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Clearing Backlog Of Land Rights Cases

THE backlog of tenancy and mundkarial cases must be speedily cleared. There are 2,717 mundkarial cases pending in the courts of 43 mamlatdars and joint mamlatdars and 509 cases in the courts of deputy collectors or sub-division magistrates. Hundreds of tenancy cases have been pending before competent authorities for decades. Most mundkarial cases were filed under Section 16(1) and Section 8(A) of the Goa Daman and Diu Mundkars (Protection from Eviction) Act, 1975. The largest number (675) of pending mundkarial cases are in the Bardez taluka, which is followed by the Salcete taluka with 662 cases. The least numbers of mundkarial cases (six and four) are pending in Dharbandora and Sanguem talukas respectively. The delay in disposal of the mundkarial cases is neither benefitting the landowners nor the Mundkars.

The disposal of cases filed under the Goa, Daman and Diu Agricultural Tenancy Act, 1964, and the Land to the Tiller Act, 1976, has also been equally extremely slow. Though several amendments were made to the existing land laws to facilitate fast disposal of the cases, they had not worked to achieve the purpose for which they were made. The litigants have been wasting years of their life hoping for a clear order. On the ground that mamlatdars were overburdened with work and hence not able to dispose of the cases, the government transferred the cases to sub-divisional magistrates and thereafter to civil courts, but both the measures failed to clear the backlog. Though the government has been promising to make disposal time-bound, the magistrates and mamlatdars hearing the matter have to go by the legal process, which itself is a cause for delay. The government blames the backlog to shortage of staff, additional duties to presiding officers, such as election and law and order duties, cases being prolonged on flimsy grounds by lawyers and interim orders being challenged in higher courts. A lot of time has been lost in debating the pluses and minus of transfer of cases from one authority to another and in shifting of cases. The government and higher courts have failed to monitor the disposal of cases relating to agricultural tenancy and mundkarial claims. There has been no audit of the cases heard and settled.

Revenue Minister Rohan Khaunte assures tenants would receive justice within a period of three years as pendency of tenancy cases has been considerably reduced. Khaunte also says that the government was in the process of amending the Tenancy Act for providing tenancy rights to the children of the tenants, so that they can become members of tenant associations. Given the fact that the cases have been pending for long the government needs to adopt a single policy to ensure that the cases are disposed of in a time-bound manner. Delay in disposal of the cases has led to illegalities being committed by the disputing parties in one form or the other, leading to more legal cases. There have also been allegations of underhand dealings in deciding the matter. There have also been allegations that cases were selectively settled to the satisfaction of those who had influence or money. As the law is equal for all the government needs to ensure that there was no misuse of power to help some and deny others their legitimateclaims.

The mundkar and tenancy laws were enacted for the benefit of mundkars and tenants and they had expected that justice would be done to them within the shortest possible time. Many of those who approached the courts have been running from pillar to post seeking justice, which has not only eluded them but also made them poorer. On the other hand, there might be landowners entangled in illegitimate claims filed against them. The need clearly is for speedy disposal of the cases, which can determine which side is legitimate and which side illegitimate. The government should amend the laws, if need be, so that admissible evidence and documents are taken on record and matters disposed of within a specified period. The cases which remain inconclusive could be referred to higher authorities for disposal. No adjournments on flimsy grounds should be allowed in course of the hearing the matter, as next dates of hearing usually take weeks, if not months, to come. The government has an important role to play in speeding up the disposal of tenancy and mundkarial cases. They must appoint adequate number of officers and staff. The government must not burden the presiding officers of the courts with law and order, election and such duties.

Categories: Editorial
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