04 March 2020
Supreme Court


Case number: C.A. No.-006319-006319 / 2009
Diary number: 26061 / 2008





PATRAM                    …APPELLANT(S)



J U D G M E N T  

Deepak Gupta, J.

The short question involved in this case is whether the land

in occupation of the appellant(s) is ‘shamilat deh’ land within the

meaning of the Punjab Village Common Lands (Regulation) Act,

1961 (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Act’) and vests in the village

common body.  The land in question is situated in Haryana and,

therefore, for the purpose of this judgment we shall be referring

to the Act as amended and applicable to the State of Haryana.



2. The contention of the appellant(s) is that the land in dispute

though  ‘shamilat’ land,  is  actually a  patti  in possession of the

appellant(s) and his ancestors for more than a century and is not

being used for the common purposes of the village and, therefore,

does not fall within the definition of ‘shamilat deh’ land.   

3. In India, land is said to be the true basis for the unity in a

village, supplying the ultimate bond between the residents of the

village who collectively are known as the village community.

When settlers went to new areas and cleared forests or turned

barren lands into cultivable lands, certain portions of the land

were left for common use such as charand land used for grazing,

lands used for wells, watercourses, land used for common

purposes  and also for  extension of the  village  residential  area

normally known as the abadi.  These lands which were reserved

for common purposes were jealously guarded and were in

essence the common property of the original settlers and those

who had helped them after clearing the waste and bringing the

land under cultivation.  The following observations from Chapter

X, which has the heading ‘The Village Common Land

Introduction’ of Sir W.H. Rattigan’s ‘A Digest on Civil Law for the



Punjab’, which is the one of the finest treaties on customary law

of Punjab, are relevant:

“….Lands so reserved are jealously guarded as the common property of the original body of settlers who founded the village or of their descendants, and occasionally also those who assisted the settlers in clearing the waste and bringing it under cultivation are recognized as having a share in these reserved plots.  Even in villages which have adopted separate ownership as to the cultivated areas, some such plots are usually reserved as village common, and in pattidari  village.   It is  not unusual  to  find certain portions of the waste reserved for the common use of the proprietors of each patti, and other portions for common village purposes, the former is designated shamilat­patti and the latter shamilat­deh.”

4. Over  period of time, the cultivable areas  were separated

amongst  the different owners and  in view of the caste  system

which was then extensively prevalent, separate areas in the

village or in different hamlets were provided for different

communities based not only on caste or religion but sometimes

on professions also.   To give an example, the weavers would be

put in  one  area, the  potters in  another  area etc.  Each such

division was called a patti.   

5. This brings us to the definition of ‘shamilat deh’ in Section

2(g) of the Act.  The relevant portion reads as under:



“2. Definitions. – in this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,­ xxx    xxx xxx (g) “shamilat deh” includes­

(1) land described in the revenue records as  Shamilat deh or Charand excluding abadi  

deh; (2) shamilat tikkas; (3) land described in the revenue records as  

shamilat, tarafs, patties, pannas and  tholas and used according to revenue  records for the benefit of the village  community or a part thereof or for  common purposes of the  village;

(4) xxxx (4a) xxxx (5) xxxx

but does not include land which­

(i) becomes or has become shamilat deh due  to river action or has been reserved as  shamilat in villages subject to river action  except shamilat deh entered as pasture,  pond or playground in the revenue

records; xxx xxx  xxx

(v) is described in the revenue records as  shamilat taraf, pattis, pannas and thola  and not used according to revenue records for the benefit of the village community  or a part thereof or for common purposes

of  the village; xxx xxx xxx

6. The case of the appellant(s) is that for more than a century

he and his ancestors held a patti which has never been used for

the common purpose of the village and has been cultivated by

them.  This land has never been used for common village purpose



and in terms of Section 2(g) of the Act cannot be included in the

definition of ‘shamilat deh’.   The land continues to be shown in

the possession of the appellant(s) or his ancestors in the

Jamabandis  from the year 1915­1916 till date.   The earlier

entries in the column of ownership which read as ‘Shamlat Patti

Dhera & Khubi’  were replaced by the entry ‘Panchayat Deh’.

Aggrieved, the appellant(s) approached the Collector, Bhiwani

challenging the change of entry in the column of ownership.  The

appellant(s) lost before the Collector, Bhiwani as well as the

Commissioner, Hisar Division.  He then filed a writ petition in the

High Court of Punjab and Haryana, which was rejected with the

following reasoning:

“While examining the first contention raised by the counsel for the petitioner, as has been noticed in the forgoing paragraph, it is necessary to refer to clause (3) of Section 2(g) of the Act extracted hereinabove, which expressly  treats “shamlat”, “tarafs”, “pattis”, “pannas” and “tholas” as separate and distinct, while describing the nature of the land.   Whereas, the exception under clause (v) of the proviso under section 2(g) of the Act notices, “shamlat taraf”, “pattis”, “pannas” and “thola” as falling with the exception.  As  per the revenue record of the  year 1907­08, the land under reference has been described as “shamlat patti”.  It does not, therefore, fall within the term “shamlat taraf”, “pattis”, “pannas”  and  “thola”  as  has  been  incorporated  in the exception because “shamlat patti” is not excluded under the clause relied upon by the learned counsel.  It is, therefore, not possible for us to accept that the land under reference falls within



Clause  (v)  of the proviso under section 2(g)  of the Act.”

7. The aforesaid judgment was delivered on the basis that

whereas in clause (3) of Section 2(g), there is a comma after the

word ‘shamilat’, there is  no such  comma  in sub­clause (v) of

clause (5) of Section 2(g).   We had requested the parties to

provide us the original Gazette notification and the definition as

quoted by us above is in accord with the Gazette notification.

8. The issue for consideration is whether the word ‘shamilat’

has to be read with taraf, patti, pannas, and tholas or only with

taraf  in sub­clause  (v)  of  clause  (5)  of  Section 2(g).  We must

understand what is meant by the terms ‘taraf’, ‘patti’, ‘panna’ and

‘thola’.  To understand this distinction, one must also understand

what is ‘shamilat deh’ land.  The word ‘shamilat’ basically means

‘held in joint possession and undivided lands which are part and

parcel of a village’.   When these lands are held commonly by a

village proprietary body, they are described as ‘shamilat deh’


9. ‘Taraf’, ‘patti’, ‘panna’ and ‘thola’ are different terms  but

have a common strain or similarity running through them.



These descriptions are of land of a group of villagers based on

clan, caste, sect, area, etc.   In  British India, the village  was

divided into different  pattis/sections based upon caste, religion,

occupation, etc. of the persons residing in the village.   Patti is

described as division of land into separate portions or strips in a

village.  These locations are known as pattis.  After independence

since the caste system has been constitutionally abolished, these

classifications refer to different hamlets/clusters where villagers

reside in groups irrespective of their caste.  This may be true in

law but not in fact, because unfortunately even today, in most

villages, ghettoization continues and the people of different

communities, castes and religions live in their earmarked areas

or  pattis.  Patti is  basically, therefore,  a  small  division of the

village. The terms ‘taraf’, ‘panna’ and ‘thola’ may be different but

are akin to  patti  and also deal with community of villagers

residing separately.   Therefore, they have virtually the same


10. If  we  accept that there is  virtually  no  difference  between

‘taraf’, ‘patti’,  ‘panna’  and ‘thola’  then the task of interpretation

becomes much easier.   It is also apparent that a  patti  can



normally be created out of the shamilat  land only when a group

of people enjoy some portion of the land out of the bigger

common shareholding that is a patti.  The definition of ‘shamilat

deh’ in  Section  2(g) of the  Act includes  all lands  descried  as

‘shamilat deh’ or charand excluding abadi  land.  In clause (3) of

Section 2(g) there is a comma after the word ‘shamilat’ whereas

such comma is missing in sub­clause (v) of clause (5) of Section

2(g).   We are of the view that there seems to be an error rather

than a deliberate non­use of the comma.   We are of this view

because clause (3) provides that land  described  as ‘shamilat’,

‘tarafs’, ‘patties’ ‘pannas’ and ‘tholas’, are to be treated as

‘shamilat deh’ land only if they are used for the common purpose

of the village.   This clearly implies that if the land described as

‘shamilat’,  ‘taraf’,  ‘patti’,  ‘panna’ and ‘thola’ were not being used

for the common purpose, it would not fall within the meaning of

‘shamilat deh’.   

11. Clause (v) is the  negative  portion of the  definition  which

provides that certain lands will not be treated as ‘shamilat deh’

and these  are those land  which  have  described  as ‘shamilat’,

‘taraf’, ‘patti’, ‘panna’  and ‘thola’ in the revenue record and not



used according to the revenue record for the benefit of the village

community or a part thereof or for the common purpose of the

village.   In our view, the absence of the comma after the word

‘shamilat’ is not of any great significance.  In fact, it appears that

the comma has been left out by mistake.  We may also note that

we find that in various publications, there is a comma between

the words ‘shamilat’ and ‘taraf’.   However, there is no comma in

the official  publication  in  the Gazette  notification.  Keeping  in

view, what we have held above, it appears to us that the absence

of a comma is a mistake and in fact according to us, a comma

should be read after ‘shamilat’ and before ‘taraf’ in the latter part

of the section also.   The word ‘shamilat’ has to be read with all

four­ ‘taraf’, ‘patti’, ‘panna’ and ‘thola’.   A land can be ‘shamilat

deh’ only if it is ‘shamilat taraf’, ‘shamilat patti’, ‘shamilat panna’,

or ‘shamilat thola’.  In case the word shamilat is missing from any

of these four terms, then the land cannot be said to be belonging

to a group of people and could never become ‘shamilat deh’ land.

12. The purpose of the section which defines ‘shamilat deh’  is

that the land described as ‘shamilat’,  ‘taraf’,  ‘patti’,  ‘panna’ and

‘thola’ not used for the benefit of the village community will not



be treated as ‘shamilat deh’.   Clause (3) of Section 2(g) is

identical.  The purpose  is  that the land which is described  in

revenue records as  ‘shamilat’, ‘taraf’, ‘patti’, ‘panna’  and  ‘thola’

and used for the benefit of the entire village community or a part

thereof only  would vest in the village proprietary body.   The

words ‘part thereof’ have been used with a specific purpose in the

background of the meaning of  patti which we have dealt with in

detail above.   Even if the land is being utilised for the common

purpose of the inhabitants of that ‘taraf’, ‘patti’, ‘panna’ and

‘thola’, it would be  ‘shamilat deh’  even if  it is not used for the

benefit  of the entire  village.  However, if the  land  is not  used

either for the benefit of the entire village or for the part of the

village community which comprises the  patti  then the land,  in

our opinion, cannot be said to be ‘shamilat deh’ land within the

meaning of Section 2(g).

13. From the revenue records produced, we find that the land

has been shown as ‘Shamlat  Patti  Dhera  & Khubi’.   ‘Dhera &

Khubi’  are the ancestors of the appellant(s).   The possession is



shown as that of  proprietors/self­cultivators and an entry was

made in favour of the  Panchayat Deh  in 1987­1988.   The land

was always shown to be ‘Shamlat Patti Dhera & Khubi’ and in the

cultivation of the appellant(s)  or  his  ancestors.  Moreover, the

land was never shown to be used for the benefit  of  the entire

village community or even for a part of the community.   

14. In view of the above, we have no hesitation in holding that

the land cannot be described as  ‘Shamilat Deh’  and, therefore,

would not vest in the village proprietary body.   Accordingly, we

allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the High Court

dated 03.07.2008 and the orders of all the authorities below.  The

name of the appellant(s) be entered in the column of ownership

with the entry ‘shamlat patti’.

15. Pending application(s), if any, shall stand(s) disposed of.  No

order as to costs.   



……………………………..J. (L. Nageswara Rao)

…………………………….J. (Deepak Gupta)

New Delhi March 04, 2020