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Wednesday, February 4, 2015

threefold: Firstly, whether the Court was justified in granting solatium and interest without considering the fact that there is no provision for awarding these under the Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, 1952; secondly, whether the Court was right in ignoring the fact that the Constitutional validity of non-inclusion of the provision for the payment of solatium and interest in the Act has been upheld by this Court in the case of Hari Krishna Khosla and finally, whether the Court was right in enhancing the compensation from Rs.6/- per sq. yard to Rs.12/- per sq. yard without fully appreciating the Cross Objections and evidence proffered by the Appellant?

                                                                  REPORTABLE



                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                        CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3137 OF 2010



DEFENCE ESTATE OFFICER                ..      APPELLANT

                                   VERSUS

SYED ABDUL SALEEM AND OTHERS          .. RESPONDENTS

                               J U D G M E N T
VIKRAMAJIT SEN, J.

1     The Appellant has by the pulpit of  this  Civil  Appeal  assailed  the
Judgment and final Order dated 13.3.2007 passed by the  Hon'ble  High  Court
of Judicature, Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad) in CMA No. 1986 of 2003,  rendered
in the matter of  Syed Abdul Saleem v. The  Government  of  Andhra  Pradesh,
wherein the appeal preferred by the Respondents herein was  allowed  by  the
High Court, which enhanced the rate of  compensation  from  Rs.6/-  per  sq.
yard awarded by the Learned Arbitrator, to Rs.12/- per sq. yard  along  with
the award of 30% solatium and interest at 9% from the  date  of  possession,
i.e.,  28.07.1970.  The  subject  lands,  situated  at  Village  Ibrahimbagh
District, Hyderabad, were acquired for setting up of an Artillery Centre  at
Golconda. The  Ministry  of  Defence,  Government  of  India,  accorded  its
sanction dated 1.12.1969 for the acquisition  of  land  admeasuring  1181.70
acres, at an estimated total cost approximating  Rs.35,45,100/-.  The  lands
of the Respondents, admeasuring 2 acres 28 guntas in  Revenue  Sy.  No.  94,
and 1 acre 27 guntas in Revenue Sy.No. 95, totaling 4 acres and  15  guntas,
were acquired under the provisions of the Requisitioning and Acquisition  of
Immovable Property Act,  1952  by  the  Central  Government.  The  Form  'J'
Notification was published on 22.07.1971.   The Competent  Authority,  viz.,
the Collector, Hyderabad, offered Rs.39,930/- as compensation in respect  of
4 acres 15 guntas, by fixing the rate at Rs.2/- per  sq.  yard.     Further,
the Collector also granted interest at 4% p.a. from the date of  publication
of 'J' Notice to  the  date  of  payment;  an  amount  of  Rs.45,295.90  was
deposited by SDC, LA (Defence) in the Court, vide letter dated 03.02.1975.
2     Dissatisfied with the said compensation,  the  Respondents  thereafter
requested for the appointment of  a  Statutory  Arbitrator.  The  Government
appointed the Arbitrator on 21.10.1980, with a direction to him  to  dispose
of the matter within four months.   As the sole  Arbitrator  was  unable  to
dispose of the matter within the  prescribed  period,  the  Government  once
again appointed an Arbitrator on 11.11.1999 to complete  the  exercise.  The
Arbitrator enhanced the compensation from Rs.2/- per sq. yard to Rs.6/-  per
sq. yard along with solatium of 30% and interest at 9% p.a.  from  the  date
of taking possession of the acquired land, i.e.,  28.07.1970,  up  till  the
date of payment. The  Arbitrator  recorded  in  his  Award  that  after  the
failure of the first Arbitrator to dispose of the matter within a period  of
four months, the Government took 19 years  to  appoint  another  Arbitrator.
The Arbitrator observed: "it is no doubt true that the matter was stayed  by
the Hon'ble High Court for some years on account  of  proceedings  initiated
by the claimants 1 and 2 herein. But, even after the above aspect  is  taken
into consideration, it is very clear that the Government is not diligent  in
prosecuting the matter". The fact of  undue  delay  in  the  institution  of
arbitral proceedings having been  determined,  the  Arbitrator  applied  the
principle enunciated in Union of India v. Hari Krishan Khosla  (1993)  Supp.
2 SCC 149, whereto we  shall  advert  shortly,  and  awarded  the  aforesaid
payment of solatium and interest.
3     Dissatisfied with the Award, the Respondents filed  an  appeal  before
the High Court; Cross Objections were preferred by the Appellant.  The  High
Court allowed the Respondents' Appeal while dismissing the Cross  Objections
of the Appellant and enhanced the compensation from Rs.6/- per sq.  yard  to
Rs.12/- per sq. yard and upheld the Arbitrator's Award granting solatium  of
30% and interest at 9%. The High Court also placed reliance on this  Court's
judgment in Hari Krishna Khosla.
4     The questions of law raised by the Appellant before us are  threefold:
Firstly, whether the Court was justified in granting solatium  and  interest
without considering the fact that there is no provision for  awarding  these
under the Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable  Property  Act,  1952;
secondly, whether the  Court  was  right  in  ignoring  the  fact  that  the
Constitutional validity of non-inclusion of the provision  for  the  payment
of solatium and interest in the Act has been upheld by  this  Court  in  the
case of Hari Krishna Khosla and finally, whether  the  Court  was  right  in
enhancing the compensation from Rs.6/- per sq. yard to Rs.12/- per sq.  yard
without fully appreciating the Cross Objections and  evidence  proffered  by
the Appellant?
5     Per contra, the Respondents submit that Hari Krishna Khosla,  and  its
succeeding judgments, all indicate that there is a settled alcove of  equity
in the  jurisprudence  pertaining  to  land  requisition.   This  Court  has
recognized  the  hardships  suffered  by  affected/dispossessed  parties  in
requisition proceedings, in cases of extensive delay  in  the  disbursal  of
compensation, or, as in this case, delay in the initiation  and  eventuation
of proceedings under the  statute,  and  has  equitably  extended  the  twin
ameliorators of solatium and interest  on  compensation,  albeit  their  not
being available under the requisition Statute.
6     The submissions of both parties  hereto  having  been  adumbrated,  we
find  that  the  Appeal  is  without  merit.  The  Appellant   presents   as
exceptionable the High Court's enhancement of compensation. But the  chiefly
objectionable  aspect  to  the  impugned  judgment  and  order  is,  in  the
submission of the Appellant, the High Court's extra-legal Award of  solatium
and interest on the principal statutory  compensation  awardable  under  the
Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, 1952.  This  Court
has previously, in Hari Krishan Khosla, conducted  a  thorough  analysis  of
the features of the aforementioned Act apropos  the  Land  Acquisition  Act,
1894, and providing cogent  rationales  therefore,  in  our  humble  opinion
rightly labelled as "odious" any attempt to make a  black-letter  comparison
of the  two  enactments.  Whilst  upholding  the  Constitutionality  of  the
Requisitioning Act absent the provisions therein of the  award  of  solatium
and interest, the Court nevertheless, relying upon a previous  pronouncement
in Harbans Singh Shanni Devi v. Union of India [disposed of  by  this  Court
on 11.02.1985 in Civil Appeal Nos. 470 & 471 of 1985],  found  it  just  and
proper to uphold award of both solatium (at 30%)  and  9  %  interest  along
with  the  principal  statutory  compensation,  where  appointment  of   the
Statutory Arbitrator had been delayed by 16 years. "Equity is a mitigant  to
the harshness of common law" is  a  well-known  Common  Law  maxim.  Several
Benches of this Court, from Hari Krishan Khosla in  1993;  the  Constitution
Bench in Union of India v. Chajju Ram (2003) 5 SCC 568, in  the  context  of
the Defence of India Act, 1971; Union of  India v. Parmal   Singh  (2009)  1
SCC 618 and thereafter in Dilawar Singh v. Union  of  India  (2010)  14  SCC
357, have consistently applied mutatis mutandis the equity resting  in  this
maxim to  mitigate  the  harshness  of  this  requisition  statute,  thereby
providing for payment of interest and  solatium  to  affected/  dispossessed
parties in cases of  extensive  protraction,  where  the  statute  ex  facie
provides for neither of these ameliorators. The precedential position  being
unquestionably clear, we find that the facts before us, displaying  dilation
by the Appellant of 19 years in reappointment of the  statutory  Arbitrator,
command and not  merely  commend  the  application  of  the  precedent.  We,
therefore, sustain the Judgment of the High Court, and confirm the award  of
solatium  and  interest  therein,  along  with  the  principal  compensation
amount.
7     Appeal is dismissed.   Since this Appeal stood covered on  all  fours,
the Appellant shall pay costs to the Respondents.


............................................J.
                                                [VIKRAMAJIT SEN]







      .............................................J.
                                                [ SHIVA KIRTI SINGH]
New Delhi,
February 02,  2015.



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