Take back village land gifted to NGO: Himachal court

Shimla, Aug 14 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh High Court has held as illegal the transfer of 25 acres land to an NGO by a panchayat 47 years ago for constructing a public library on the village's common land.

The court, in an order made available Wednesday, directed the state government to take back the land from NGO Servants of People Society which had not done any construction on it in the last four decades.

Disposing of a petition filed in 2004, which challenged the gift deed of Sep 19, 1966 executed by gram panchayat of Rachhialu in Kangra district, a division bench of Chief Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Justice Kuldip Singh asked the state to vest the land.

"No prior approval of the government by way of general or special order had been obtained before execution of the gift deed. The gift...is void ab initio," the bench said in the order delivered Monday.

"Once it is held that the gift is void, ab initio, the natural consequence is that the society has no title over the land covered by gift deed and the land shall vest in the government...," the court said.

Counsel for the NGO contended that the gift could not be challenged after the passage of a long time.

"It has come on record that even after decades of gift the society did not fulfil its alleged commitment for construction of a public library and a hall on the land gifted to it by the panchayat," the court said.

"The conduct of society compels us to take the view that the society under the garb of construction of a public library and a hall in the memory of late Lala Lajpat Rai secured gift of 25 acres which was not even required by the society," the judges said.

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