NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has dismissed a plea by the Tamil Nadu government against the Madras High Court's decision which quashed the orders setting up anti land grabbing cell in police department and setting up special courts to deal with such cases, as the powers assigned to police officers can be abused in absence of specific law.
A bench of Justices M R Shah and B V Nagarathna pointed out there was no definition of land grabbing and land grabbers in the government orders issued in 2011.
"In absence of any guidelines and/or definition as to which cases can be said to be land grabbing cases, it gives unfettered and unguided and arbitrary powers to the police to treat any land case as a land grabbing case which will be investigated by the Anti Land Grabbing Special Cell," the bench said.
It also noted even a dispute between two private persons which may be under the Specific Relief Act or the Transfer of Property Act may be considered as a land grabbing case.
The state government by its Advocate General challenged the High Court's judgement of February 10, 2015, saying Special Cells were constituted to deal with the specific problem as where large number of complaints were being filed alleging that goondas by using their muscle power have forcibly occupied lands. It also said “Land Grabbing” does not need any specific definition as it related to offences under Sections 447, 420 and 506 of the Indian Penal Code.
On July 28, 2011, the state government sanctioned formation of 36 Anti Land Grabbing Special Cells in the state, one cell each at the State Police Headquarters, seven Commissionerates and 28 Districts to deal with the Land Grabbing Cases in the State.
On August 11, 2011, it directed for transfer of the Land Grabbing Cases to the Special Courts, constituted exclusively to deal with such cases.
After going through the notifications, the court, however, said the concerned police officers have been granted discretion to treat any case relating to land as land grabbing case without proper definitions.
"As such there is no Anti-Land Grabbing Act in the State of Tamil Nadu like AP Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 1982 or Karnataka Land Grabbing Prohibition Act, 2011 or similar Land Grabbing Prohibition Acts in other States. It is required to be noted that in the other Land Grabbing Prohibition Acts applicable in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat and Assam, “Land Grabbing” is specifically defined. Even the term “Land Grabber” is defined," it pointed out.
The top court said the High Court has rightly held that in absence of any specific guideline and definition of “land grabbing cases,” such powers can be abused or misused and exercised arbitrarily.
The court, however, clarified the state government was free bring an appropriate law and the present order would not come in their way.