A division bench of the Gujarat High Court Wednesday granted bail to a septuagenarian arrested under the provisions of the recently enacted Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act.
The relief comes a day after a division bench, led by Justice Sonia Gokani, set aside a five-day police remand order passed on January 15 by a special court, constituted under the Act, against 72-year-old Ahmed Patel, in Ahmedabad.
The bench had directed that Ahmed be produced before the high court Wednesday after his son, Raees Patel, filed a habeas corpus petition. Ahmed was produced virtually through the Mirzapur court and permitted to go home after the Gujarat HC’s intervention.
The petitioner, represented by senior advocate Mihir Joshi and advocate Muhammad Isa Hakim, had submitted that his 72-year-old father was in legal possession of a land parcel since 1987. The original owner of the land, one Harish Ambalal Seth, had transferred the land to two others in 1984 by way of registered agreement to sale, who in turn had “transferred, conveyed and assigned their rights by registered agreement to sale” to Ahmed and four others in 1987, the petition said. In 2006, after Harish’s death, his son Pranav Seth was mutated in the revenue records by way of inheritance.
Pranav raised an objection to Ahmed’s possession of the land and initiated proceedings under the Gujarat Prohibition of Transfer of Immovable Property and Provision for Protection of Tenants from Eviction from Premises in Disturbed Areas Act, 1991, otherwise known as Disturbed Areas Act, in 2018.
In a separate petition, filed by Ahmed before the Gujarat HC, challenging the proceedings initiated by Pranav, it was submitted that the Disturbed Areas Act came into effect in 1991 while the land transfer took place in 1987, thus making it ineligible to apply the Act retrospectively.
On January 13, Pranav filed a complaint against Ahmed under the provisions of the Gujarat Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act subsequent to which Ahmed was detained and then arrested on January 14. He was produced before a court by January 15, wherein the court remanded Ahmed to police custody for five days. This was, however, stayed by the Gujarat HC on January 19.
The key argument made in the case was the principle of adverse possession wherein it was highlighted that Ahmed had been in legal possession of the land since the last 33 years and it is only now that criminal cases are being lodged “surreptitiously”. It was submitted that “without having raised any legitimate claim to title nor any legal challenge to the possession of the father of the petitioner (Ahmed) over the said land for a period of 33 long years, the complaint under the Land Grabbing Act is an attempt to make a back-door entry in the said land, as all claims towards the said land are barred by the law of limitation.”
On Wednesday, the bench, led by Justice Gokani, while suspending the police remand order, also noted that “in absence of any civil litigation for recovery of possession of the land in wake of Section 27 of the (Extinguishment of the Rights of the Property)… read with Article 65 (of the Law of Limitation) and also noticing the provisions of the Land Grabbing Act”, read with earlier Supreme Court judgments, it is only appropriate that the police authorities explain themselves. A notice was issued and is expected to be responded to by next week.
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