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Friday, July 26, 2013

Land Acquisition Act = whether the officers of the Union Territory of Chandigarh other than the Administrator could issue notifications under Sections 4(1) and 6(1) of the 1894 Act, = Notification dated 1.10.2002 cannot be saved at this belated stage and the Competent Authority cannot issue declaration under Section 6(1) of the Act after 11 years of the issue of notification under Section 4(1). - In the result, the appeals are allowed, the impugned order is set aside and Notifications dated 1.10.2002 and 29.9.2003 are quashed insofar as the same relate to the lands of the appellants. The parties are left to bear their own costs.

                          reported in                 
                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                       CIVIL APPEAL NO.5885   OF 2013
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) No. 27221 of 2011)

Gurbinder Kaur Brar and another                          ...Appellants

Union of India and others
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.5884  OF 2013
                  (Arising out of SLP(C) No. 25387 of 2011)
Sardar Milkha Singh                                      ...Appellant
Union of India and others

                               J U D G M E N T
1.    Leave granted.

2.    These appeals are directed against order  dated  18.3.2011  passed  by
the Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High  Court  whereby  the  writ
petitions filed by the appellants for  quashing  the  acquisition  of  their
land were dismissed along with a batch of other petitions.

3.    At the outset, we may mention that the impugned order  was  set  aside
by this Court in Surinder Singh Brar  and  others  v.  Union  of  India  and
others (2013) 1 SCC 403 and  Notifications  dated  26.6.2006,  2.8.2006  and
28.2.2007 issued by the Chandigarh Administration under  Sections  4(1)  and
6(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (for short, ‘the 1894 Act’)  for  the
acquisition of  land  for  Phase-III  of  Chandigarh  Technology  Park  were

4.    By Notification dated 1.10.2002 issued under Section 4(1) of the  1894
Act, the Chandigarh Administration proposed the acquisition of  71.96  acres
land for various purposes including  the  Chandigarh  Technology  Park.  
appellants filed detailed objections under Section 5A(1) because their  land
were also included in Notification dated 1.10.2002.
After making a show  of
hearing the  objectors,  the  Land  Acquisition  Officer,  Union  Territory,
Chandigarh submitted report with the recommendation that the  land  notified
on 1.10.2002 may be acquired. 
The report of  the  Land  Acquisition  Officer
was  accepted  by  the  officers  of  the  Chandigarh   Administration   and
declaration dated 29.9.2003 was issued under Section 6(1) of  the  1894  Act
for 56.76 acres land.

5.    The appellants challenged the acquisition of their land in Civil  Writ
Petition No.8545/2004 titled Gurbinder Kaur Brar and  another  v.  Union  of
India and others and Civil Writ Petition No.12779/2004 titled  Milkha  Singh
v. Union of India and others.

6.    Similar petitions were filed by other landowners whose land  had  been
acquired for Phases-II and III of Chandigarh Technology Park. All  the  writ
petitions were dismissed by the Division Bench of  the  High  Court  by  the
impugned order.

7.    In Surinder Singh Brar  and  others  v.  Union  of  India  and  others
(supra), this Court reversed the order of the High  Court  and  quashed  the
acquisition of land for Phase-III of Chandigarh Technology Park and  various
other purposes specified in  Notifications  dated  26.6.2006,  2.8.2006  and
28.2.2007. While dealing with the  question
whether  the  officers  of  the
Union Territory of Chandigarh  other  than  the  Administrator  could  issue
notifications under Sections 4(1) and 6(1)  of  the  1894  Act,
this  Court
referred to  Article  239  of  the  Constitution  (unamended  and  amended),
Notifications dated 8.10.1968, 1.1.1970 and 14.8.1989  issued  under  Clause
(1)  of  that  Article,  Notification  dated   25.2.1988   issued   by   the
Administrator, Union Territory of  Chandigarh  under  Section  3(1)  of  the
Chandigarh (Delegation of Powers) Act, 1987 (for short, ‘the 1987 Act’)  and

           “The unamended  Article  239  envisaged  administration  of  the
           States specified  in  Part  C  of  the  First  Schedule  of  the
           Constitution by the President through a Chief Commissioner or  a
           Lieutenant Governor to  be  appointed  by  him  or  through  the
           Government of a neighbouring State. This was  subject  to  other
           provisions of Part VIII of the Constitution.  As  against  this,
           amended Article 239 lays down that subject to any law enacted by
           Parliament every Union Territory shall be  administered  by  the
           President acting through an Administrator appointed by him  with
           such designation as he may specify. In terms of  clause  (2)  of
           Article 239 (amended), the President can appoint the Governor of
           a State as an Administrator of an adjoining Union territory  and
           on his appointment, the Governor is  required  to  exercise  his
           function as an Administrator independently  of  his  Council  of
           Ministers. The difference in the language of the  unamended  and
           amended Article 239 makes it clear that prior to 1-11-1956,  the
           President  could  administer  Part  C  State  through  a   Chief
           Commissioner or a Lieutenant Governor, but, after the amendment,
           every Union Territory is required  to  be  administered  by  the
           President through an Administrator appointed by  him  with  such
           designation as he may specify. In terms of clause (2) of Article
           239  (amended),  the  President  is  empowered  to  appoint  the
           Governor of State as the Administrator  to  an  adjoining  Union
           Territory and once appointed, the Governor, in his  capacity  as
           Administrator, has  to  act  independently  of  the  Council  of
           Ministers of the State of which he is the Governor.

           A reading of the Notification issued on 1-11-1966  (set  out  in
           para 42) shows that in exercise of the power vested in him under
           Article 239(1), the President directed  that  the  Administrator
           shall exercise the power and  discharge  the  functions  of  the
           State Government under the laws which were in force  immediately
           before formation of the Union Territory of Chandigarh. This  was
           subject to the President’s own control and until further orders.
           By another notification issued on the same  day,  the  President
           directed that all orders and other instruments made and executed
           in the name of the Chief  Commissioner  of  Union  Territory  of
           Chandigarh shall be  authenticated  by  the  signatures  of  the
           specified officers. These notifications clearly brought out  the
           distinction between the position of the  Administrator  and  the
           Chief Commissioner insofar as the Union Territory of  Chandigarh
           was  concerned.  Subsequently,  the  President   appointed   the
           Governor of Punjab as Administrator of the  Union  Territory  of
           Chandigarh  and   separate   notifications   were   issued   for
           appointment  of  Adviser  to  the  Administrator.  The  officers
           appointed as  Adviser  are  invariably  members  of  the  Indian
           Administrative Service.

           After about 2 years of the issuance of  the  first  notification
           under Article 239(1) of the Constitution, by  which  the  powers
           and functions exercisable by the State Government under  various
           laws were generally entrusted to the Administrator, Notification
           dated 8-10-1968 (set out in para 44) was issued and the  earlier
           notification was modified insofar as it related to the  exercise
           of powers and functions by the Administrator under the  Act  and
           the President directed that subject to  his  control  and  until
           further orders, the powers and  functions  of  “the  appropriate
           Government” shall  also  be  exercised  and  discharged  by  the
           Administrator. The Notification dated 8-10-1968  was  superseded
           by the Notification dated 1-1-1970 (set out in para 45) and  the
           President directed that subject to his control and until further
           orders, the powers and functions of “the appropriate Government”
           shall also be exercised and discharged by the  Administrator  of
           every Union territory whether known as  the  Administrator,  the
           Chief  Commissioner  or  the  Lieutenant  Governor.   The   last
           Notification in the series was issued on 14-8-1989 (set  out  in
           para 46) superseding all previous notifications. The language of
           that  notification  is  identical  to  the   language   of   the
           Notification dated 1-1-1970.

           There is marked distinction in the language of the notifications
           issued  under  Article  239(1)  of  the  Constitution.  By   the
           Notification dated 1-11-1966 (set out in para 42), the President
           generally delegated  the  powers  and  functions  of  the  State
           Government under various laws in force immediately before  1-11-
           1966 to the Administrator. By all other notifications, the power
           exercisable by “the appropriate Government” under  the  Act  and
           the Land Acquisition (Companies) Rules, 1963 were  delegated  to
           the Administrator. It is not too difficult to fathom the reasons
           for  this  departure  from  Notification  dated  1-11-1966.  The
           Council of Ministers whose advice constitutes the foundation  of
           the decision taken by the President was very much  conscious  of
           the fact that compulsory acquisition of land, though  sanctioned
           by the  provisions  of  the  Act  not  only  impacts  lives  and
           livelihood of the farmers and other small landholders, but  also
           adversely affects the agriculture, environment  and  ecology  of
           the area. Therefore, with a view to  avoid  any  possibility  of
           misuse of power  by  the  executive  authorities,  it  has  been
           repeatedly ordained that powers and  functions  vested  in  “the
           appropriate Government” under the Act and the 1963  Rules  shall
           be  exercised  only  by  the  Administrator.  The  use  of   the
           expression “shall also  be  exercised  and  discharged”  in  the
           Notifications dated 8-10-1968, 1-1-1970 and 14-8-1989 is a clear
           pointer in  this  direction.  The  seriousness  with  which  the
           Central Government has viewed such type of acquisition  is  also
           reflected from the decision taken by the Home Minister on  23-9-
           2010 (set out in para 35) in the context of the  report  of  the
           Special Auditor and the one-man committee. Thus, the acquisition
           of land for and on behalf  of  the  Union  Territories  must  be
           sanctioned  by  the  Administrator  of  the   particular   Union
           territory and no other officer  is  competent  to  exercise  the
           power vested in “the appropriate Government” under the  Act  and
           the Rules framed thereunder.

           We may now advert to the Notification dated 25-2-1988  (set  out
           in para 47) issued under Section 3(1)  of  the  1987  Act,  vide
           which the Administrator directed that any  power,  authority  or
           jurisdiction or any duty which he could exercise or discharge by
           or under the provisions of any  law,  rules  or  regulations  as
           applicable  to  the  Union  Territory  of  Chandigarh  shall  be
           exercised or discharged by the Adviser except in cases or  class
           of cases enumerated in the Schedule. There  is  nothing  in  the
           language of Section 3(1) of the 1987 Act from which  it  can  be
           inferred  that  the  Administrator  can   delegate   the   power
           exercisable by “the appropriate Government” under the Act  which
           was specifically entrusted to him by the President under Article
           239(1) of the Constitution. Therefore, the Notification dated 25-
           2-1988  cannot  be  relied  upon   for   contending   that   the
           Administrator  had  delegated  the  power  of  “the  appropriate
           Government” to the Adviser.”

The Court then considered the question whether the reports submitted by  the
Land Acquisition Officer under Section  5A(2)  were  vitiated  due  to  non-
consideration of the objections filed by the  landowners  and  answered  the
same in affirmative by recording the following observations:

           “A cursory reading of  the  reports  of  the  LAO  may  give  an
           impression that he had applied  mind  to  the  objections  filed
           under Section 5A(1) and assigned reasons  for  not  entertaining
           the same, but a careful analysis thereof leaves  no  doubt  that
           the officer concerned  had  not  at  all  applied  mind  to  the
           objections of the landowners and  merely  created  a  facade  of
           doing  so.   In  the  opening  paragraph   under   the   heading
           “Observations”, the LAO recorded that he had  seen  the  revenue
           records and conducted spot inspection. He  then  reproduced  the
           Statement of Objects and Reasons contained in the Bill which led
           to the enactment of the Punjab New Capital  (Periphery)  Control
           Act, 1952 and proceed to extract some  portion  of  reply  dated
           31.7.2006 sent by the Administrator to Surinder Singh Brar.

           In the context of the statement contained in the first  line  of
           the paragraph titled “Observations”, we  repeatedly  asked  Shri
           Sudhir Walia, learned counsel assisting Dr. Rajiv Dhawan to show
           as to when the LAO had summoned the revenue records and when  he
           had conducted spot inspection but the learned counsel could  not
           produce any document to substantiate the statement contained  in
           the two reports of the LAO.  This leads to an inference that, in
           both the reports, the  LAO  had  made  a  misleading  and  false
           statement  about  his  having  seen  the  revenue  records   and
           conducted spot  inspection.  That  apart,  the  reports  do  not
           contain any iota of consideration of the objections filed by the
           landowners. Mere reproduction of the substance of the objections
           cannot be equated with objective consideration  thereof  in  the
           light of the submission made by the objectors during the  course
           of hearing. Thus, the violation of the mandate of Section  5A(2)
           is writ large on the face of the reports prepared by the LAO.

           The reason why the LAO did not apply his mind to the  objections
           filed by the appellants and other landowners is obvious. He  was
           a minion in the hierarchy of the  administration  of  the  Union
           Territory of Chandigarh and  could  not  have  even  thought  of
           making recommendations contrary to what  was  contained  in  the
           letter sent by the Administrator to Surinder Singh Brar.  If  he
           had  shown  the  courage  of  acting  independently   and   made
           recommendation against the acquisition of land,  he  would  have
           surely been shifted from that post and  his  career  would  have
           been jeopardized.  In the system of  governance  which  we  have
           today, junior officers in the administration cannot  even  think
           of, what to say of, acting against the wishes/dictates of  their
           superiors. One who violates this unwritten code of conduct  does
           so at his own peril and is described as a foolhardy. Even  those
           constituting higher strata of services follow the path of  least
           resistance and find it most convenient to tow the line of  their
           superiors.  Therefore, the LAO cannot be blamed for having acted
           as  an  obedient  subordinate  of  the   superior   authorities,
           including  the  Administrator.  However,  that   cannot   be   a
           legitimate ground to approve the reports prepared by him without
           even a semblance of consideration of the objections filed by the
           appellants and other landowners and we  have  no  hesitation  to
           hold that the LAO failed to discharge the  statutory  duty  cast
           upon him to prepare a report after objectively  considering  the
           objections filed under Section 5A(1) and submissions made by the
           objectors during the course of personal hearing.”

The Court also analysed the provisions of Sections 4(1),  5A,  6(1)  of  the
1894 Act, referred to several judgments and observed:

           “What needs to be emphasised is  that  hearing  required  to  be
           given under Section 5-A(2) to a  person  who  is  sought  to  be
           deprived of his land and who has filed objections under  Section
           5-A(1) must  be  effective  and  not  an  empty  formality.  The
           Collector who is enjoined with the task of hearing the objectors
           has the freedom of  making  further  enquiry  as  he  may  think
           necessary. In either eventuality,  he  has  to  make  report  in
           respect  of  the  land  notified  under  Section  4(1)  or  make
           different reports in respect of different parcels of  such  land
           to the appropriate Government containing his recommendations  on
           the objections and submit the same to the appropriate Government
           along with the  record  of  proceedings  held  by  him  for  the
           latter’s decision. The  appropriate  Government  is  obliged  to
           consider the report, if any, made under Section 5-A(2) and  then
           record its satisfaction that the particular land is needed for a
           public  purpose.  This  exercise  culminates   into   making   a
           declaration that the land is needed for a public purpose and the
           declaration is to be signed by a Secretary to the Government  or
           some other officer duly authorised to certify  its  orders.  The
           formation of opinion on the issue of need of land for  a  public
           purpose and suitability thereof is sine qua non for issue  of  a
           declaration under Section 6(1). Any violation of the substantive
           right of the landowners and/or other interested persons to  file
           objections or denial of opportunity of personal hearing  to  the
           objector(s) vitiates the recommendations made by  the  Collector
           and the decision taken by the  appropriate  Government  on  such
           recommendations.  The  recommendations  made  by  the  Collector
           without duly considering the objections filed under  Section  5-
           A(1) and submissions made at the hearing given under Section  5-
           A(2) or failure of the appropriate Government to take  objective
           decision on such objections in the light of the  recommendations
           made  by  the  Collector  will  denude  the  decision   of   the
           appropriate  Government  of  statutory  finality.  To   put   it
           differently,  the  satisfaction  recorded  by  the   appropriate
           Government that the particular  land  is  needed  for  a  public
           purpose and the declaration made  under  Section  6(1)  will  be
           devoid of legal sanctity  if  statutorily  engrafted  procedural
           safeguards are not adhered to by the  authorities  concerned  or
           there is violation of the principles  of  natural  justice.  The
           cases before us are illustrative of flagrant  violation  of  the
           mandate of Sections 5-A(2) and 6(1).”

8.    Shri Sudhir Walia, learned counsel for the  Chandigarh  Administration
made valiant effort to convince us that the view  taken  in  Surinder  Singh
Brar and others v. Union of India and others (supra) on  the  interpretation
of the provisions of the 1987 Act needs reconsideration but we do  not  find
any valid ground to accept the submission of the  learned  counsel.  In  our
view, Section 3(1) of the 1987 Act does not  empower  the  Administrator  to
delegate the functions of the “appropriate government”  to  any  officer  or
authority specified in the notification issued under  that  section  because
the Presidential notification does not provide for such delegation.

9.    We also agree with the learned counsel for  the  appellants  that  the
report of the Land Acquisition  Officer  was  vitiated  due  to  total  non-
application of mind by the concerned officer to large number of  substantive
objections raised by the appellants under  Section  5A(1).  He  mechanically
rejected  the   objections   and   senior   officers   of   the   Chandigarh
Administration accepted the report of the Land Acquisition  Officer  despite
the fact that the same had been prepared in violation of Section 5A(2).

10.   Shri Walia made a last  ditched  effort  to  save  Notification  dated
1.10.2002 and for this purpose he relied upon order dated  27.2.2013  passed
by the coordinate Bench in Civil Appeal No. 1964/2013 titled Lajja  Ram  and
others v. Union Territory, Chandigarh and others.  
We  have  carefully  gone
through that order and are of the view
Notification  dated  1.10.2002
cannot be saved at this belated stage and  the  Competent  Authority  cannot
issue declaration under Section 6(1) of the Act after 11 years of the  issue
of notification under Section 4(1).  
We may add that  in  view  of  the  law
laid down by the Constitution Bench in Padma Sundara Rao v. State  of  Tamil
Nadu (2002) 3 SCC 533, 
which was followed in a large  number  of  judgments,
the Chandigarh Administration cannot now issue a declaration  under  Section
6(1) after rectifying the  illegalities  committed  in  the  preparation  of
report under Section 5A(2) and issue of the earlier declaration.

11.   In the result, the appeals are allowed,  the  impugned  order  is  set
aside and Notifications dated 1.10.2002 and 29.9.2003  are  quashed  insofar
as the same relate to the lands of the appellants. The parties are  left  to
bear their own costs.

                                             (G.S. SINGHVI)

                                             (V. GOPALA GOWDA)
New Delhi;
July 22, 2013.


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