The Supreme Court said that the trial court ought to have given adequate opportunity to the State.
The appellant State of Karnataka has preferred this appeal assailing the correctness of the judgment and order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court of Karnataka in Regular First Appeal, “The State of Karnataka and another vs. M.A. Mohd. Sanaulla and another” whereby the appeal of the State was dismissed along with a cost of Rs.1 lakh with certain adverse remarks against the State law officer conducting the matter with a direction to conduct enquiry also. The High Court had confirmed the judgment and decree of the Trial Court dated 08.03.2012 passed in OS No.1424 of 2006 whereby suit for declaration, possession and permanent injunction filed by the State- appellant was dismissed.
Advocate Nikhil Goel, appearing for the appellants, submitted that the Range Forest Officer, did not present himself for cross-examination on the date fixed and within a short span the Trial Court by a judgment proceeded to decide the suit with a finding that as Range Forest Officer did not present himself for cross-examination, the State failed to prove that the scheduled land was forest land.
He contended that a reasonable opportunity ought to have been given for producing the Range Forest Officer for cross-examination or in the alternative the State could have produced another witness.
Senior Advocate Sundaram, appearing for the respondent, contended that once the 1936 auction and the subsequent sale deed of 1977 had not been challenged, the suit has been rightly dismissed by the courts below.
He submitted that the auction sale of 1936 was a court sale for recovery of land revenue which also clearly establishes that the Survey No. 69 measuring 43 acres and 24 guntas was not forest land.
The division bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Vikram Nath viewed that the State has been denied adequate opportunity by the Courts below and certain material documents have not been taken into consideration by the courts below as such it would in the fitness of things and in the interest of justice that the matter may be remitted back to the Trial Court.
The court said that in a state machinery, it takes reasonable time to nominate and arrange for another officer to come and give evidence in court. The trial Court ought to have given adequate opportunity to the State.
“The time for producing a witness to prove the plaint averments as also other supporting material ought to have been extended in the interest of justice” the court added.
The court set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court and trial court.
The court remanded the matter to the Trial Court for afresh decision after affording due opportunity of leading evidence to the appellant both documentary and oral and corresponding right of rebuttal to the respondent to lead oral and documentary evidence.
Case title: The State of Karnataka & Anr v/s M.A. Mohamad Sanaulla & Anr.
Citation: CIVIL APPEAL NO(s). 5801 OF 2022