“Legal Battle Unfolds: Supreme Court breaks silence on controversies surrounding forest land ownership, review jurisdiction, and title disputes”

Case Title: The State Of Telangana v. Mohd Abdul Qasim (Died) Per LRs 

Case No: SLP (C) No. 6937 of 2021 

Dated On: 18th April 2024 

Quorum: Justice M. M. Sundresh and Justice S.V.N. Bhatti 


Mohd. Abdul Qasim (died) per LRs. was the respondent, and the petitioner was The State of Telangana & Ors. The case concerned Special Leave to Appeal about a final judgement and order that the High Court for the State of Telangana in Hyderabad had issued on March 19, 2021, which was the subject of an appeal. This case merely revolves around the provisions of The Andhra Pradesh Forest Act,1967 (Hereinafter referred as ‘The Act’) 

 On April 13, 2023, the case was set for hearing before Hon’ble Mr. Justice V. Ramasubramanian and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Pankaj Mithal.  The matter was postponed for a period of two weeks as a result of a letter from the respondent’s attorney requesting one.  

Between 1950-1959, a survey revision occurred in Kompally village. Respondent No. 1 filed an application under Section 87 of the Andhra Pradesh (Telangana Area) Land Revenue Act, seeking rectification of survey errors. The suit land, spanning 106.34 acres, was subject to a notification (Gazette No. 85-B) by the State Government under Section 15 of the A.P. Forest Act, declaring it reserved forest. Despite findings, neither the Forest Department nor the Forest Settlement Officer was involved. The Joint Collector later allowed the plaintiff’s application on 07.07.1981, but its benefit remained uncertain. 

Despite a categorical ruling that the suit property was forest land, an instrumentality of the State took different positions, which it eventually corrected by an affidavit submitted to this Court. Due to the respondents’ differing positions, the impugned decision was able to be given in their favour, overturning the concurrent judgements made by two lower courts based on an assessment of fact and law. The Andhra Pradesh Forest Act was passed with the admirable goals of preserving, expanding, and safeguarding the forest cover. It also included a strong dispute resolution process to address any conflicts that may arise and designated certain areas as reserved forest.  

A Forest Settlement Officer is required by the A.P. Forest Act to be an officer of the Revenue Department, not lower than the level of Revenue Divisional Officer. A notification published in the Andhra Pradesh Gazette allows the State government to designate land as a restricted forest. In order to highlight quasi-judicial capabilities, the Act purposefully avoids designating a forest department officer for this position. 



The appellants strongly contended that the Forest Conservation Act defines a “forest” in an extensive manner, encompassing all types of forests. This broad definition would even include private forests within its scope. The implication here is that any land meeting the criteria laid out in the Act could be considered a forest, regardless of its ownership status.  

They emphasised that revenue records alone do not confer title to forest land. In other words, mere entries in official records do not automatically establish ownership. This contention underscores the need to look beyond administrative records and consider other factors when determining land ownership. They asserted that the High Court exceeded its jurisdiction during the review process. Instead of limiting itself to reviewing errors of law, it engaged in a re-hearing, almost functioning as an appellate court. Importantly, it was pointed out that the Respondents failed to establish their title to the disputed land. The High Court’s decision did not address this critical aspect.  



The respondents vehemently assert that the proceedings before the Forest Settlement Officer have attained finality. In other words, any decisions or determinations made during those proceedings should be considered conclusive. According to the respondents, once title is established, possession naturally follows.  

The respondents argue that the High Court’s review was justified. They contend that an error apparent on the face of the record existed, which warranted re-examination. This assertion challenges any perceived misuse of the review process. They emphasize that there was no attempt to obstruct or interfere with the ongoing proceedings. They also contend that there is no apparent perversity in the impugned order. In other words, the decision made by the court does not appear to be unreasonable or contrary to the evidence. By emphasizing this, they discourage any intervention by the higher court. 



  • S.2(f) of The AP Forest Act states the meaning of Forest Officer- “Forest officer” refers to any individual designated by the government or any officer with official authority. 
  • S.10 Claims to certain rights– In cases where the claims pertain to rights in or over land other than those listed below: way, water-course, or water-use rights; pasture rights; or forest produce rights; the Forest Settlement Officer will evaluate the specifics of the claim and, if any, the forest officer’s objections, issue an order either accepting or rejecting the claim in whole or in part and documenting the reasons for the decision.  
  • S.376 Of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908- Any person who feels wronged may request a review of a court decision for good cause or fresh information. 
  • Order XLVII Rule 1 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 provides for Application for review of judgment. 



The court held that this was a classic instance of state officials blatantly abdicating their duty to maintain and preserve the forests as part of their public duties. The court pronounced that they failed to see how the High Court could get involved by relying on evidence presented after the decree, at the request of a party that prevailed alongside the defendant in contest, especially considering that the land is forest land that has been designated as reserved forest.  

The court pointed out 2 instances, or rather, reasons for the lack of jurisdiction, viz,  

  • In relation to an effort to evade the ruling 
  • Acting without jurisdiction 

The court further held that because the plaintiff did not object to the proceedings in accordance with Section 15 of the A. P. Forest Act, the lawsuit is unmaintainable. These are now final and decisive.  

The Court concluded that Due to numerous factual and legal mistakes, the contested judgement is not upholdable under legal scrutiny and thereby, allowing the appeal. 

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Judgment reviewed by- Riddhi S Bhora 

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Bombay HC: The State is ideally a quintessence of justice and a model litigant

Title: State of Maharashtra and Anr. v. Ajay Rajendra Pawar.

Decided on: 23.08.2023

+ REVIEW PETITION (ST) NO. 29872 OF 2019


Facts of the Case:

The court is addressing two review petitions arising from an earlier common order issued on November 28, 2017, related to three writ petitions filed in 2016. The original petitions sought the enforcement of an order from September 9, 2014, in which the Minister of State for Revenue directed the state authorities to refund amounts deposited by the petitioners for leasing sand ghats. The petitioners argued that due to intervening circumstances beyond their control, they were unable to fully excavate the sand ghats, and therefore, the proportionate amounts they deposited should be refunded.


The main issues revolve around the review of the 2014 order by another Minister of State for Revenue in a subsequent order dated July 2, 2019, and the subsequent actions of the state authorities. Additionally, the court examines the discriminatory treatment by the state authorities in implementing the orders for different petitioners.


The original petitioners argued that the subsequent order of July 2, 2019, was passed without jurisdiction, as it reviewed an already final order and was made subject to the result of pending writ petitions, even though no such petitions were pending at the time. They contended that the state authorities complied with the original order despite the subsequent order. The petitioners pointed out that the actions of the state authorities were discriminatory, as they complied with the 2017 order for one petitioner but filed review petitions for the other two.

The court criticized the state authorities for their discriminatory attitude and arbitrary actions, highlighting that the third beneficiary of the 2017 order had been treated differently. The court emphasized that the state, as a model litigant, should not perpetuate inequality and arbitrariness.


The court rejected the request for additional time to obtain instructions from the Advocate General, considering the peculiar circumstances of the case and the injustice that would be done to the original petitioners. The court dismissed the review petitions filed by the state, stating that they should have realized their mistake and implemented the original order dated September 9, 2014, for all petitioners, just as they did for the third petitioner.

The court directed the state authorities to disregard the subsequent order of July 2, 2019, and implement the original order of September 9, 2014, for the two original petitioners. It ordered the state to pay the due amounts to the petitioners within three weeks from the date of the order, and in case of failure, imposed a simple interest rate of 7.0% per annum on the amounts due from November 28, 2017, until the release of the amounts. Additionally, the state was ordered to pay costs of Rs. 5 lakhs to each of the petitioners, which could be recovered from the concerned officers at the state’s discretion.

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Written by- Aparna Gupta, University Law College & Dept. of Studies in Law

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In Most Cases, Women File False FIRs Under POCSO/SC-ST Act Using It As A Weapon To Grab Money From State: Allahabad HC

CASE TITLE: Ajay Yadav vs. State Of U.P. And 3 Others 2023 LiveLaw (AB) 254 [CRIMINAL MISC ANTICIPATORY BAIL APPLICATION U/S 438 CR.P.C. No. – 7907 of 2023]

DECIDED ON: 10.08.2023

CORAM: Hon’ble Shekhar Kumar Yadav,J.


The Allahabad High Court made a remark on Thursday stating that it is regrettable that currently, a significant number of cases involve women submitting untrue FIRs under the POCSO/SC-ST Act with the intention of exploiting it as a means to extract funds from the government. The Court emphasized the need to halt this trend.

The Court highlighted the trend of these baseless FIRs, which are primarily aimed at securing monetary gains from the government. This practice has the harmful consequence of tarnishing the reputation of innocent individuals within the community.


The recent statement from the Allahabad High Court lamented the unfortunate trend where a significant number of women are currently submitting false FIRs under the POCSO/SC-ST Act, utilizing it as a strategy to obtain financial gains from the government. The Court expressed its concern about this practice and emphasized the need for its cessation.

The Court observed that these fabricated FIRs are primarily aimed at extracting money from the government, leading to the detrimental consequence of tarnishing the reputation of innocent individuals within society.

Addressing the prevailing issue of increasing instances of sexual violence, the bench of Justice Shekhar Yadav further remarked, “Considering the widespread and consistently growing occurrences of such acts, I believe that it is essential for both the State of U.P. and the Union of India to recognize the gravity of this matter.” This observation was made while granting anticipatory bail to a rape accused.

The accused was alleged to have committed rape against the victim in 2011, yet the FIR was filed in March 2019, approximately 8 years after the purported incident. In his pursuit of anticipatory bail, the accused’s legal counsel argued that the victim had not provided a reasonable explanation for the significant delay in lodging the FIR. The defense contended that the accused had been falsely implicated in an attempt to harass him, asserting that the alleged incident never occurred as described in the FIR.

The defense also highlighted that the victim herself had admitted to engaging in a physical relationship with the accused, indicating her consent and confirming her age as over 18 years. Additionally, it was brought to the court’s attention that a co-accused had already been granted anticipatory bail, prompting the defense to request the same relief for the accused in question.


After considering the content of the First Information Report (FIR) and the arguments presented by the accused’s legal representative, the Court made an observation that there exist significant inconsistencies in the victim’s statements recorded under Sections 161 and 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.).

The Court also highlighted that according to the details provided in the FIR, it was stated that the accused engaged in a physical relationship with the victim in 2012. However, in the statement given under Section 161 of the Cr.P.C., the victim asserted that the accused had such a relationship with her in 2013.

Given these circumstances, the Court issued a directive specifying that if it is determined that the FIR filed by the victim is unfounded, then a proper inquiry will be conducted and criminal proceedings under Section 344 of the Cr.P.C. will be initiated against the victim. Additionally, the Court mandated that any financial assistance provided to the victim by the State will be reclaimed from her.

In a recent incident last month, the Allahabad High Court imposed a fine of Rs. 10,000 on a woman who openly admitted to submitting a false FIR against four men, falsely accusing them of rape and unnatural sexual acts against her.

The Court further emphasized that the act of filing FIRs containing fabricated and grave allegations of rape cannot be condoned. Such a practice must be handled with a firm approach, according to the Court’s statement, as it necessitates a severe response.

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Written by- Mansi Malpani