|DATE OF JUDGMENT
|March 03, 2022
|High Court of Punjab and Haryana
|State of Punjab and Ors.
|Hon’ble Justice Rajbir Sehrawat
This case revolves around a land dispute between brothers, Joginder Singh and Major Singh, who were co-sharers in a piece of land along with their third brother. At the time of partition, a passage was left so that the complainant and the third brother can approach their land. The key issue is whether the petitioners, Joginder Singh and his associates, committed an offense by encroaching upon a passage allegedly designated for the complainant, Major Singh, and their third brother, during an oral family partition 40 years ago. The case hinges on the validity of the oral partition and the concept of exclusive possession within a joint ownership structure. The legal arguments raise questions about the enforceability of oral agreements in land matters and the rights of co-sharers in shared land. The outcome of the case will have implications for similar land disputes and the recognition of informal family arrangements.
FACTS OF THE CASE
- Initially, Joginder Singh, Major Singh, and their third brother were co-sharers in the land.
- 40 years ago, they verbally partitioned the land, leaving a passage for Major Singh and the third brother to access their respective shares.
- In May 2020, Joginder Singh and his associates dismantled the passage and encroached upon its land, allegedly blocking access for Major Singh and their third brother.
- Major Singh filed an FIR for trespass and criminal force under Section 447 IPC. The police investigated, filed a challan, and the trial court framed charges against the petitioners.
- The petitioners filed a petition challenging the FIR and subsequent legal proceedings.
- Whether the petitioners’ actions constitute the offense of criminal trespass under Section 447 of the Indian Penal Code.
- Whether the oral family partition carried out 40 years ago is valid and legally binding.
- Whether the petitioners, as co-sharers in the original land, had the right to encroach upon the designated passage.
CONTENTIONS OF APPEALENT
- The land is not legally partitioned, hence they are co-sharers in joint possession of the entire land, including the passage.
- As co-sharers, they have the right to enter any part of the land, including the passage, and the FIR is invalid.
- The complainant does not have exclusive possession and ownership of the disputed land (passage) necessary for Section 447 to apply.
CONTENTIONS OF REPONDENT
- Police investigation found the passage existed for 40 years, indicating a valid oral family partition.
- Each brother has exclusive possession of their respective shares, including the passage for Major Singh and the third brother.
- The petitioners’ encroachment violates the oral partition and constitutes trespass under Section 447.
The petitioners themselves admitted to the court that they shared ownership of the disputed land. The fact that the petitioners are solely growing their portion of the land has not even been contested. As such, the complainant’s claim that the oral partition had occurred seemed likely. At best, this would be a contentious matter of fact, even if the petitioners’ claim is to be taken into account. To end the FIR proceedings, a quashing petition filed under Section 482 Cr. PC may be filed, however even disputed points of fact cannot be decided upon or even heard. The petitioners have presented a solitary argument arguing that, as co-sharers, they are entitled to every inch of land in the joint ownership of all co-sharers. However, this overly technical argument betrays the petitioners’ intention, as they are attempting to assert their ownership over the co-sharers’ land in addition to their exclusive possession of a portion of land that they claim to be cultivating. Thus, in no way did the petitioners have the authority to invade the land of passage. They were not allowed to take the law into their own hands and were free to use legal remedies if they had any claims.
This judgment has both social and legal implications that could impact land ownership disputes, conflict resolution, and the recognition of informal land rights. While it upholds individual rights, it also encourages peaceful resolution and reliance on legal mechanisms, potentially promoting greater social harmony and respect for the law. The judgment highlights the validity of oral partitions, which are common in rural communities but often lack formal documentation. This could raise awareness of the need for legal recognition and documentation of such arrangements to prevent future disputes. By discouraging encroachment and emphasizing legal remedies, the judgment encourages individuals to resolve disputes through established channels, potentially reducing social tensions and violence over land ownership.
The petitioners’ own statements and actions strongly suggest an oral partition of the land had taken place. Their claim of exclusive cultivation of their share supports this inference. Even if the petitioners deny the partition, the court considers it a disputed question of fact unsuitable for resolution in this quashing petition under Section 482 Cr.PC.The petitioners’ claim of exclusive possession over part of the land contradicts their argument of complete joint ownership. This inconsistency reveals their intent to extend their ownership beyond their designated share. Regardless of the partition, the petitioners have no right to encroach upon the land of passage, which belongs to all co-sharers. The court emphasizes the importance of seeking legal solutions for any disputes regarding land ownership, instead of resorting to self-help and potential encroachment.
This Article is written by Abraham Mutazu, law student at Lovely Professional University ; Intern at Legal Vidhiya.