What is the Bihar and Orissa Public Demands Recovery Act of 1914?
The Bihar and Orissa Public Demands Recovery Act of 1914 is a law that was enacted by the British colonial government to facilitate the recovery of public dues from defaulters in the provinces of Bihar and Orissa. The act provides a procedure for filing and executing certificates of public demands against the properties of the debtors. The act also defines what constitutes a public demand and who can file a certificate for it.
A public demand is defined as any arrear or money payable to the government or any local authority or any other person authorized by the government. Some examples of public demands are land revenue, taxes, fees, fines, penalties, rents, royalties, compensation, damages, etc. A certificate for a public demand can be filed by a Collector or any other officer authorized by the government. The certificate must specify the name and address of the debtor, the amount and nature of the demand, and the date from which it became due.
Once a certificate is filed, a notice and a copy of the certificate must be served on the debtor within 30 days. The debtor can either pay the amount or file an objection within 30 days of receiving the notice. If no objection is filed or if the objection is dismissed, the certificate becomes conclusive and can be executed by attaching and selling the movable or immovable properties of the debtor. The act also provides for appeals and revisions against the orders passed under it.
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The Bihar and Orissa Public Demands Recovery Act of 1914 is still in force in Bihar and Orissa, with some amendments made by the respective state governments. The act has been criticized for being harsh, outdated, and prone to misuse by corrupt officials. Some activists and lawyers have demanded its repeal or reform to protect the rights and interests of the poor and marginalized sections of society.
The Bihar and Orissa Public Demands Recovery Act of 1914 has been challenged in various courts on various grounds. Some of the main issues raised by the petitioners are:
The act violates the principles of natural justice and fair trial by not giving an opportunity to the debtor to contest the demand before filing the certificate.
The act confers arbitrary and excessive powers on the certificate officer to decide the validity and amount of the demand and to attach and sell the properties of the debtor without any judicial scrutiny.
The act does not provide any remedy or appeal against the orders of the certificate officer except under certain limited circumstances.
The act is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution of India and other laws relating to recovery of debts, such as the Recovery of Debts Due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, 1993 and the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest Act, 2002.
Some of the cases where the act has been challenged are:
Munni Kumari vs The State of Bihar & Ors (2018): The Patna High Court quashed a certificate proceeding initiated against a public representative under Section 4 of the act on the ground that no show cause notice was given to her before filing the certificate[^3^].
Devi Construction vs State of Bihar (2008): The Patna High Court quashed a certificate proceeding initiated against a private company for recovery of loss caused by illegal mining beyond leased area on the ground that the proper remedy was to initiate a civil suit for damages instead of a certificate proceeding on self-assessment made by the collector[^1^].
Shobha Coir Foam Pvt. Ltd. vs State of Bihar (2006): The Patna High Court quashed a certificate proceeding initiated against a private company for recovery of sales tax dues on the ground that the certificate case was illegal and invalid at its inception and could not be allowed to proceed by introducing a new certificate officer[^1^].