Karnataka High Court: Land Tribunal Lacks Jurisdiction in Auction Sale Occupancy Rights Case

Karnataka HC: Land Tribunal lacks jurisdiction in auction sale occupancy rights case. Petition allowed, tribunal's order quashed. Case: Sanganagouda Malipatil v. Bhaghavan Chand.

In a significant ruling, the Karnataka High Court has declared that the Land Tribunal does not possess the authority to entertain applications seeking occupancy rights when the property is sold in auction by a court receiver.

Justice V Srishananda, presiding over a single judge bench, granted a petition filed by Sanganagouda Malipatil and others, challenging the Land Tribunal's decision to grant occupancy rights to Bhaghavan Chand and others.

The court emphasized the supremacy of the civil court in matters pertaining to property rights, stating, "It is crystal clear that the Civil Court is a superior authority than to a Land Tribunal in exercising the right in respect of property." Justice Srishananda highlighted the jurisdictional limitations of the Land Tribunal, stating that it lacked authority to entertain Form No.7 seeking occupancy rights under the Karnataka Land Reforms Act.

The case originated from the insolvency proceedings against Trilokchand Bhandari, the owner of several lands. The court appointed a receiver, who auctioned some of Bhandari's properties. Petitioners successfully bid for the properties, which were duly transferred to them with the court's permission. However, the Land Tribunal later granted occupancy rights to Bhaghavan Chand, prompting the petitioners to challenge the decision.

Despite the tribunal's subsequent affirmation of its decision, petitioners argued that the tribunal failed to understand the application of Section 108 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act. They contended that Chand's participation in the court auction precluded him from claiming tenancy rights over the land.

The bench concurred, noting that a person who purchases property in a court auction does so free from encumbrances. Chand's participation in the auction, coupled with his subsequent pursuit of occupancy rights, constituted an inconsistent stance. The court emphasized that one cannot assert tenancy rights after participating in a court auction.

Referring to Section 108 of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, the bench elucidated on the circumstances where the Land Tribunal's jurisdiction is excluded. It emphasized that when property is under the custody of a civil or criminal court, the tribunal cannot entertain applications for occupancy rights.

Consequently, the court quashed the tribunal's order, ruling in favor of the petitioners. It underscored that properties sold in court auctions, like those purchased by the petitioners, are not subject to the provisions of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act.