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PTI

Orissa High Court has directed a tehsildar to plant 50 trees as punishment for imposing a fine on an illiterate woman without hearing her case properly.

The court of Justice Biswanath Rath recently asked the tehsildar of Kakatpur in Puri district to plant the trees along the roads in any sector in Cuttack Development Authority (CDA) area.

Tehsildar Biranchi Narayan Behera had taken suo motu action against the woman, Mita Das, for allegedly squatting on a 0.08 acre 'gochar' (grazing) land in Balana village and building a kuccha house, and issued her an eviction order on September 15 last year besides imposing a penalty of Rs 1,000.

Hearing a petition filed by the woman's lawyer, Justice Rath observed that the tehsildar had passed a "bizarre" order without giving an opportunity for a hearing. Her friends had directed the woman to the lawyer.

"For the matter is heard involvement of the tehsildar claiming bona fide action involved herein, to see no repetition of this nature of order by such authority in the state of Odisha, this court directs the tehsildar to plant at least 50 numbers of tree needed to be planted in roadside in any sector in the CDA area," the court order stated.

The tehsildar had taken action against the woman under the Orissa Prevention of Land Encroachment Act.

The woman's lawyer said that the petitioner being illiterate, was not aware of the law involved, and the tehsildar should have given an opportunity to her to file show-cause.

The tehsildar's counsel said that he had held the woman as encroacher after due assessment.

"When a proceeding is initiated under a statute, it has a definite purpose for more consideration, particularly, when the matter involves encroachment. The tehsildar should not have rushed to decide the matter on that date itself.

"Looking at the nature of the case and for the involvement of eviction of a person from his residence, the tehsildar has a responsibility to find whether the encroacher is an educated and law knowing person or not. Further, the tehsildar has to see if the encroacher belongs to weaker section or is a person downtrodden in the society having not even sufficient income to take aid of counsel," Justice Rath said in the order.

The court said the tehsildar had no disclosure on particulars of land, no assigning of reason and conclusion before holding the person as an encroacher in the final order. While holding as encroacher no opportunity was provided to the person to have statutory appeal remedy.

It found that there has been mechanical disposal of the encroachment proceeding. It remitted the matter back to the tehsildar with a direction to the petitioner to appear before the tehsildar on May 27 or May 30 along with its show cause and the tehsildar to give opportunity of hearing by fixing a date for it and pass a reasoned order.

The court also ordered that a copy of the order be communicated to the principal secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management Department and principal secretary to Law Department for making an endeavour to ensure that such mistakes are not repeated by tehsildars across the state and restrict loading of such cases to the high court involving unnecessary litigation.

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