No discretion is vested in the prescribed authority to re-determine surplus land by means of Section 31 of the 1976 Amendment Act

Supreme Court: The Court was called upon to the decide the question as to whether ceiling proceedings under U.P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1960 in respect of the land in question have lapsed owing to Section 31 of the 1976 Amendment Act by which a wholesale substitution of various Sections of the principal Act was carried out and the erstwhile scheme of determining surplus “fair quality land” was now substituted by a scheme which determined surplus irrigated land.

Interpreting the expression “may at any time within a period of two years” occurring in Section 31(3) of the U.P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings (Amendment) Act, 1976, it was held that the expression “may” goes along with the words “at any time within a period of two years” as it is clear that on a correct reading of the sub-Section, the prescribed authority has, in every case, to re-determine surplus land if an order determining surplus land has been made before 10.10.1975. A period of two years is given to re-determine surplus land in accordance with the principal Act as amended by the U.P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings (Amendment) Act, 1974 & hence, it is clear that no discretion is vested in the prescribed authority to re-determine surplus land. Surplus land has, in all cases, to be re-determined, as a completely different and new scheme applicable to all lands has replaced the existing scheme.

The bench of Dipak Misra and R.F. Nariman, JJ noticed that the language of Section 31(2) of the 1976 Act makes it clear that every appeal preferred against such orders and pending immediately before the 10.10.1975, shall be deemed to have abated on the said date. Considering the fact that the appeal in the present case was filed prior to the aforementioned date, it was held that it was necessary for the prescribed authority to re-determine surplus land under Section 31(3) in accordance with the principal Act as amended by the 1976 Act, for which purpose, the provisions of section 13 of the principal Act shall apply mutatis mutandis to every order re-determining surplus land under sub-section 3 of this Section or Section 9 of the 1974 Amendment Act vide Section 31(4) of the 1976 Amendment Act. [Arvind Kumar v. State of UP, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 780, decided on 08.08.2016]

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