The High Court of Bombay passed a judgement on 04 May 2023 in the realm of land development and town planning, legal provisions play a crucial role in ensuring fair and efficient utilization of resources. The case of MANDAKINI RUPRAO KHANGAR & ORS. VS. THE STATE OF MAHARASHTRA & ORS. IN WRIT PETITION NO. 1700 OF 2019 which was passed by the division bench comprising of HONOURABLE SHRI JUSTICE R.D. DHANUKA & HONOURABLE SHRI JUSTICE SHRIRAM MADHUSUDAN MODAK. One such provision is the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966, which governs the planning and development of areas in the state of Maharashtra, India. Under this Act, the concept of “lapsing of reservation” holds significance in determining the fate of reserved lands.
The case revolves around a plot of land owned by the petitioners in Mohpa, Tahsil Kalmeshwar, District Nagpur Maharashtra, India. Originally, the land was reserved for a weekly market and shops under a development plan published in 1973. However, the authorities failed to take any action to acquire the land for the intended purpose within the specified time frame. Frustrated by the lack of progress, the petitioners issued a purchase notice, contending that the reservation on their land had lapsed due to the inaction of the authorities. They argued that since no acquisition had occurred within the prescribed period, they were entitled to sell the land for any purpose. On the other hand, the respondents challenged the validity of the purchase notice, claiming that it was premature. They pointed to a revised development plan that had been published, which still reserved the land for the same purpose. Therefore, they argued that the purchase notice was invalid. The main question before the court was whether the purchase notice was valid under Section 127 of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act. This provision set a ten-year period within which the reservation on the land should be implemented. The court had to interpret the provision and consider the impact of the revised development plan on the validity of the purchase notice.
The primary question before the court was whether the legal fiction of lapsing of reservation, as provided under Section 127 of the Act, would apply in this case. The landowners contended that since more than ten years had passed since the publication of the original development plan in 1973, the reservation should be deemed to have lapsed. They argued that the revised development plan published in 2012 should not affect the counting of the ten-year period.
On the other hand, the respondents argued that the purchase notice issued by the landowners was premature. They contended that the ten-year period should be reckoned from the date of the revised development plan in 2012 and not from the date of the original plan in 1973. They also pointed out that the landowners themselves had been inactive for more than ten years after the initial plan.
After considering the arguments put forth by both parties, the court examined the relevant provisions of the Maharashtra Regional and Town Planning Act, 1966. Section 127 of the Act states that if land reserved for a specified purpose is not acquired within ten years from the date of publication of the final development plan, the owner or any interested person can issue a purchase notice. If the land is not acquired or no steps are taken for acquisition within twenty-four months from the date of the notice, the reservation is deemed to have lapsed.
The court interpreted the Act and its provisions to conclude that a revised development plan, issued under Section 38 of the Act, becomes the final development plan. Therefore, the ten-year period for the application of Section 127 would start from the date of publication of the revised plan. The court emphasized that the reservation would not automatically lapse unless a valid notice is issued under Section 127.
Considering these findings, the court dismissed the petition, stating that the purchase notice issued by the landowners was premature, as it was served after the revised development plan but before the expiry of ten years from its publication. The court upheld the continuation of the reservation and emphasized that a valid notice is necessary to release land from reservation after the ten-year period.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY VETHIKA D PORWAL, BMS COLLEGE OF LAW