State is the absolute owner of its land even if it has not taken its possession and encroachers cannot be allowed to seek regularisation of colonies on such public land, the Delhi High Court has said.
The high court made it clear that if a land has been acquired by the government and it has not yet taken its possession, still the land is vested with the state pursuant to acquisition proceedings.
The court dismissed the plea of a person who had claimed that the land on which his house was built was never in possession of the government and he had become the owner of the land by purchasing it from another person.
He was dispossessed from the property in south Delhi by the DDA in January 2007.
Justice Valmiki J Mehta said the court cannot permit the argument that the land claimed by the plaintiff is included in the application of a private Residents Welfare Association for regularisation of the colony, so he should be entitled to protection under the National Capital Territory of Delhi Laws (Special Provisions) Act, 2007.
The court noted that the plaintiff was an encroacher of a government land, whose ownership already vests with the state.
The court said if such an argument is allowed, it "would amount to giving licence by courts to persons to go and occupy government lands which are owned by government and thereafter make a colony and seeks its regularisation in terms of the 2008 policy".
An amendment to the NCTD law of 2007 provides protection to slums, unauthorised colonies and illegal structures in the national capital from penal action for a period of three years from January 2018 to December 31, 2020.
According to a 2008 policy, unauthorised colony means a colony/development comprising contiguous area, where no permission of the agency concerned has been obtained for approval of layout plan, and/or building plan.
The court said the object of the 2008 policy and 2007 Act are only to protect development without a layout plan or individual building sanction plan in those areas where acquisition proceedings began and reached the stage of passing of the award.
But, no possession was or could be taken by the government under the Land Acquisition Act because on such lands there had already come up buildings and a colony of buildings prior to taking possession.
It said the citizens cannot argue that they will do mass scale encroachment on government lands and thereafter seek regularisation of encroachment and constructed buildings allegedly on the ground of there existing the 2007 Act and the 2008 policy.
Making clear the definition of 'encroachment' under the 2007 law, the court said it cannot mean encroachment of public land is caused after government has already taken possession and the government becomes the owner pursuant to possession proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act.
"The meaning of encroachment has necessarily to be confined to government land which is acquired by an award passed under the Land Acquisition Act but with respect to such land, possession was not taken under the Land Acquisition Act," it said.
Regarding the suit property, the court dismissed the appeal and refused to agree with the arguments of plaintiff that merely because his land is shown as plot no. 163 in an application filed by RWA of Khirki Extension for regularisation of the colony, he would have protection of the 2007 Act.
The DDA had argued that the suit be dismissed as the land was already acquird and possession was taken by it as per the Land Acquisition Act and the authority was its owner.