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Writ petition filed after lapse of 14 years is hopelessly barred by delay & laches, SC

The SC on May 6, 2020 {Kapilaben Ambalal Patel & Ors. v. State of Gujarat & Anr.} held that it is difficult to take physical possession of the land under compulsory acquisition.   Further held, that the normal mode of taking possession is drafting the Panchnama in the   presence   of   Panchas   and   taking   possession   and   giving delivery   to   the   beneficiaries   is   accepted   mode   of   taking possession of the land. It was held by the SC that  subsequent thereto, the retention of possession   would   tantamount   only   to   illegal   or   unlawful possession.

It was further observed by the SC Bench, comprising of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar & Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, that the   earlier   part   of   the   writ   petition   deals   with   the   factual background and assertion that the appellants still continue to be in physical possession of the stated land and was using it for agricultural purpose, as can be noticed from the Revenue record. It was held that, indeed, the Revenue record may have presumptive value, but that can be rebutted, which in this case has been done by the respondent­ State by relying on the Possession Panchnama and the subsequent proceedings including the application submitted to the Mamlatdar, Baroda City in right earnest for entering the name of the State Government in the Revenue records, dated 11.4.1986, and pursuant to which entries had been effected on 26.9.1989 and 15.2.2000 respectively.

In the present case, the appeal before the SC took exception   to   the   judgment passed by the Division Bench of the High Court of Gujarat at Ahmedabad, whereby,   the   writ   petition filed by the appellants came to be dismissed   whilst   setting   aside   the   judgment   and   order passed by the learned single Judge of the High Court in the writ petition.

The SC held that Division Bench was right in concluding that the writ petition filed by the appellants after lapse of 14 years was hopelessly barred by delay and suffered from laches. The SC held that it is in agreement with the  view taken by the High Court in the peculiar facts of the present case i.e. the writ petition filed in the year 2001 by the appellants with limited relief of   questioning   the   Possession   Panchnama   dated   20.3.1986, suffered from laches.

The Court held that the present appeal is devoid of merits and the impugned decision of the Division Bench of the High Court ought to be upheld on the threshold ground of writ petition being barred by laches. Accordingly, the appeal before the SC failed. The same was dismissed.

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