Himachal Pradesh High Court has upheld the provisions of HP Ceiling on Land Holdings (Amendment) Act, 1999 and insertion of section 7A seeking a complete ban on transfer of whole or part of land under a tea estate by way of contract, agreement, custom or usage.
A division bench comprising Chief Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice R B Misra said it is not a case of taking away exemption retrospectively but it would be a matter of re-determination of the total holding of the person concerned as on the appointed day.
Kangra Valley Small Tea Planters Association and others had challenged the provisions on the ground that Himachal Pradesh Ceiling on Land Holdings Act exempts tea estates from application of the Act.
Section 6A introduced by the amended Act stipulates that if the tea estate is put to other use than raising or maintenance of tea plantation, it is treated as surplus area and deemed to have been acquired by the state government for a public purpose on payment of amount determined under section 14 of the principal Act.
The court observed that the purport of the provision is not only of withdrawal of exemption given to land used as tea estate, but also withdrawal of concession given to the land owner at the time by excluding it from his total holding for determining the permissible ceiling area.