Farmhouse not to occupy more than 10% of agricultural land: Karnataka HC

Just how is a farmhouse different from a regular house or building? Farmhouses do not require conversion of land and many used the loophole to construct commercial buildings. A Tahsildar thus ordered a ‘farmhouse’ to be demolished as he found it could only be used as a commercial building. The High Court of Karnataka, which heard the case, detailed out the legal provisions by which a construction on agricultural land can be considered a farmhouse.

GS Siddaraju, a resident of Davangere, approached the HC against the order of the Tahsildar who had directed on July 5, 2016, the demolition of a building he had put up on agricultural land in Avaragere village. It was also directed that expenses incurred for removal be recovered from Siddaraju. The Tahsildar had issued notice to Siddaraju earlier in August 2015.

The total extent of agricultural land was 5 acres 18 guntas and the construction spread across 150 sq mtrs. The allegation was that the construction put up by Siddaraju “was not of a farmhouse, but of a building for purposes other than agriculture.” Siddaraju had approached the HC last year when a similar order was passed by the Tahsildar and the court had directed that the Tahsildar consider the matter afresh. Once again, the Tahsildar had issued orders for demolition. This time, the Tahsildar had obtained reports from the Public Works Department and the Department of Agriculture. Considering the extent of the construction and the amount of Rs 22 lakh spent on it, it was considered as “illegal construction” and against the provisions of the Karnataka Land Revenue Act.

Siddaraju contended that the Tahsildar obtained the reports “behind the back of the petitioner (Siddaraju)” and did not furnish a copy to him. Just because the construction was relatively huge, it does not cease to be a farmhouse, his counsel argued.

The government advocate pointed out that under Section 95 of the Act, a farmhouse “shall not be more than 10% of his holding” and a farmhouse means “a house attached to a farm and construction in a portion of agricultural land, used for the residence of the agriculturist or for purpose of keeping agricultural equipments and tethering cattle.” Further, “the house shall be used by the farmer for his own use and it shall not be let out for commercial activities to any individual or agency.”

The HC in its judgement agreed to the contentions of the government advocate and also noted that as per law, no application for conversion of land use is to be filed for erecting a farmhouse.

However, the Tahsildar’s order for demoliton was “not preceded by a fair and reasonable opportunity given to the petitioner by supplying copies of the reports,” he had obtained from other authorities about the nature of the construction. The court said that the Tahsildar had erred by not furnishing the copies of the reports of the Agriculture Department and the Public Works Department to Siddaraju who could have provided his rebuttal to the contents.

The court said that “merely because the construction put up is big, it cannot be held that the construction loses the characteristic of a farm building.” In the reports obtained by the Tahsildar, there was no finding that it was let out for commercial use to anyone. So, the inference that the construction was huge and would be used for commercial activities was not justified. The order of the Tahsildar was set aside and the matter sent back to him with the direction to consider it afresh by providing an opportunity to Siddaraju as well as another party who was seeking a share in the property.

Credits Bangalore Mirror

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