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Thursday, April 11, 2013

LAND ACQUISITION ACT = Merely because some land was left at the relevant time, that does not give any right to the Authority to send proposal to the Government for release of the land in favour of the land owners. The impugned orders passed by the High Court directing the Authority to press the Resolution are absolutely unwarranted in law.


Page 1
‘REPORTABLE’
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2944 OF 2013
[Arising out of SLP(C) No. 14541 of 2010]
Mahadeo (D) through LRs & Ors. …..Appellants
Versus
State of U.P. & Ors. ….Respondents
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2945 OF 2013
[Arising out of SLP(C) No. 14741 of 2010]
 &
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2946 OF 2013
[Arising out of SLP(C) No. 7878 of 2010]
Bimal Chand Jain (D) through LRs & Ors. …..Appellants
Versus
State of U.P. & Ors. ….Respondents
and
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2947 OF 2013
[Arising out of SLP(C) No. 7892 of 2010]
Trilok Ram Ahuja & Ors. …..Appellants
Versus
State of U.P. & Ors. ….Respondents
J U D G M E N T
M.Y.EQBAL, J.Page 2
Leave granted.
2. These appeals are directed against the orders dated
2.12.2009 passed by a Division Bench of the Allahabad High
Court in Civil Misc. Writ Petition Nos. 7748 of 2002 and 21407 of
2002 whereby the writ petitions filed by the appellants herein
were disposed of with a direction to respondent No. 4 – Meerut
Development Authority to press its resolution dated 17.09.1997
if the said Authority is not in need of the land so acquired and
the orders dated 9.4.2010 whereby the review applications filed
against the orders dated 2.12.2009 in the said writ petitions
were rejected.
3. The facts of the case lie in a narrow compass. The
appellants filed the aforementioned writ petitions seeking the
following reliefs:
i. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of
mandamus commanding the respondent no. 1
to accept the proposal for withdrawing from
acquisition in view of the resolution dated
17.9.97 submitted by the Meerut Development
Authority at the earliest within a period to be
fixed by this Hon’ble Court.
ii. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of
certiorari quashing the entire land acquisition
proceedings in pursuance of the notification
u/s 4 dated 27.1.1990 and declaration u/s 6 of
the Act dated 7.3.90.
2Page 3
ii-a. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of
certiorari quashing the order/decision communicated
by letter dated 24.08.2002 (Annexure-16 to the writ
petition).
iii. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of
mandamus commanding the respondents not
to dispossess the petitioners from their
respective lands forcibly in pursuance of the
acquisition for declaration was issued u/s 6 of
the Act on 6.3.90.
iv. Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of
mandamus commanding the respondents to
pay the damages for financial loss, mental
agony and pain to the petitioners in view of
section 48(2) of the Act.
v. Issue any other writ, order or direction which
this Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in
the facts and circumstances of the case.
vi. Award cost of the writ petition to the
petitioners.”
4. It appears that vide Notification dated 27.1.1990
under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (for short,
“the Act”), the State of U.P. proposed to acquire 246.931 acres
of land situated at Village Abdullapur, Pargana, Tehsil and
District Meerut. Since the land was alleged to have been
urgently required by the State, the provision of Section 17(1) of
the Act was invoked. The aforesaid land was sought to be
acquired for the purpose of construction of a
residential/commercial building under planned Development
3Page 4
Scheme by the Meerut Development Authority (for short, “the
MDA”). Since Section 17(1) of the Act was invoked, inquiry
under Section 5A of the Act was dispensed with. Thereafter,
declaration under Section 6 read with Section 17(1)&(4) of the
Act was made on 18.3.1990 which was published in a daily
newspaper. Consequently, notice under Section 9 of the Act was
issued and pursuant to that appellants are said to have filed
their objections. On 17.3.1992, respondent No. 3 – the Special
Land Acquisition Officer, Meerut passed an award. After the said
award, the appellants applied before the Land Acquisition Officer
on 24.4.1992 for making a reference under Section 18 of the
said Act and accordingly respondent No. 3 referred the matter to
the District Judge vide order dated 22.9.1997.
5. The appellants’ case is that by resolution dated
17.9.1997, respondent No. 4 – the MDA decided to withdraw the
acquisition of the land except the land measuring 42.018 acres
for which compensation was paid. The MDA is said to have
decided to de-requisition the land measuring 204.912 acres. It
appears that in 2001-2002 meetings were held and
correspondences exchanged between the authorities, the
District Magistrate, Meerut and the State Government and
ultimately the State Government decided not to accede to the
4Page 5
decision of the MDA for de-requisition of the land. The
appellants, therefore, on these facts, filed the aforementioned
writ petitions seeking the reliefs quoted hereinbefore.
6. We have heard Mr. Vijay Hansaria, learned senior
counsel appearing for the appellants and the learned Additional
Advocate General appearing for the respondent-State.
7. Learned counsel appearing for the respondent-State
at the very outset submitted that although the appellants
sought several reliefs in the writ petitions before the High Court
but the relief was confined to only a direction upon respondent
No. 4 to press the resolution dated 17.9.1997. The High Court,
therefore, by the impugned orders disposed of the writ petitions
with a direction to the Development Authority to press its
resolution if the Authority is not in need of the said land. The
impugned orders passed by the High Court dated 2.12.2009 is
reproduced hereinbelow:
“In this petition, the original owners are ……
They have not pressed other reliefs, except the relief
seeking a writ of mandamus to command the Meerut
Development Authority, Respondent No. 4 to press
the resolution dated 14.05.02, which has been
rejected by the Government. A perusal of the
rejection order reveals that rejection is not based for
other reasons, except that the land proposed to be
released under Section 48 of the Land Acquisition
Act, has been thrust upon the development authority
to sell it out so that its financial position is improved.
5Page 6
This is no reason. The acquisition under the Land
Acquisition Act is made for the public purpose if
needed. No doubt the town plan development of the
council is a public purpose done by the development
authority but the development authority when itself
says that is not needed, then the condition of
acquisition is not fulfilled as contained in the Land
Acquisition Act. Therefore reason of rejection is not
germane to the provisions of the Land Acquisition
Act. The Development Authority is directed to press
its resolution if the authority is not in need of the
said land.
The petition is accordingly disposed of.”
8. Dissatisfied with the orders passed by the High
Court, the appellants have moved these appeals by special
leave.
9. Learned senior counsel appearing for the appellants
assailed the orders passed by the High Court, firstly on the
ground that there is apparent error in the orders of the High
Court inasmuch as the appellants never confined their reliefs
only to the extent of directing the MDA to press its resolution if
the Authority is not in the need of the said land. Learned
counsel submitted that the MDA in clear terms already
expressed its opinion in the resolution dated 17.9.1997 that the
land is not required by the Authority for any development
purpose. Thus, the High Court fell in error in placing onus again
on the MDA to press for resolution. According to the learned
6Page 7
counsel, the refusal of the State Government in rejecting the
proposal of the Authority is illegal and liable to be set aside.
10. Some of the important facts which are not in dispute can
be summarized as under:
(i) Notification under Section 4 and Declaration
under Section 6 were issued for the acquisition
of 246.931 acres of the land for the purpose of
construction of residential/commercial building
under the planned Development Scheme in
the District of Meerut by the MDA;
(ii) Inquiry under Section 5A of the Act was
dispensed with since provision of Section
17(1)&(4) was invoked;
(iii) In response to the notice under Section 9(1) of
the Act, the appellant-land owners filed their
objections and finally the award under Section
11 of the Act was passed on 17.3.1992 by the
Special Land Acquisition Officer; and
7Page 8
(iv) As requested by the appellants and other land
owners, reference under Section 18 of the Act
was made on 22.9.1997.
11. The respondent-MDA has filed a detailed counter
affidavit stating inter alia that the land was acquired for Ganga
Nagar Housing Extension Scheme because of the need for
housing accommodation and to prevent unplanned growth of
construction. Notices were issued under Section 9(1) inviting
objections and after completing all the procedure award was
passed on 17.03.1992.
12. After the said award, a sum of Rs. 5.32 crores out of
the total amount of Rs.5.51 crores was deposited. The
appellants filed reference application for enhancement of
compensation in 2002. It was further stated that possession of
the land so acquired was taken by the State Government and
delivered to MDA in 2002. The MDA further stated that out of
246 acres of land, approximately 125 acres of land has already
been allotted for residential and institutional use as per the
Master Plan.
13. It is stated that the MDA has already spent Rs. 21
crores for development since 2002 which includes construction
of overhead tanks, roads, sewage treatment plant etc. It is
stated that the earlier request of MDA was withdrawn by passing
8Page 9
fresh resolution on 15.03.2002 in order to develop the entire
acquired land as Ganga Nagar Colony. The MDA further stated
that rest of the acquired land is also being developed making a
huge investment on roads, sewage and other civic amenities.
14. Lastly, it has been brought on record that some of
the appellants were not the original owners of the land at the
time when notifications under Section 4, 6 and 9 of the Act were
issued. It has further been brought to our notice that some of
the appellants are the purchasers of the land from the land
owners after the notification was issued under Section 4 of the
Act.
15. On these facts, the sole question, therefore, that
falls for consideration is as to whether merely because of
internal correspondences between the MDA and the State that
by the resolution dated 17.9.1997 the MDA took a decision to
withdraw the acquisition and to get approval from the State
Government, a writ of mandamus can be issued directing the
State or the MDA to denotify or de-requisition the land which
was acquired after following the due process of law and an
award to that effect has been passed by the Special Land
Acquisition Officer.
16. There is no dispute with regard to the settled
proposition of law that once the land is acquired and mandatory
9Page 10
requirements are complied with including possession having been
taken the land vests in the State Government free from all
encumbrances. Even if some unutilised land remains, it cannot be
re-conveyed or re-assigned to the erstwhile owner by invoking the
provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. This Court in the case of
Govt. of A.P. and Anr. vs. V. Syed Akbar AIR 2005 SC 492 held
that :-
“It is neither debated nor disputed as regards
the valid acquisition of the land in question under
the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act and the
possession of the land had been taken. By virtue of
Section 16 of the Land Acquisition Act, the acquired
land has vested absolutely in the Government free
from all encumbrances. Under Section 48 of the
Land Acquisition Act, Government could withdraw
from the acquisition of any land of which possession
has not been taken. In the instant case, even under
Section 48, the Government could not withdraw from
acquisition or to reconvey the said land to the
respondent as the possession of the land had
already been taken. The position of law is well
settled. In State of Kerala and Ors. v. M. Bhaskaran
Pillai & Anr. (1997) 5 SCC 432 para 4 of the said
judgment reads: (SCC p. 433)
“4. In view of the admitted position that the
land in question was acquired under the Land
Acquisition Act, 1894 by operation of Section
16 of the Land Acquisition Act, it stood vested
in the State free from all encumbrances. The
question emerges whether the Government
can assign the land to the erstwhile owners? It
is settled law that if the land is acquired for a
public purpose, after the public purpose was
achieved, the rest of the land could be used for
any other public purpose. In case there is no
other public purpose for which the land is
needed, then instead of disposal by way of
sale to the erstwhile owner, the land should be
10Page 11
put to public auction and the amount fetched
in the public auction can be better utilised for
the public purpose envisaged in the Directive
Principles of the Constitution. In the present
case, what we find is that the executive order
is not in consonance with the provision of the
Act and is, therefore, invalid. Under these
circumstances, the Division Bench is well
justified in declaring the executive order as
invalid. Whatever assignment is made, should
be for a public purpose. Otherwise, the land of
the Government should be sold only through
the public auctions so that the public also gets
benefited by getting a higher value.”
17. In the case of Satendra Prasad Jain & Ors. vs.
State of U.P. and Ors., AIR 1993 SC 2517, a 3-Judge Bench of
this Court after considering various provisions including Section
17 of the Act observed as under:
“14. Ordinarily, the Government can take
possession of the land proposed to be acquired only
after an award of compensation in respect thereof
has been made under Section 11. Upon the taking of
possession the land vests in the Government, that is
to say, the owner of the land loses to the
Government the title to it. This is what Section 16
states. The provisions of Section 11-A are intended
to benefit the land owner and ensure that the award
is made within a period of two years from the date of
the Section 6 declaration. In the ordinary case,
therefore, when Government fails to make an award
within two years of the declaration under Section 6,
the land has still not vested in the Government and
its title remains with the owner, the acquisition
proceedings are still pending and, by virtue of the
provisions of Section 11-A, lapse. When Section
17(1) is applied by reason of urgency, Government
takes possession of the land prior to the making of
the award under Section 11 and thereupon the
11Page 12
owner is divested of the title to the land which is
vested in the Government. Section 17(1) states so in
unmistakable terms. Clearly, Section 11-A can have
no application to cases of acquisitions under Section
17 because the lands have already vested in the
Government and there is no provision in the said Act
by which land statutorily vested in the Government
can revert to the owner.”
18. Indisputably, land in question was acquired by the
State Government for the purpose of expansion of city i.e.
construction of residential/commercial building under planned
development scheme by the Meerut Development Authority and
that major portion of the land has already been utilized by the
Authority. Merely because some land was left at the relevant
time, that does not give any right to the Authority to send
proposal to the Government for release of the land in favour of
the land owners. The impugned orders passed by the High
Court directing the Authority to press the Resolution are
absolutely unwarranted in law.
19. For the reasons aforesaid, there is no merit in these
appeals which are accordingly dismissed.
………………………………..J.
(Surinder Singh Nijjar)
………………………………..J.
(M.Y. Eqbal)
12Page 13
New Delhi,
April 08, 2013.
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