social legislation should ensure that equity, justice is meted out to all and a fine balance is struck.
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