By LE Desk
Hyderabad, May 5: The Telangana High Court has found fault with the Medak district collector and other officials in conducting a survey and inspection in the lands of Jamuna Hatcheries, which belongs to the family members of former minister Etela Rajender, without issuing notices or intimation to them. The court said that the action was a clear violation of Articles 14, 19, 21 and 300-A of the Constitution, and Section 153 of the Telangana State Land Revenue Act.
“There is no provision of law which is shown to the court under which the district collector has conducted a detailed survey and filed a report. The only reason shown is that a complaint was received against the petitioners stating that assigned lands have been encroached by the petitioners,” the high court said, as reported by the Deccan Chronicle.
These observations were made by Justice Tadakamalla Vinod Kumar on Tuesday while hearing a house motion petition filed by Jamuna Hatcheries Private Limited, represented by its director Etala Nithin and his mother E. Jamuna. The petition was against trespassing by the Medak district collector and other revenue officials into their lands in Hakimpet and Achampet villages of Medak district and conducting the survey without issuing notices to them.
The petitioners urged the court to direct the authorities to not take any coercive steps against them based on a report prepared by the officials, which stated that the petitioners had encroached on 66 acres of assigned land.
Responding to the officials’ hotfoot in preparing a report within 24 hours by conducting a survey and enquiry on allegations, Justice Tadakamalla Vinod Kumar wondered if the Chief Secretary, collectors and other officials showed similar quick response to all complaints, which came to their notice.
“If so, what the authorities have acted on the complaints about violations of GO111. Have the authorities never received complaints, which are grievous to it?” Justice Vinod Kumar asked.
Stating that prima facie there has been a serious violation of the principles of natural justice and also non-adherence of the provisions of the Telangana State Land Revenue Act, Justice Vinod Kumar suggested, “If the government finds any violations and illegalities of encroachment of assigned lands by Jamuna Hatcheries, then go ahead at the front gate, not go by the back gate by violating the rule of law and using the force,” Justice Vinod Kumar observed.
Amazed at the 42-page report submitted by the officials within 24 hours of an order for enquiry issued by the Chief Minister of Telangana, the judge said, “When the Chief Secretary has directed the collector to conduct an enquiry, vis-a-vis, when the collector had ordered a tahsildar to conduct survey and inspection? At what time, the tahsildar gave back the report by inspecting the site and conducting a survey? When did it reach the collector? Is it possible within one hour? What Mr Advocate General, in your long service, have you ever seen this swinging response from the state machinery,” Justice Vinod Kumar asked Advocate-General B.S Prasad, the Deccan Chronicle said.
Replying to the questions posed by the Judge, the advocate-general said the allegations were made against the minister. So an immediate report was asked.
The Advocate-General, however, said that it was a preliminary report and a summary report will be prepared by following the due process of law. Mr Prasad said there was no embargo in law or the Revenue Act, which restricts the collector or revenue officials of designated rank to enter into agriculture lands owned by individuals or the government to inspect.
Reacting sharply to the contentions of the A-G, the judge questioned as to which law empowers the collector or his officials to go directly into private properties to conduct inspections and to erect boards stating that the land belongs to the government, without hearing the affected parties.
“The Constitution ensures every citizen has something called freedom or fundamental rights, they cannot be breached by authorities. If so, how can it be tolerated,” Judge said.
While reading the report of the district collector, which says that a detailed and full survey has been conducted, the Judge wondered as to how could the District Collector conduct a detailed survey of 120-odd acres of land in a single day. “Even if it is a digital survey, a person has to go for the survey by holding a digital compass on the land,” the Judge asked.
Explaining that the experience of conducting a physical survey of 18 acres of land owned by him, the Judge said, “the report of the District Collector indicates that he might have conducted the survey by sitting in his car and going around the land and prepared an enquiry report while sitting in his room.”
Mr D. Prakash Reddy, senior counsel appearing for Jamuna Hatcheries, opposed the contention of the A-G, who informed the court that the report of the district collector is preliminary in nature. The senior counsel insisted that no law permits an official to hold a preliminary enquiry, without putting the petitioner on notice.
After lengthy arguments and considering oral undertaking by the Advocate-General that the officials would proceed further by following due process of law, the court directed the district collector, Medak, to follow the procedure of relevant laws on the complaints received against the lands pertaining to Jamuna Hatcheries in Hakimpet and Masaipet villages of Medak district.
The court has further directed the Director-General of Police, Director-General, Vigilance and Enforcement, ACB and Medak Superintendent of Police against taking any coercive steps against the petitioners.
The court also issued notices to the Chief Secretary, Medak District Collector, Toopran RDO, Masaipet mandal revenue officer directing them to file their responses to the contentions raised by Jamuna Hatcheries within four weeks and adjourned the hearing to July 6.