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Thursday, July 9, 2015

to distinguish between the setting aside of an acquisition and the reversion of possession to the erstwhile landowners. While the L.A. Act and the judgments discussed above do not allow for the latter, we are of the considered opinion that this does not necessarily imply that the former is also not an option. Both the abovementioned cases dealt with a factual situation in which the Government was attempting to set the acquisition of the land at naught so that they would not have to pay compensation to acquire it. Setting aside of the acquisition in those cases was tantamount to reverting the possession to the original owners. In this scenario, however, the two do not have to go hand in hand. In allowing the acquisition of land that the Government finds necessary to be set aside, we would not necessarily be holding that the land revert to the Appellants, as the alternative of permitting the Government to keep possession provided it re-acquires the land with a new Section 4 notification exists. This option, particularly in the present factual matrix, does the least violence to the intent and content of the L.A. Act, in that it upholds Section 11A even in cases of acquisition under Section 17 while preserving the requirement of Section 17 that the unencumbered possession of the land remain vested in the Government. It also protects the rights of the landowners, thus fulfilling the intent of Section 11A, while allowing the Government to acquire land in cases of emergencies without its title being challenged, which is the avowed intention of Section 17. Any other interpretation of the law would serve to protect only those landowners who had approached the Court to stop the Government from undoing an emergency acquisition, while leaving in the cold equally aggrieved landowners seeking to enforce their right to fair compensation for their land. Even equity demands that the party bearing the consequence of the delay in the Award ought not to be the innocent landowner, but the errant State. 26 While we presently refrain from passing any orders or direction pertaining to or interfering with the possession of the Government over the subject land, the acquisition dated 18.11.1987 is set aside for non- compliance with the provisions of Section 11A of the L.A. Act. As all the subsequent Notifications by the Respondent State having lapsed, the Respondent State is directed to issue a fresh Section 4 Notification within six weeks from today. The Respondent State is restrained from contending that the land is no longer required by it or that it should revert to the Appellants. The Appeal is allowed in these terms.


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                        CIVIL APPEAL No. 3385 OF 2012

LAXMI DEVI                                    .….. APPELLANT
STATE OF BIHAR & ORS.                               ….. RESPONDENTS

                               J U D G M E N T
1.    The legal nodus that we are called upon to unravel in this  Appeal  is
whether the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (L.A. Act  for  brevity)  as  amended
from time to time, requires an Award to be passed even in respect  of  lands
expropriated by the State pursuant to the  exercise  of  special  powers  in
cases of urgency contained in Section 17 thereof.   It  is  indeed  ironical
that what was, as far back as in 1987, perceived as  an  imperative,  urgent
and  exigent  necessity,  justifying  the  steamrolling  of  the  rights  of
citizens,  has  proved  substantially  to  be  a  fallow  and  ill-conceived
requirement even after the passage of three decades; till  date,  tracts  of
the acquired land remain  unutilized;  the  initially  declared  purpose  of
construction of residential quarters for State officials having  novated  to
portions of the land being used as helipads  for  ‘State  Dignitaries’.   We
must not forget that even though ownership of  property  has  ceased  to  be
conceived of as a Fundamental Right, it continues to receive  Constitutional
protection.  It  is  also  the  regrettable  reality  that  Governments  are
increasingly relying on rulings of this Court to the  effect  that  even  if
the public purpose providing the predication for the compulsory  acquisition
of a citizen’s land has proved to be an illusion or  misconception,  another
purpose  can  conveniently  be  discovered  or  devised  by  the  State  for
retention by it of the expropriated land.  Our opinion intends  to  insulate
genuinely  urgent  projects  from  lapsing  and  not   to   annihilate   the
constitutional rights of the individual from the might  of  the  State  even
though  it  transgresses  the  essence  of  the  statute.   It  has   become
alarmingly commonplace for lands to be  expropriated  under  the  banner  of
urgency or even under the  normal  procedure,  only  to  be  followed  by  a
withdrawal or retraction from this  exercise  enabling  a  favoured  few  to
harvest the ill-begotten windfall.  The ambivalence or cleavage  of  opinion
of this Court in Delhi Airtech Services (P) Ltd. vs. State of U.P. (2011)  9
SCC 354 on the necessity to pay the erstwhile owners of  land  of  even  its
unilaterally assessed value  has  emboldened  and  spurred  the  State  into
contending before us that no sooner the urgency mantra is mouthed, no  other
provision of the L.A. Act has  any  relevance  or  efficacy,  including  the
legal necessity of passing an Award.
2.    We shall succinctly narrate the salient facts  of  the  Appeal  before
us.  The State Government had by  means  of  Notification  No.2/86-87  dated
18.11.1987 and  3/86-87  dated  18.11.1987  initiated  steps  for  acquiring
tracts  of  lands  in  Mouza  Sansarpur  and   in   Hardas   Chak.     These
Notifications had simultaneously excluded the provisions of  Section  5A  of
the L.A. Act from applying to the acquired  lands,  which,  because  of  the
significance of its language, is reproduced below:
“This Notification is hereby issued under the provisions  of  section  4  of
the Bihar Act No.11, 1961 as amended Act No.1, 1894 for  those  persons  who
are concerned with it.
      The map of the above land can be  seen  in  the  office  of  the  Land
Acquisition Officer, Khagaria.  Government of Bihar do hereby authorize  the
Land Acquisition Officer, Khagaria and his staff and the office  bearers  of
the  Executive  Engineer  Bhawan  Nirman   Khagaria   in   the   preliminary
investigation of this project that they should conduct  the  survey  of  the
land after entering it and they are  directed  to  all  the  acts  specified
under section 2 of the Section 4 of the above Act.
      And whereas it is the opinion of the Governor of Bihar that the  above
mentioned barren land/agricultural land and its part  thereof  is  necessary
for immediate acquisition.  Therefore, it is directed under  sub  section  4
of the section 17 of the above Act that the provisions of the section 5A  of
the above act shall not apply to the above land/lands”.

3.    This first Notification  under  Section  4  came  to  be  followed  by
subsequent Notifications, lucidly  illustrating  the  understanding  of  the
Respondent State that the preceding Notification had lapsed by operation  of
the statute.   The Respondent State issued a Notification  under  Section  4
of the L.A. Act on 16.9.1999  in  respect  of  which  the  Appellants  filed
Objections  under  Section  5A  on  a  consideration  of  which   the   Land
Acquisition Officer had opined that the Notification issued  in  1987  could
not be  continued  with  as  the  Award  had  not  been  passed  within  the
stipulated time period  thereby  making  it  necessary  to  issue  the  1999
Notification. This Notification also expired  because  a  Declaration  under
Section 6 had not been  promulgated  within  one  year.  Hence  yet  another
Notification was published on 13.8.2001,  for  which  the  Appellants  filed
their Objections under Section 5A yet again. This Notification also  lapsed,
since the sequence of events as contemplated in the L.A. Act  had  not  been
duly completed.  Once  again,  in  2004,  fresh  steps  were  initiated  for
acquisition which also expired for the same  reason.  The  Respondent  State
now vainly essays to take unfair and ill-founded advantage of decisions  and
opinions of this Court  to  contend  that  the  subject  acquisition  stands
completed  in  all  respects,  thereby  endeavouring,   illegally   in   our
considered opinion, to avoid performance of their statutory  obligations  of
computing compensation and then paying it.
4.    The Impugned Order accepts the version of the  Respondent  that  large
parcels of these lands  have  been  utilized  for  constructing  residential
quarters for senior Officers of the State, and that the Appellant  has  been
paid  eighty  per  cent  of  the  compensation,  although  twenty  per  cent
supposedly still remains outstanding.  Per contra, it is the  contention  of
the Appellant that the incontrovertible position that portions of  the  land
have remained unutilized for decades is clearly indicative of the fact  that
they are not required  by  the  State  any  more.   Within  a  week  of  the
publication of the Section 4 Notification, that is  on  24.11.1987,  notices
under Section 17(1) of the L.A. Act were also issued, which resulted in  the
filing of writ petitions in the following year, in which  it  was  contended
that resort to  Section  17  of  the  L.A.  Act  was  mala  fide,  and  that
compensation, as  envisaged  in  the  statute  itself,  had  not  even  been
tendered to the owners. It is significant that in CWJC No.4007  of  1988,  a
Division Bench of the High Court of Judicature  at  Patna  had  directed  on
12.7.1988 that the Award for compensation must be made within  four  months.
It is not in dispute that an Award has, till  date,  not  been  passed  even
though  that  direction  has  attained  finality.   The  Writ  Petition  was
disposed of observing - (i)  possession of the land had already  been  taken
by the State; (ii) eighty  per  cent  compensation  had  been  paid  to  the
Appellants; (iii) the remainder twenty per cent along  with  interest  would
be paid to the owners  on  their  appearance  before  the  Land  Acquisition
Officer; (iv) they would be entitled to raise  the claim of higher  interest
considering that the land had been acquired in 1987; and (v)  Appellant  was
entitled to raise objections with respect to the  value  of  the  land.   In
view of these  directions,  it  was  palpably  clear  to  all  the  parties,
especially the State Government, that the entitlement  to  raise  objections
with respect to the value of the land was  possible  only  once  proceedings
connected with and preparatory to passing an Award  on  Section  11  reached
its culmination.  It seems facially obvious to us that since the  State  has
not assailed these directions it ought not to  be  permitted  to  canvas  in
this Appeal that the passing of an award is unnecessary in cases  where  the
State has taken recourse to the urgency provisions contained in  Section  17
of the Act.  A perusal of the Counter  Affidavit  filed  on  behalf  of  the
State of Bihar makes it patently evident that an award  as  contemplated  in
Section 11 of the L.A. Act has  not  been  passed;  and  that  Notifications
under Section 4 have again been passed subsequent to the  two  Notifications
detailed above.
5.    An overview of the L.A. Act discloses that it  is  divided  into  VIII
Parts/Chapters.  Part II commences with  Section  4,  which  postulates  the
publication of a preliminary notification, whereupon Officers of  the  State
are authorized to enter and survey the lands proposed  to  be  acquired  and
carry out activities ancillary to that purpose; and Section 5 obligates  the
Officials to compensate for damages caused as a  consequence  thereof.   The
right to file Objections  to  the  Section  4  Notification,  recognized  by
Section 5A, was introduced into the L.A. Act by Act 38  of  1923,  and  this
provision was again amended by Act 68 of  1984  to  mandate  that  Objection
must be filed within thirty  days  of  the  issuance  of  the  Notification.
Section 5A further obligates  the  Collector  to  submit  a  Report  to  the
Government in respect of the Objections preferred by persons  interested  in
the land, as well as pertaining to any aspect of  the  nature  of  the  land
proposed to be acquired.
6     The insertion of Section 5A seems to  have  been  spurred  on  by  the
decision of the Division Bench of the Calcutta High  Court  in  J.E.D.  Ezra
vs. The Secretary of State for India (1902-1903) 7 CWN 249.  In  that  case,
the properties of Ezra were sought to  be  acquired  under  the  pre-amended
provision for expansion of the offices  of  the  Bank  of  Bengal.   In  the
challenge to the said acquisition, it  was  argued  that  the  person  whose
property was going to be taken away should  be  allowed  a  hearing  on  the
principles of natural justice.   However the Court held that  it  could  not
grant relief in the  absence  of  any  provision  in  the  Act  enabling  or
envisaging or mandating that such an opportunity should  be  made  available
to the landowners.  In order to remedy this shortcoming in Act of  1894,  an
amendment by way of incorporation of  Section  5A  was  introduced  on  11th
July, 1923.  The Statement of Objects and Reasons for the said Amendment  is
as follows:
      “The Land Acquisition Act 1 of 1894  does  not   provide  that  person
having an interest in land which it is proposed  to acquire, shall have  the
right of objecting to such acquisition; nor is Government  bound to  enquire
into and consider any objections that may reach them.   The object  of  this
Bill is to provide that a Local Government shall not declare, under  section
6 of the Act, that any land is needed for a public purpose unless  time  has
been allowed after the notification under section 4 for  persons  interested
in the land to put in objections and for such objections  to  be  considered
by the Local Government.”     (Gazette of India, Pt.  V,  dated  14th  July,
1923, page 260)

The importance of Section 5A cannot  be  overemphasised.   It  is  conceived
from natural justice and has matured into  manhood  in  the  maxim  of  audi
alteram partem, i.e. every person likely  to  be  adversely  affected  by  a
decision must be granted a meaningful  opportunity  of  being  heard.   This
right cannot be taken away by a side wind, as so powerfully  and  pellucidly
stated in Nandeshwar Prasad vs.  State  of  U.P.,  AIR  1964  SC  1217.   So
stringent is this right that it mandates  that  the  person  who  heard  and
considered the Objections can alone decide them; and not even his  successor
is competent to do so even on the basis of the materials  collected  by  his
predecessor.   Furthermore,  the  decision  on  the  Objections  should   be
available in a self contained, speaking and reasoned order;  reasons  cannot
be added to it later as that would be  akin  to  putting  old  wine  in  new
bottles.  We can do no better than commend a careful  perusal  of  Union  of
India vs.  Shiv  Raj  (2014)  6  SCC  564,  on  these  as  well  as  cognate
7     Section 6 envisages the making of a  Declaration  by  the  appropriate
Government to the effect that the specified lands are needed  for  a  public
purpose, or for a Company; and post 1984, this Declaration has  to  be  made
within  one  year  of  the  date  of  the  publication  of  the  Section   4
Notification.  We are not concerned in this  Appeal  with  the  Provisos  or
Explanations to Section 6 or to other sub-Sections and shall  therefore  not
advert to them any further.  Thereafter the Collector  has  to  take  Orders
for the acquisition of land and to mark and measure it.  Section  9  enjoins
the Collector to cause public notice to be given of his  intention  to  take
possession of the land and to entertain claims  for  compensation.   Section
11 postulates the holding of an enquiry by the Collector into Objections  on
sundry grounds.  For the purposes with which we  are   presently  concerned,
amendments to Section 6 and the insertion of the new Section  11A,  both  of
which prescribe a time limit within which requisite action has to  be  taken
by the Government justify special mention.  The prefatory note  –  Statement
of Objects and Reasons of Act No.68 of 1984 as are relevant are  reproduced:
  [Current Central Legislation Vol.10 1984 - 3,5,6,9]
      Prefatory Note – Statement of Objects and Reasons – With the  enormous
expansion of the State’s role  in  promoting  public  welfare  and  economic
development since independence, acquisition of  land  for  public  purposes,
industrialisation, building of  institutions,  etc.,  has  become  far  more
numerous than ever before.  While this is inevitable,  promotion  of  public
purpose has to be balanced with the rights of the individual whose  land  is
acquired, thereby often depriving him of his means  of  livelihood.   Again,
acquisition of land for private enterprises ought not to be  placed  on  the
same footing as acquisition for the State or for  an  enterprise  under  it.
The individual and institutions who are unavoidably to be deprived of  their
property rights in land need to  be  adequately  compensated  for  the  loss
keeping in view the sacrifice they have to make for the larger interests  of
the community.  The pendency of acquisition  proceedings  for  long  periods
often causes hardship to the affected parties and  renders  unrealistic  the
scale of compensation offered to them.
The main proposals for amendment are as follows:-
(iii) A time-limit of one year is proposed to  be  provided  for  completion
of all formalities between the issue of the preliminary  notification  under
Section 4(1)  of the Act and the declaration for  acquisition  of  specified
land under Section 6(1) of the Act.
(v)   It is proposed to provide for a period of two years from the  date  of
publication of the declaration under Section 6 of the Act within  which  the
Collector should make his award under the Act.  If no award is  made  within
that period, the entire proceedings for the acquisition of  the  land  would
lapse.  He has also been  empowered  to  correct  clerical  or  arithmetical
mistakes in the award within a certain period from the date of the award.
(vi)  The circumstances under which the Collector should take possession  of
the land before the award is made in urgent  cases  are  being  enlarged  to
include a larger variety of public purposes.
(ix)  Considering that the right of  reference  to  the  civil  court  under
Section 18 of the Act is not usually taken advantage of by inarticulate  and
poor people and is usually exercised  only  by  the  comparatively  affluent
landowners and that this causes considerable inequality in  the  payment  of
compensation  for  the  same  or  similar  quality  of  land  to   different
interested parties,  it  is  proposed  to  provide  an  opportunity  to  all
aggrieved parties whose land is covered under the same notification to  seek
re-determination of compensation, once any one of them has  obtained  orders
for payment of higher compensation from the reference  court  under  Section
18 of the Act.

8     Section 11A has been introduced  by  Act  68  of  1984  prescribing  a
limitation of two years for the making of an Award by the Collector.  It  is
only post this  event  that  Section  16  empowers  the  Collector  to  take
possession of the land which thereupon vests absolutely in  the  Government,
free from all encumbrances.   We may clarify that the word  ‘vest’  has  two
connotations – the first and primary one relates to possession of land;  and
the second, an adjunctory one, pertains additionally to the  title  of  that
land.  But this distinction has not been drawn in  India  since  this  Court
has held in several cases that ‘vesting’ in the circumstances with which  we
are presently concerned, covers and encompasses the possession  as  well  as
the title of the land.
9     It is in this progression that  the  L.A.  Act  provides  for  special
powers in the case of perceived urgency, in terms of Section  17,  which  we
shall reproduce for facility of reference.
“17. Special powers in cases of urgency. –(1) In cases of urgency,  whenever
the appropriate Government, so directs, the Collector, though no such  award
has been made, may on the expiration of fifteen days  from  the  publication
of the notice mentioned in section 9, sub-section (1),  take  possession  of
any land needed for a  public  purpose.   Such  land  shall  thereupon  vest
absolutely in the Government, free from all encumbrances.
      (2) Whenever, owing to  any  sudden  change  in  the  channel  of  any
navigable river or other unforeseen emergency, it becomes necessary for  any
Railway Administration to acquire the immediate possession of any  land  for
the maintenance of their traffic or for the  purpose  of  making  thereon  a
river-side or ghat station, or of providing convenient  connection  with  or
access to any such station,  or  the  appropriate  Government  considers  it
necessary to acquire the immediate possession of any land  for  the  purpose
of maintaining any structure  or  system  pertaining  to  irrigation,  water
supply, drainage, road communication  or  electricity,  the  Collector  may,
immediately after the publication of the  notice  mentioned  in  sub-section
(1) and with the previous sanction of the  appropriate  Government  ,  enter
upon  and  take  possession  of  such  land,  which  shall  thereupon   vest
absolutely in the Government free from all encumbrances:
      Provided that the Collector shall not take possession of any  building
or part of a building under this sub-section without giving to the  occupier
thereof at least forty-eight hours’ notice of his intention  so  to  do,  or
such longer notice as may be reasonably sufficient to enable  such  occupier
to remove his  movable  property  from  such  building  without  unnecessary
      (3) In every case under  either  of  the  preceding  sub-sections  the
Collector shall at the time  of  taking  possession  offer  to  the  persons
interested compensation for the standing crops and trees (if  any)  on  such
land and for any other damage  sustained  by  them  caused  by  such  sudden
dispossession and not excepted in section 24; and, in  case  such  offer  is
not accepted, the value of such crops and  trees  and  the  amount  of  such
other damage shall be allowed for an  awarding  compensation  for  the  land
under the provisions herein contained.
      (3A) Before taking possession of any land  under  sub-section  (1)  or
sub-section 92), the Collector shall, without prejudice  to  the  provisions
of sub-section (3),-
tender payment of eighty per centum of the compensation  for  such  land  as
estimated by him to the persons interested entitled thereto, and
pay it to them, unless prevented by some one or more  of  the  contingencies
mentioned in section 31, sub-section (2),
and where the Collector is so prevented, the provisions of section 31,  sub-
section (2) (except the second proviso thereto), shall apply as  they  apply
to the payment of compensation under that section.

      (3B)  The amount paid or deposited under sub-section  (3A),  shall  be
taken into account for determining the amount of  compensation  required  to
be tendered under section 31, and where the  amount  so  paid  or  deposited
exceeds the compensation awarded by the  Collector  under  section  11,  the
excess  may,  unless  refunded  within  three  months  from  the   date   of
Collector’s award, be recovered as an arrear of land revenue.

(4)   In the case of any land to which, in the opinion  of  the  appropriate
Government, the  provisions  of  sub-section  (1)  or  sub-section  (2)  are
applicable, the appropriate Government may direct  that  the  provisions  of
section 5A shall not apply, and, if it does so direct, a declaration may  be
made under section 6 in respect of the land at any time after  the  date  of
the publication of the notification under section 4, sub-section (1).”
Sub-sections (3A) and (3B) have been introduced into the L.A. Act by Act  68
of 1984 with effect from 24.9.1984.
10    The L.A. Act, as amended by the State of Bihar by the Bihar Act 11  of
1961, is also being reproduced below for the purpose of clarity:
“17. Special powers in cases of urgency. –(1) In cases of urgency,  whenever
the appropriate Government so directs the Collector, though  no  such  award
has been made, may, on the expiration of fifteen days from  the  publication
of  the declaration mentioned in section 6, or with the consent  in  writing
of the person  interested,  at  any  time  after  the  publication  of   the
notification under Section 4 in the village in which the land  is  situated,
take possession of any waste or arable land needed for  public  purposes  or
for a company.  Such land shall thereupon vest absolutely in the  Government
free from all encumbrances.
      Explanation.—This sub-section shall  apply  to  any  waste  or  arable
land, notwithstanding the existence thereon of forest, orchard or trees.
      (2)Whenever it becomes necessary for the purpose of   protecting  life
or property from flood, erosion or  other  natural  calamities  or  for  the
maintenance of communication  other  than  a  railway  communication  or  it
becomes necessary for any Railway Administration  (other  than  the  Railway
Administration of the Union), owing to any sudden change in the  channel  of
any navigable river or other unforeseen emergency for  the  maintenance   of
their traffic or for the purpose of  making  thereon  a  riverside  or  ghat
station, or providing convenient connection  with  or  access  to  any  such
station, to acquire the immediate possession  of  any  land,  the  Collector
may, immediately after the publication of the declaration mentioned in s.  6
or, with the consent in writing of  the  person  interested,  given  in  the
presence of headman of  the village or mukhiya and sarpanch  as  defined  in
the Bihar Panchayat Raj Act, 1947 (Bihar Act  VII  of  1948),  at  any  time
after the publication of the notification under section 4 in the village  in
which  the  land  is  situated  and  with  the  previous  sanction  of   the
appropriate Government, enter upon and  take possession of such  land  which
shall  thereupon  vest  absolutely  in  the   Government   free   from   all
      Provided that the Collector shall not take possession of any  building
or part of a building under this sub-section without giving to the  occupier
thereof at least forty-eight hours’ notice of his intention  to  do  so,  or
such longer notice as may be reasonably sufficient to enable  such  occupier
to remove his  movable  property  from  such  building  without  unnecessary
      (3)   In every case under the proceeding  sub-sections  the  Collector
shall, at the time of  taking possession offer to  the  persons  interested,
compensation for the  standing  crops  on  such  land  and  for  any  damage
sustained by them caused by such sudden dispossession and  not  accepted  in
section 24; and in case such offer is not accepted, the value of such  crops
and the amount of such  other  damage  shall  be  allowed  for  in  awarding
compensation for the land under the provisions herein contained.
      (4)   In the case  of  any  land  to  which  in  the  opinion  of  the
appropriate Government, the provisions of  sub-section  (1)  or  sub-section
(2) are applicable, the provisions of section 5A shall not apply  where  the
appropriate Government so directs to where possession of the land  has  been
taken with the consent of the person interested.
Sub-sections (3A) and (3B) have not been  amended  viz-a-viz  the  State  of
Bihar and continue to apply even in that State.
11    Section 17 is not a pandect; it could have been devised by  Parliament
to be so, inter alia, by the use  of  a  non  obstante  clause,  or  in  the
alternative by clear and unequivocal language.   In Union of India  v.  G.M.
Kokil 1984 (Supp) SCC 196 this Court has opined that a “non obstante  clause
is a legislative device which is usually employed to give overriding  effect
to certain provisions over  some  contrary  provisions  that  may  be  found
either in the same enactment or some other enactment, that  is  to  say,  to
avoid the operation and effect of all contrary provisions.”   Alternatively,
Sections 9, 11, 11A etc.  could  have  been  made  subject  to  Section  17,
although both cumbersome and clumsy, but has not been so done.
12     The  salient  concomitants  of  Section  17(1)  deserve  enumeration.
Firstly, the Section is attracted even though an Award  has  not  been  made
which, it appears to us, clearly  indicates  that  the  completion  of  this
exercise has not been obliterated or dispensed  with  but  has  been  merely
deferred.  An unambiguous and unequivocal statement  could  have  been  made
excluding  the  requirement  of  publishing  an  Award.   Secondly,  it   is
available only on the expiration of fifteen days from the  issuance  of  the
Section 9 notice. This hiatus of  fifteen  days  must  be  honoured  as  its
purpose appears to be to enable the affected or aggrieved  parties  to  seek
appropriate remedy before they are divested of the possession and the  title
over their land.  The Government shall perforce  have  to  invite  and  then
consider  Objections  preferred  under  Section  5A,  which   procedure   as
painstakingly  and  steadfastly  observed  by  this  Court  constitutes  the
Constitutional right to property  of  every  citizen;  inasmuch  as  Section
17(4) enables the obliteration  of  this  valuable  right,  this  Court  has
repeatedly restated that valid and  pressing  reasons  must  be  present  to
justify the invocation of these provisions by  the  Government.     Thirdly,
possession of the land can  be  taken  only  if  it  is  needed  for  public
purpose, which term  stands  defined  in  the  preceding  Section  3(f).   A
conjoint reading of Sections 17 and  3(f)  makes  it  apparent  to  us  that
urgency provisions cannot be pressed into service  or  resorted  to  if  the
acquisition of land is for Companies; however we must be quick to  add  that
this question does not arise before us.  Fourthly, possession of such  lands
would vest in the Government only  when  the  foregoing  factors  have  been
formally and strictly complied with.  This Section enables  the  curtailment
of a citizen’s Constitutional right to property and can be resorted to  only
if the provisions  and  preconditions  are  punctiliously  and  meticulously
adhered to, lest the vesting be struck down and set aside by  the  Court  in
its writ jurisdiction, on the application of the Taylor vs. Taylor (1875)  1
Ch D 426 and several  judgments  of  this  Court  which  has  followed  this
decision (supra).
13    Section 17(2) enables the use of the urgency provisions in some  other
contingencies also, which we may term as  ‘emergency’  in  contradistinction
to ‘urgency’, with which we are  not  currently  concerned.   Section  17(3)
consists of myriad ingredients; by using the  word  “shall”  Parliament  has
clarified that  what  follows  compulsorily  requires  adherence,  the  non-
compliance of which will lead to vitiating all the action  ostensibly  taken
under this provision.  These requirements are that at  the  time  of  taking
possession of lands under the urgency provision  the  Collector  must  offer
compensation to the persons interested in those lands.  It  is  relevant  to
underscore that this provision does not postulate,  as  of  first  recourse,
depositing compensation with any  branch  of  the  Government  or  for  that
matter even with the Reference  Court.    The  compensation  must  first  be
tendered or offered to the persons interested  in  the  standing  crops  and
trees etc. on the subject land.
14    Section 17(3A) came to be introduced into the statute  by  Act  68  of
1984.  It requires the Collector to tender payment of  eighty  per  cent  of
the compensation estimated by him, obviously and pointedly,  to  the  person
interested in compensation for such land, unless the Collector is  precluded
or prevented from making such payments because of exigencies  enumerated  in
Section 31 of the L.A. Act.    In other words, the Collector cannot  by  way
of first recourse deposit the estimated compensation even in  the  Court  to
which the filing of a Reference under Section 18 is provided.   The  use  of
the word “shall” indicates that the provisions are prima facie mandatory  in
nature unless the statute or the language employed in the Section  indicates
otherwise.   The language of sub-Section  (3A),  inasmuch  as  it  commences
with the words  “Before  taking  possession  of  any  land.....”,  makes  it
incontrovertibly clear that what follows  are  the  prerequisities  thereto.
It is beyond cavil, therefore, that the statute has ordained a  precise  and
particular methodology which must be adhered to as a precursor to  divesting
the owner of land of its possession and title.  It is axiomatic  that  if  a
statute prescribes the manner in which an action  is  to  be  performed,  it
must be carried out strictly in consonance thereto  or  not  at  all.   This
legal principle has been articulated over a century ago in Taylor v.  Taylor
and has admirably and in fact unquestionably withstood  the  test  of  time.
It was approved by the Privy Council in Nazir Ahmad v. King  Emperor  (1935-
36) 63 IA 372 and subsequently applied by three Judge Benches  in  Rao  Shiv
Bahadur Singh v. State of Vindhya Pradesh AIR 1954 SC 322, State of U.P.  v.
Singhara Singh AIR 1964 SC 358, Babu  Verghese  v.  Bar  Council  of  Kerala
(1999) 3 SCC 422 and most recently in Hussein Ghadially v. State of  Gujarat
(2014) 8 SCC 425.  Simply put, but for the statutory enablement, the  action
could not have been taken;  ergo  everything  surrounding  that  empowerment
must be meticulously performed.  Possession of the  land  can  be  taken  on
grounds of urgency if and  only  if  there  is  contemporaneous  payment  of
eighty  per  cent  of  the  estimated  compensation,  otherwise  making  the
acquisition  vulnerable  to  vitiation  because  of  the  Taylor  v.  Taylor
principle.   The use of the word “estimated” in the Section  delineates  the
distinction from “actual” compensation;  an estimate always remains a  rough
or approximate calculation only [Black’s Law Dictionary], or an  approximate
judgment and /or a price specified as that which is likely  to  be  charged.
It would do violence to the statute and fly in the face of common  sense  if
an estimate is treated per se as a conclusive calculation.  Any  doubt  that
may remain is immediately dispelled upon a perusal of Section  17(3B)  which
clarifies that the estimated amount  tendered/paid  under  sub-Section  (3A)
will be taken into account for determining the amount  of  compensation  and
thereafter logically permitting the shortfall or the excess to be  adjusted.
 In other words, the  amount  of  compensation  has  to  be  determined  and
computed under the relevant sections of the L.A. Act.   A  reading  of  sub-
Section (4) sounds the death knell to the  arguments  put  forward  for  the
Respondent State, inasmuch as  it  allows  the  option  to  the  appropriate
Government to make the provisions of Section 5A  inapplicable.   Paraphrased
differently, even where the urgency provisions contained in Section  17  are
resorted to, ordinarily the provisions of Section 5A have to be adhered  to,
i.e. inviting and then deciding the  Objections  filed  by  the  landowners.
Significantly, sub-Section (4) of Section 17 does not,  as  it  very  easily
could have, exempt compliance with the publication of the Declaration  under
Section 6 and the hearing of parties preparatory to the passing of an  Award
under Sections 9 to 11 of the Act.  There is, therefore, not  even  an  iota
of doubt that remains pertaining to the absolute necessity  of  the  passing
of an Award under Section 11 of the L.A. Act.    We  are  in  no  manner  of
doubt, and we reiterate, that the tender of the  estimated  compensation  is
the precondition,  the  sine  qua  non,  enabling  the  Government  to  take
possession of land under the foregoing subsections; and must be followed  by
the exercise of computation of compensation in a procedure corresponding  to
that in Section 11.   We  shall  revert  to  the  question  of  whether  the
constraints contained in Section 11A will  also  apply  to  acquisitions  in
which Section 17 has been resorted to.
15    The L.A. Act postulates that the urgency clause can  be  pressed  into
service at two stages.  Firstly, ordinarily possession can be taken  fifteen
days after the publication of the Section 9 notice. The decision to  procure
possession on an urgency basis can be taken by the Government either at  the
very  inception  of  the  proceedings  or   at   any   time   preceding   or
contemporaneous to the date of the issuance of the  Section  9  notice.   In
both these contingencies  the  valuable  right  of  the  landowner  to  file
Objections and resist the  acquisition  by  virtue  of  Section  5A  remains
unimpaired.   Secondly,  the  Government  can  invoke  sub-Section  (4)  and
dispense with the valuable  Section  5A  right;  in  which  event,  logical,
cogent and well-reasoned  notings  must  be  simultaneously  articulated  in
writing for  taking  this  momentous  and  monumental  decision.    We  must
immediately clarify that in the case in hand, since the land is  located  in
the State of Bihar, Section 17(1) enables possession  to  be  taken  on  the
expiry of fifteen days of the publication of the Section 6 Declaration.
16    Since heavy reliance has been placed by the State on  Satendra  Prasad
Jain vs. State of U.P. (1993)  4  SCC  369  and  Lt.  Governor  of  Himachal
Pradesh v. Avinash Sharma (1970) 2 SCC 149,  we  must  sedulously  determine
their ratios. This would therefore be the apposite  time  and  place  for  a
brief discussion  on  the  contours  and  connotations  of  the  term  ratio
decidendi, which in Latin means “the reason  for  deciding”.   According  to
Glanville  Williams  in  ‘Learning  the  Law’,  this  maxim   “is   slightly
ambiguous.  It may mean either (1) rule that the judge who decided the  case
intended to lay down and apply to the facts, or (2) the rule  that  a  later
Court concedes him to have had the power to lay down.”     In  G.W.  Patons’
Jurisprudence, ratio decidendi has been conceptualised in  a  novel  manner,
in that these words are “almost always used in contradistinction  to  obiter
dictum.    An obiter dictum, of  course,  is  always  something  said  by  a
Judge.   It is frequently easier to show that something said in  a  Judgment
is obiter and has no binding authority.   Clearly something said by a  Judge
about the law in his judgment, which is not part of the course of  reasoning
leading to the decision of some question  or  issue  presented  to  him  for
resolution, has no binding authority however persuasive it may  be,  and  it
will be described as an obiter dictum.”    ‘Precedents in  English  Law’  by
Rupert Cross and JW Harris states - “First, it  is  necessary  to  determine
all the facts of the case as seen by the Judge; secondly,  it  is  necessary
to discover which of those facts were treated as  material  by  the  Judge.”
Black’s Law Dictionary, in somewhat similar vein to the aforegoing,  bisects
this concept, firstly, as the principle or rule of law on  which  a  Court’s
decision is founded and secondly, the rule of law on which  a  latter  Court
thinks that a previous Court founded its decision; a  general  rule  without
which a case must have been decided otherwise.
17    A Constitution Bench has also reflected on the true  nature  of  ratio
decidendi in Krishena Kumar vs. Union of India, 1990  (4)  SCC  207,  as  is
discernable from the following passages:
19. The doctrine of precedent, that is being bound by a  previous  decision,
is limited to the decision itself and as to what is necessarily involved  in
it. It does not mean that this Court is bound by the various  reasons  given
in support of it, especially when they contain “propositions wider than  the
case itself required”. This  was  what  Lord  Selborne  said  in  Caledonian
Railway Co. v. Walker’s Trustees and Lord Halsbury in Quinn v. Leathem.  Sir
Frederick Pollock has also said : “Judicial authority  belongs  not  to  the
exact words used in this or that judgment,  nor  even  to  all  the  reasons
given, but only to the principles accepted and applied as necessary  grounds
of the decision.”
20. In other words, the enunciation of the reason or principle upon which  a
question before a court has been decided is alone binding  as  a  precedent.
The ratio  decidendi  is  the  underlying  principle,  namely,  the  general
reasons or the general grounds upon which the decision is based on the  test
or abstract from the specific peculiarities of  the  particular  case  which
gives rise to the decision. The ratio decidendi has to be ascertained by  an
analysis of the facts of the case and the  process  of  reasoning  involving
the major premise consisting of a  pre-existing  rule  of  [pic]law,  either
statutory or judge-made, and a minor  premise  consisting  of  the  material
facts of the case under immediate consideration. If it is not clear,  it  is
not the duty of the court to spell it out with difficulty  in  order  to  be
bound by it.

18    The following paragraph from  the  determination  of  the  Three-Judge
Bench in Sanjay Singh vs. U.P. Public Service  Commission,  Allahabad,  2007
(3) SCC 720,  is instructive and is reproduced for this reason -
10.  The  contention  of  the  Commission  also  overlooks  the  fundamental
difference between  challenge  to  the  final  order  forming  part  of  the
judgment and challenge to the  ratio  decidendi  of  the  judgment.  Broadly
speaking, every judgment of superior courts has three segments, namely,  (i)
the facts and the point at issue; (ii) the reasons  for  the  decision;  and
(iii) the final order containing the decision. The reasons for the  decision
or the ratio decidendi is not the final order containing  the  decision.  In
fact, in a judgment of this Court, though the ratio decidendi may  point  to
a particular result, the decision (final order relating to  relief)  may  be
different and not a natural  consequence  of  the  ratio  decidendi  of  the
judgment. This may happen either on account of any subsequent event  or  the
need to mould the relief to do complete justice in the  matter.  It  is  the
ratio decidendi of a judgment and not  the  final  order  in  the  judgment,
which forms a precedent...

19    We also commend a careful reading of  the  following  paragraphs  from
the decision of the Constitution Bench in Islamic Academy of  Education  vs.
State of  Karnataka,  2003  (6)  SCC  697,  which  we  shall  reproduce  for
139. A judgment, it is trite, is not to be read  as  a  statute.  The  ratio
decidendi of a judgment is its reasoning which can be deciphered  only  upon
reading the same in its entirety. The ratio  decidendi  of  a  case  or  the
principles and reasons on which it is based  is  distinct  from  the  relief
finally granted or the manner  adopted  for  its  disposal.  (See  Executive
Engineer, Dhenkanal Minor Irrigation Division v. N.C. Budharaj)
140. In Padma Sundara Rao v. State  of  T.N  it  is  stated:  (SCC  p.  540,
paragraph 9)
“There is always peril in treating the words of  a  speech  or  judgment  as
though they  are  words  in  a  legislative  enactment,  and  it  is  to  be
remembered that judicial utterances are made in the setting of the facts  of
a particular case, said  Lord  Morris  in  Herrington  v.  British  Railways
Board(Sub  nom  British  Railways  Board  v.   Herrington).   Circumstantial
flexibility,  one  additional  or  different  fact  may  make  a  world   of
difference between conclusions in two cases.”
(See also Haryana Financial Corpn. v. Jagdamba Oil Mills)
141. In General Electric Co. v. Renusagar Power Co  it  was  held:  (SCC  p.
157, paragraph 20)
“As often enough pointed  out  by  us,  words  and  expressions  used  in  a
judgment are not to be construed in the same manner as statutes or as  words
and expressions defined in statutes. We do not have any doubt that when  the
words ‘adjudication of the merits of the controversy in the suit’ were  used
by this Court in State of U.P. v. Janki  Saran  Kailash  Chandra  the  words
were not used to take in every adjudication which  brought  to  an  end  the
proceeding before the court in whatever manner but were meant to cover  only
such adjudication as touched upon  the  real  dispute  between  the  parties
which gave rise to the action. Objections to adjudication  of  the  disputes
between the parties, on whatever ground,  are  in  truth  not  aids  to  the
progress of the suit but hurdles to  such  progress.  Adjudication  of  such
objections  cannot  be  termed  as  adjudication  of  the  merits   of   the
controversy in the suit. As we said earlier, a broad view has  to  be  taken
of the principles involved and narrow  and  technical  interpretation  which
tends to defeat the object of the legislation must be avoided.”
142. In Rajeswar Prasad Misra v. State of W.B  it was held:
“No doubt, the law declared by this Court  binds  courts  in  India  but  it
should always be remembered that this Court does not enact.”
[pic](See also Amar Nath Om Prakash v. State of Punjab  and  Hameed  Joharan
v. Abdul Salam)
143. It will not, therefore, be correct to contend, as  has  been  contended
by Mr Nariman, that answers to  the  questions  would  be  the  ratio  to  a
judgment. The answers to the questions are merely conclusions. They have  to
be interpreted, in a case of doubt or dispute with the reasons  assigned  in
support thereof  in  the  body  of  the  judgment,  wherefor,  it  would  be
essential to read the other paragraphs of the  judgment  also.  It  is  also
permissible for this purpose (albeit only in  certain  cases  and  if  there
exist strong and cogent reasons) to look to the pleadings of the parties.
144. In Keshav Chandra Joshi v. Union of India this Court  when  faced  with
difficulties where specific guidelines had been laid down for  determination
of seniority in Direct Recruit Class II Engg. Officers’ Assn.  v.  State  of
Maharashtra held that the  conclusions  have  to  be  read  along  with  the
discussions and the reasons given in the body of the judgment.
145. It is further trite that  a  decision  is  an  authority  for  what  it
decides and not what can be logically deduced therefrom.”
                                                         (emphasis supplied)
20    The plea before us from the Appellants is that the land should  revert
to them under Section 11A, since an Award under Section  11  has  still  not
been made despite the passage of almost three decades from the date  of  the
subject Notification.  This Court has continuously held that once  land  has
vested in the State, the  question  of  re-vesting  its  possession  in  the
erstwhile landowners is no longer available as an option to the State.  This
legal position was enunciated close to a half century ago in Avinash  Sharma
and has been subsequently reiterated in numerous judgments.  Paragraph 4  of
the aforementioned Judgment is worthy of reproduction, and its reading  will
bear out that what was primarily in the contemplation of this Court was  the
possession of the land in contradistinction to its title.
“4. In the present case a notification  under  Section  17(1)  and  (4)  was
issued by the State Government and  possession  which  had  previously  been
taken must, from the date of expiry of fifteen days from the publication  of
the notice under Section 9(1), be deemed to be  in  the  possession  of  the
Government. We are unable to agree that where the  Government  has  obtained
possession illegally or under some unlawful transaction and  a  notification
under Section 17(1) is issued the land does not vest in the Government  free
from all encumbrances. We are of the view that  when  a  notification  under
Section 17(1) is  issued,  on  the  expiration  of  fifteen  days  from  the
publication  of  the  notice  mentioned  in  Section  9(1),  the  possession
previously obtained will be deemed to be the possession  of  the  Government
under Section 17(1) of the Act and the land  will  vest  in  the  Government
free from all encumbrances”.

Ordinarily, possession of land  can  only  be  taken  after  the  expiry  of
fifteen days from the publication of the notice envisaged in Section 9.   We
mention this for  the  reason  that  the  Act  enables,  in  this  statutory
sequence of events, the owner of  the  land  to  approach  the  Court  in  a
challenge to  the  invocation  of  the  urgency  provisions.   Ubi  jus  ibi
remedium, every grievance has a remedy in law, is a  legal  maxim  which  is
immediately recalled.   We must hasten to add that the  apparent  infraction
of the provisions of Section 9 of the Act do not arise in the  present  case
because of the Bihar Amendment of Section 17.
21    This is also in line with a plain  reading  of  Section  17(1),  which
states that “once possession of the land is taken by  the  Government  under
Section 17, the land vests absolutely  in  the  Government,  free  from  all
encumbrances”. In Section 48(1) the taking over of  the  possession  of  the
land is of seminal significance in  that  the  provision  succinctly  states
that “the Government shall be at liberty to withdraw  from  the  acquisition
of any land the possession of which has not  been  taken”.   The  next  sub-
Section covers calculation of compensation for the aborted occupation.   The
same position came to be reiterated  in  Satendra  Prasad  Jain by  a  Three
Judge Bench of  this  Court.   The  acquisition  proceedings  including  the
exclusion of Section 5A had obtained the imprimatur of  the  Allahabad  High
Court; the urgency and  public  purpose  had  received  curial  concurrence.
Possession of  the  land  was  taken  by  the  State  from  the  landowners.
Previously, the Special Leave Petition filed  by  the  landowners  had  been
dismissed by this Court. Ironically, the subsequent stance of the State  was
that the acquisition of land under the urgency provisions  was  required  to
be set aside for the reason that the State  had  failed  to  pass  an  Award
under Section 11 within two years and had also  failed  to  pay  eighty  per
cent of the estimated compensation required under Section  17(3A).    Whilst
the State endeavoured  to  withdraw  from  the  acquisition,  the  erstwhile
landowners opposed it.  This Court directed the State “to make  and  publish
an award in respect of the said land within twelve weeks from  today”.   The
abovementioned discussion bears out that this Court was concerned only  with
the issue of the land being returned by the State to  the  erstwhile  owner.
It does not go so far as to limit or restrict the rights  of  landowners  to
fair  compensation  for  their  expropriated  property,   as   that   is   a
Constitutional right which cannot  be  nullified,  neutralised  or  diluted.
We think it justified to again refer to the opinion in Satendra Prasad  Jain
that - “Section 11A cannot be  so  construed  as  to  leave  the  Government
holding title to the land without the obligation to determine  compensation,
make an award and pay to the owner the difference between the amount of  the
award and the amount of eighty per  cent  of  the  estimated  compensation.”
The  second   issue,  one  that  we  feel  must  be  kept  in  mind  in  the
interpretation in the law laid down by this Court, is the  factual  matrices
involved in both Satendra Prasad Jain and Avinash  Sharma.   In  both  these
precedents, as well as in innumerable others that  have  relied  upon  them,
the Government’s attempt was to misuse its own omissions to achieve its  own
oblique purposes.  It was in  this  context  that  this  Court  declined  to
accede to the pleas of the Government.  This Court poignantly  repelled  the
State’s attempt to nullify the acquisition on the predication  of  its  non-
compliance with Sections 16 and 17(3A).   The judicial  intent  was  not  to
cause any loss to landowners, but to protect them. The  pernicious  practice
that was becoming rampant, that is  to  make  partial  compliance  with  the
statute and to follow the acquisition procedure in a piecemeal  manner,  and
then to argue that its own lapses  rendered  its  acquisition  illegal,  was
roundly repulsed.  Although this strictly constitutes obiter,  we  think  it
appropriate  to  clarify  that  where  the  landowners  do  not  assail  the
acquisition, it may be open to them to seek a mandamus for payment to  them,
after a  reasonable  period,  of  the  remaining  compensation,  which  will
thereupon metamorphose from a mere estimation  to  the  actual  compensation
for the expropriation.
22    The Constitution Bench of this Court had to interpret  Section  17  in
Raja Anand Brahma Shah v. State of U.P. (1967) 1 SCR 373,  but  in  somewhat
different circumstances.  The State proposed to take over  large  tracts  of
land “for limestone quarry” on urgency basis; by virtue  of  Section  17(4),
Section 5A was held not to be available.   The  Collector  of  Mirzapur  was
directed by the  Notification  under  Section  17(1)  of  the  Act  to  take
possession of the “waste or arable land” even in the  absence  of  an  Award
being published.   The Constitution Bench held that the  limestone  quarries
belonging to the Appellant, which were proposed to be  acquired,  could  not
possibly be conceived of or  categorised  as  “waste  or  arable  land,  the
acquisition, inasmuch as it proceeded  under  Section  17,  could  not  pass
muster of law.  What is very pertinent for the present purposes is that  the
Constitution Bench had declined issuance of a mandamus commanding the  State
to restore possession of the land to the Appellant,  not  because  this  was
inconceivable or impermissible in law or because of any  provisions  in  the
L.A. Act, but rather because the lands had validly vested in  the  State  of
U.P. under the U.P. Zamindari Abolition and Land  Reforms  Act,  1951.   The
conundrum of the restoration of the land  had  directly  arisen  before  the
Constitution Bench and since it declined the prayer for  other  reasons,  it
follows that there is no constraint  or  impediment  for  the  grant  of  an
appropriate Writ in this regard.   This will  fortify  our  distillation  of
the ratio desidendi of Satendra  Prasad  Jain  which  is  circumscribed  and
restricted to the extent that the State is not empowered  to  withdraw  from
an acquisition once it has taken possession of the said lands.
23     We  do,  however,  recognize  that  Satendra  Prasad  Jain  has  been
interpreted more broadly in the past.  In  Allahabad  Development  Authority
vs. Naziruzzaman (1996) 6 SCC 424, General  Manager,  Telecommunication  vs.
Dr. Madan  Mohan Pradhan 1995  Supp  (4)  SCC  268,  and  Banda  Development
Authority, Banda vs. Mota Lal Agarwal (2011)  5  SCC  394,  this  Court  has
dismissed the landowners’ challenges to the respective acquisitions  on  the
basis of Avinash Sharma and Satendra Prasad Jain.  It is pertinent  to  note
that all three of these cases were brief in their  explanations  of  Avinash
Sharma and  Satendra  Prasad  Jain,  and  did  not  examine  their  rationes
decidendi,  their  innate  contradictions,   their   intentions   or   their
consequences at any length.  We thus feel it appropriate to rely on our  own
detailed exploration of these cases, as opposed to simply  placing  reliance
on the largely contradictory case law that has  developed  over  the  years.
It was for this reason that we had revisited the  curial  concept  of  ratio
24    The scenario before us depicts the carelessness  and  the  callousness
of the State, quite different from the situation  in  Satendra  Prasad  Jain
and Avinash Sharma.  The Appellants herein are being denied  just  and  fair
compensation for their land in proceedings which commenced in 1987,  despite
the directions of the High Court passed as early  as  in  1988  to  pass  an
award within four months.   The raison d’etre  behind  the  introduction  of
Section 11A was for the landowners to have a  remedy  in  the  event  of  an
award  not  being  passed  expeditiously.   If  Satendra  Prasad   Jain   is
interpreted to mean that Section 11A  will  not  apply  to  any  acquisition
under the urgency provisions, landowners such as the  Appellants  before  us
will have no protection, even if they are not  paid  full  compensation  for
their land for decades. This cannot  be  in  keeping  with  the  legislative
intent behind this  Section.  Furthermore,  keeping  empirical  evidence  in
sight, we make bold to  opine  that  circumstances  require  this  Court  to
reconsider its view that even if the stated public  interest  or  cause  has
ceased to exist, any other cause can substitute  it,  especially  where  the
urgency provisions have been invoked.
25    We feel it imperative to distinguish between the setting aside  of  an
acquisition and the reversion of possession  to  the  erstwhile  landowners.
While the L.A. Act and the judgments discussed above do not  allow  for  the
latter, we are of the considered opinion  that  this  does  not  necessarily
imply that the former is also not an option. Both the  abovementioned  cases
dealt with a factual situation in which the  Government  was  attempting  to
set the acquisition of the land at naught so that they  would  not  have  to
pay compensation to acquire it. Setting aside of the  acquisition  in  those
cases was tantamount to reverting the possession to the original owners.  In
this scenario, however, the two do not have to go hand in hand. In  allowing
the acquisition of land that  the  Government  finds  necessary  to  be  set
aside, we would not necessarily be holding  that  the  land  revert  to  the
Appellants,  as  the  alternative  of  permitting  the  Government  to  keep
possession  provided  it  re-acquires  the  land  with  a  new   Section   4
notification exists.  This  option,  particularly  in  the  present  factual
matrix, does the least violence to the intent and content of the  L.A.  Act,
in that it upholds Section 11A even in cases of  acquisition  under  Section
17 while preserving the requirement of  Section  17  that  the  unencumbered
possession of the land remain vested in the  Government.  It  also  protects
the rights of the landowners, thus fulfilling the  intent  of  Section  11A,
while allowing the Government  to  acquire  land  in  cases  of  emergencies
without its title  being  challenged,  which  is  the  avowed  intention  of
Section 17. Any other interpretation of the law would serve to protect  only
those landowners who had approached the Court to stop  the  Government  from
undoing  an  emergency  acquisition,  while  leaving  in  the  cold  equally
aggrieved landowners seeking to enforce their  right  to  fair  compensation
for their land. Even equity demands that the party bearing  the  consequence
of the delay in the Award ought not to be the innocent  landowner,  but  the
errant State.
26    While we presently  refrain  from  passing  any  orders  or  direction
pertaining to or interfering with the possession of the Government over  the
subject land, the  acquisition  dated  18.11.1987  is  set  aside  for  non-
compliance with the provisions of Section 11A of the L.A. Act.   As all  the
subsequent  Notifications  by  the  Respondent  State  having  lapsed,   the
Respondent State is directed to issue a fresh Section 4 Notification  within
six weeks from today.  The Respondent State is  restrained  from  contending
that the land is no longer required by it or that it should  revert  to  the
Appellants.  The Appeal is allowed in these terms.


New Delhi,
July 03, 2015.

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