SC stays criminal prosecution of occupants of tribal land

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday stayed the Bombay High Court's July 29 order for criminal prosecution of the non-tribal farmers of Rajguru Nagar, Khed, in Pune district, for occupying the tribals' land through fraudulent transactions, misappropriation of sale of land and attempt to cheat the tribals to deprive them of their lawful property rights and compensations.

The Bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and MR Shah agreed to stay part of the High Court order [paragraph 95 (xi) to (xiv)] for registration of the criminal cases against 15 petitioners only on an undertaking by their counsel that Gautamsheth Kisan Wadve and others shall withdraw all pending writ petitions, suits and appeals and file affidavits in this regard before it.

It agreed to the submissions by their senior counsel Shyam Divan that they want to give "quietus" to the entire dispute by withdrawing all proceedings undertaken by them against the tribals with regard to the land in question.

Issuing a limited notice with regard to the High Court's directions for the criminal prosecution, the Court ordered further listing of the case after eight weeks. The computer-listed date for the next hearing is November 6.

The division bench of Justices Anuja Prabhudesai and A A Sayed of the Bombay High Court had ruled in favour of tribals in the critical land acquisition case and asked the sub-divisional officer (SDO) of Khed, Rajguru Nagar, to file FIR against those who tried to acquire the tribals' property through fraudulent means and upheld his decision to reject the non-tribals' claim over the tribal land.

After the state government notified land for an industrial park in Rajguru Nagar in 2006, the petitioners had bought development rights of hundreds of acres of land from the tribals that was acquired by MIDC for the industrial park. In 2017, a gazette notification was issued to implement the park and finalised compensation of Rs 1.37 crore per acre, which the petitioners wanted to be paid to them. The SDO, however, rejected their claims and issued compensation orders in favour of the original tribal owners of the land.

The non-tribal occupants of the land resorted to a large number of suits and writ petitions to challenge the SDO's decision, but they failed in the High Court which upheld the SDO's decision.

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