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The purpose of a Land Revenue Code is to prevent the exploitation of a tribal in the hands of a non-tribal: Bombay High Court

Section 36A of the Maharashtra Land Revenue Code aims to protect the interest of tribals from being exploited at the hands of a non-tribal. A Collector authorized to grant permit cannot misuse this provision on grounds that are not substantial. A division bench comprising of Justice SJ Kathawalla and Prithviraj Chavan while adjudicating the matter in Kishan Songya Bangara v. The State of Maharashtra & Ors; [WRIT PETITION (ST) NO. 98188 OF 2020] dealt with the issue of exploitation of tribals during dire crisis of poverty.

The petitioner stated that he and his other family members are tribals and owners of a certain piece of land. Since they were in dire need of money, they were looking for a purchaser who interested in purchasing the piece of land they owned.  There is an embargo on the sale of land belonging to tribals, i.e., if a tribal wants to sell his land to a non-tribal, he is required to obtain permission from the Collector and/or State Government. The petitioner made an application to the respondent, who was the concerned collector to obtain the necessary sanction. The respondent kept the application of the petitioner on hold, despite several requests to grant the petitioner sanction. A purchaser was eventually found who was ready to buy the petitioner’s piece of land. However, the required permit was not granted to the petitioner, in response to which the petitioner filed a case.

The petitioner claimed that his family is very large and three sisters of the Petitioner are of marriageable age and in view of the weak financial condition of the Petitioner, he is not in a condition to perform their marriage. There are also school going children to whom the Petitioner wants to give better education but due to his weak financial condition, the Petitioner and his family members are not in a position to do so. Similarly, there are senior citizens in his family who require medical attention, but again because of his weak financial condition, the Petitioner and his family members are not in a position to provide the same to them. All these facts were brought to the notice of the Respondents, which the Respondents have not taken into consideration.

The Court upon considering the aforesaid facts allowed the writ petition and ordered the collector to grant necessary permission to the petitioner. The Bench hence stated that “The object behind framing such a legislation imposing restrictions with regard to the sale of lands belonging to the tribals to non-tribals, is that the tribals being members of the weaker sections of society, have been and can be exploited by taking undue advantage of their financial weakness, their general backwardness and helplessness. Therefore, in our view, since the sole object of the Legislature is to assist and protect the interest of such weaker sections of society from social injustice and all forms of exploitation, the Collector / State Government indeed has to be cautious at the time of granting sanctions. They must ensure that no harm / prejudice is caused to the members of such weaker sections, by rejecting their Applications seeking such sanctions / approvals only on some technical / hyper technical issue/s, without appreciating the immense financial problems suffered by a tribal and his family members.”

Click here to read the judgment.

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