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Sunday, February 7, 2016

quashed the notifications dated 08.10.2003 and 07.05.2004 issued under Sections 4 and 6 of Land Acquisition Act, 1894, respectively, by the State of Haryana regarding acquisition of land measuring 129 kanals 14 marlas in village Lakarpur, District Faridabad. The High Court has further quashed the Award dated 05.05.2006, passed by respondent No. 4 in respect of land owned by respondent No. 1 Eros City Developers Pvt. Ltd., which was acquired through the above mentioned notifications.= “Salus Populi est suprema lex: regard for the public welfare is the higher law.” This principle is based on the implied agreement of every member of society that his own individual welfare shall in cases of necessity yield to that of community. His property, liberty and life shall under certain circumstances be placed in jeopardy or even sacrificed for the public good.”=We are of the view that the High Court is incorrect in holding that the State has not acted bonafide, after 1992 acquisition proceedings were dropped. It is apparent from the record that earlier proceedings were dropped in the light of orders passed in M.C. Mehta’s Case in the year 1996, restraining construction in the area, and after modification in the said order in the year 1998, the State took fresh decision to acquire the land for public purpose and there is no illegality in the same.

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                         CIVIL APPEAL NO.354 OF 2016
                (Arising out of S.L.P. (C) No. 7553 of 2008)


State of Haryana                             … Appellant

                                   Versus

Eros City Developers Pvt. Ltd. and others          …Respondents

                                  WITH

                 CIVIL APPEAL NO.355 OF 2016
(Arising out of SLP (C) No. 27588 of 2008)






                               J U D G M E N T




Prafulla C. Pant, J.


      Leave granted in both the special leave petitions.

These appeals are directed against  judgment  and  order  dated  21.01.2008,
passed by the High Court of Punjab and Haryana in Civil  Writ  Petition  No.
10611 of 2004  whereby  said  Court  has  quashed  the  notifications  dated
08.10.2003  and   07.05.2004  issued  under  Sections  4  and  6   of   Land
Acquisition Act, 1894, respectively,  by  the  State  of  Haryana  regarding
acquisition of land measuring 129 kanals  14  marlas  in  village  Lakarpur,
District Faridabad.  The High Court has  further  quashed  the  Award  dated
05.05.2006, passed  by  respondent  No.  4  in  respect  of  land  owned  by
respondent No. 1 Eros City Developers Pvt. Ltd., which was acquired  through
the above mentioned notifications.

Succinctly stated total area of 172 kanals 19  marlas  situated  in  village
Lakharpur Tehsil  Ballabgarh  in  District  Faridabad  was  proposed  to  be
acquired by the State  of  Haryana  through  notification  dated  08.10.2003
issued under Section 4 of Land  Acquisition  Act,  1894  out  of  which  129
kanals 14 marlas (for short subject land) belonged to respondent  no.1  M/s.
Eros City Developers Pvt. Ltd.  The details of the  persons  whose  land  is
acquired is as under:

|S.   |Name of owner      |Total Area  |Status                       |
|No.  |                   |            |                             |
|1.   |Shri Sekher        |6 kanal     |Compensation paid. Possession|
|     |S/o Shri Roshan Lal|2 ½ marla   |taken over.                  |
|2.   |Shri Sissar S/o    |6 kanal     |Compensation paid. Possession|
|     |Shri Roshan Lal    |2 ½ marla   |taken over.                  |
|3.   |M/s. Eros City     |129 kanal   |Compensation deposited before|
|     |Developers Pvt.    |14 marla    |the Land Acquisition         |
|     |Ltd.(Respondent    |            |Collector. Acquisition       |
|     |No.1 herein)       |            |quashed vide impugned        |
|     |                   |            |judgment.                    |
|4.   |Shri Vikram Bakshi |25 kanal    |C.W.P. No. 1510 of 2005      |
|     |S/o Shri DN Bakshi |2 marla     |pending before the High      |
|     |                   |            |Court.  Status quo with      |
|     |                   |            |regard to the possession of  |
|     |                   |            |the land ordered during the  |
|     |                   |            |pendency of the writ petition|
|     |                   |            |vide order dated 22.5.2006.  |
|     |                   |            |Compensation deposited before|
|     |                   |            |the Land Acquisition         |
|     |                   |            |Collector.                   |
|5.   |M/s. Faridabad     |2 kanal     |Compensation paid. Possession|
|     |Compex             |18 marla    |taken over.                  |

The subject land was stated  to  have  been  acquired  for  the  purpose  of
expansion and systematic development  of  Surajkund  Tourist  Complex  which
included development of parking  area  adjacent  to  the  Surajkund  Tourist
Complex near annual Surajkund Fair.

Admittedly, earlier in 1992 an attempt was made to  acquire  the  same  land
but the acquisition proceedings were dropped after this court  passed  order
dated 10.05.1996 in WP  (C)  No.  4677  of  1985  i.e.,  M.C.  Mehta’s  case
restraining the constructions in the area.   Meanwhile  in  1993  contesting
respondent appears to have purchased the land indicated  above.   It  is  in
1998, the order dated 10.05.1996 said to have been modified,  and  Municipal
Corporation Faridabad and the State Government  were  directed  to  consider
the plan of hotel project submitted by the respondent No.1.

Learned counsel for the appellant  State  submitted  that  annual  Surajkund
Mela, is held every year in February in Faridabad District, and  has  become
a regular feature of  international  fame.   As  such,  there  was  need  to
develop Surajkund Tourist Complex by acquiring land adjoining  to  Surajkund
Mela ground in Faridabad.  It is  also  pointed  out  that  significance  of
Surajkund fair was noticed by this Court in W.P. (C) No. 4677 of 1985  (M.C.
Mehta vs. Union of India and ors.) wherein effective directions were  issued
in the year 1996 to protect and maintain the  sanctity  of  the  area.   The
acquisition of subject-land is thus not only in public interest but also  to
maintain the integral development of the Surajkund Complex in a unified  and
planned manner.  It is  contended  that  while  quashing  the  notifications
mentioned above, the High Court has erred  in  not  considering  the  public
interest and public purpose over private  interest  of  the  respondent/writ
petitioner, a private colonizer.  The impugned  order  passed  by  the  High
Court has been assailed by the  appellant,  also  on  the  ground  that  the
equity doctrines of promissory  estoppel  and  legitimate  expectation  were
wrongly applied by the High Court in favour of  respondent  No.  1.   It  is
stated that before issuance of notification under  Section  6  of  the  Land
Acquisition Act, 1894 (for short “the Act”) objections filed  on  behalf  of
respondent No. 1 under Section 5A of the Act were  duly  considered  by  the
authority concerned, and there was no illegality in the acquisition.

On the other hand, on behalf of respondent No. 1, Shri  Shyam  Divan  Senior
Counsel contended that Government of  Haryana  which  earlier  attempted  to
acquire the same land in the  year  1992,  itself  dropped  the  acquisition
proceedings as such  it  cannot  be  said  that  the  land  in  question  is
genuinely required for any public purpose.  The  contesting  respondent  has
pleaded that the land in question was purchased by it in the year 1993  with
the object to construct a hotel complex of international  standard.  In  the
counter affidavit, it is  stated  that  the  answering  respondent  got  the
permission for change of land use and submitted the plan for  sanction  from
the Municipal Corporation.  It also obtained permission  from  Public  Works
Department for  construction  of  approach  road  to  the  land.   Even  the
Director, Tourism, Government of Haryana,  had  accorded  approval  for  the
hotel project of respondent No. 1.  However, the  answering  respondent  was
prevented from  raising  construction  due  to  the  restraint  order  dated
10.5.1996, passed by this Court in M.C. Mehta’s case (in W.P. (C)  No.  4677
of 1985).  Said order was modified on 13.05.1998.  On application  filed  by
the answering respondent, vide order dated 12.10.1998, this  Court  directed
the Municipal Corporation, Faridabad, and State Government to accept  option
plan A with regard to hotel project (ground plus four floors), submitted  by
it.  It is submitted that  there  was  malice  on  the  part  of  the  State
Government in acquiring the land in question through the notification  dated
08.10.2003 issued under Section 4 of the  Act.   It  is  also  pleaded  that
there were overwhelming circumstances in favour of the answering  respondent
to  invoke  doctrine  of  promissory  estoppel,  and  that   of   legitimate
expectation.  In this connection, it  is  pointed  out  that  permission  of
change of land use was also granted in favour of the  answering  respondent.
Lastly, it is  submitted  that  the  High  Court  has  rightly  quashed  the
notifications issued by the State Government for  acquisition  of  the  land
owned by the answering respondent.

 In reply to this, on behalf of the State of Haryana, it is  submitted  that
since the construction did not start within six  months  as  required  under
the terms of order by which permission for change of land  use  was  granted
as such merely for  the  reason  that  permission  to  change  of  land  use
granted, the acquisition cannot be  questioned.   It  is  further  submitted
that the acquisition proceedings have been  upheld  by  the  High  Court  in
Civil Writ Petition No. 1510 of 2005 filed by Vikram Bakshi, who  was  owner
of another piece of land acquired  by  same  notification  dated  08.10.2003
issued under Section 4 of  the  Act  read  with  consequential  notification
issued under Section 6 of the Act.

We have also gone through the copy of order dated 07.07.2010 passed  by  the
High Court of Punjab & Haryana in Civil  Writ  Petition  No.  1510  of  2005
filed by Vikram  Bakshi,  said  writ  petition  was  filed  challenging  the
notification dated 08.10.2003 issued under Section  4  of  Land  Acquisition
Act, 1894, and the consequential notification issued under Section 6 of  the
Act.  The land for which acquisition sought to be quashed by  Vikram  Bakshi
relates to 32 kanal of land comprising of rectangle no. 40 khasra  Nos.  14,
17/1, 17/2, 18/1, 23/1, and  24/1 of Village  Lakharpur  Tehsil  Ballabhgarh
District Faridabad. In said petition also,  public  purpose  i.e.  expansion
and systematic development of Surajkund Tourist Complex was questioned,  and
issue relating to consideration of objections filed under  Section  5-A  was
raised.  The High Court after considering the rival  submissions  and  going
through the record opined that there was no illegality  in  the  acquisition
and dismissed the Writ Petition No. 1510 of 2005 on 07.07.2010.

In Sooraram Pratap Reddy and Others  vs.  District  Collector,  Ranga  Reddy
District and others (2008) 9 SCC 552, this Court has held that  the  project
for which land is acquired should be taken as a whole  and  must  be  judged
whether it is in the larger  public  interest.   It  cannot  be  split  into
different components and to consider whether each and every  component  will
serve public good.  A holistic approach has to be adopted in  such  matters.
This Court further observed in said case that development of  infrastructure
is legal and legitimate public  purpose  for  exercising  power  of  eminent
domain.  In deciding whether acquisition is for  “public  purpose”  or  not,
prima facie, the Government is the best judge.   Although  the  decision  of
the Government is not beyond judicial scrutiny, normally, in such matters  a
writ court should  not  interfere  by  substituting  its  judgment  for  the
judgment of the Government.  In Sooraram Pratap Reddy  (supra),  this  Court
has further explained that the meaning of  expression  “public  purpose”  is
wider than that of “public necessity”.

Clause (f) of Rule 26-D of the Punjab Scheduled Roads and  Controlled  Areas
Restriction of Unregulated Development Rules, 1965 (for short “1965  Rules”)
requires the applicant seeking  change  of  land  use  for  construction  to
undertake to start construction on the land within a period  of  six  months
and complete the construction within a period of two years from the date  of
order permitting the change of land use. It  appears  that  no  construction
was done in terms of Clause (f) of Rule 26-D of 1965 Rules on  the  land  in
question, for which acquisition is quashed by the impugned order.

In State of Haryana and Others vs. Vinod Oil and General Mills  and  Another
(2014) 15 SCC 410, this Court has held that permission for  change  of  land
use has no relevance while considering the validity of  acquisition.  It  is
further observed in said case  that  there  is  no  bar  to  the  subsequent
acquisition  of  a  land,  after  the  land  was   released   from   earlier
acquisition.

In A.P. Pollution Control Board  II  vs.  M.V.  Nayudu  (Retd.)  and  Others
(2001) 2 SCC 62, this Court has observed in para 69 as under:

“69. The learned Appellate Authority erred in thinking that because  of  the
approval of plan by  the  Panchayat,  or  conversion  of  land  use  by  the
Collector or grant of letter of intent by the  Central  Government,  a  case
for applying principle of “promissory estoppel”  applied  to  the  facts  of
this case. There could be no estoppel against the statute…...”

As far as the argument advanced on behalf of  the  respondent   relating  to
the promissory estoppel and legitimate expectation is concerned,  in  Monnet
Ispat and Energy Limited vs. Union of India and  Others  (2012)  11  SCC  1,
this  Court  while  enumerating  the  principles  relating  to  doctrine  of
promissory estoppel and legitimate expectation has  clearly  held  that  the
protection of legitimate expectation does not  require  the  fulfillment  of
the expectation where an overriding public interest requires otherwise.   In
other words, personal benefit must give  way  to  public  interest  and  the
doctrine of legitimate expectation  cannot  be  invoked  which  would  block
public interest for private benefit.
 In Hira Tikkoo vs. Union Territory, Chandigarh  and  Others  (2004)  6  SCC
765, this Court explaining the scope of principle of legitimate  expectation
has held that the doctrine cannot be pressed into service where  the  public
interest is likely to suffer as against the personal interest  of  a  party.
In paragraph 22 this Court has observed as under:
“22. In public law in certain situations, relief to  the  parties  aggrieved
by action or promises of public authorities can be granted on  the  doctrine
of “legitimate expectation” but when grant of such relief is likely to  harm
larger public interest, the doctrine cannot be allowed to  be  pressed  into
service. We may usefully call in aid the  legal  maxim:  “Salus  Populi  est
suprema lex: regard  for  the  public  welfare  is  the  higher  law.”  This
principle is based on the implied agreement of every member of society  that
his own individual welfare shall in cases of  necessity  yield  to  that  of
community. His property, liberty and life shall under certain  circumstances
be placed in jeopardy or even sacrificed for the public good.”

  In view of the principle of law laid down by this Court as above,  in  our
opinion the High Court has erred in quashing  the  acquisition  of  land  in
question,  by  applying  doctrine  of  promissory  estoppel  and  legitimate
expectation, in the facts of the present case.  We  have  no  hesitation  in
holding that the purpose i.e. for expansion and  systematic  development  of
Surajkund Tourist Complex, is a public purpose. It included  development  of
parking area adjacent to Surajkund Tourist  Complex  near  annual  Surajkund
Fair. We are of the view that the High Court is incorrect  in  holding  that
the State has not acted bonafide, after 1992  acquisition  proceedings  were
dropped. It is apparent  from  the  record  that  earlier  proceedings  were
dropped in the light of orders passed in  M.C.  Mehta’s  Case  in  the  year
1996, restraining construction in the area, and after  modification  in  the
said order in the year 1998, the State took fresh decision  to  acquire  the
land for public purpose and there is no illegality in the same.

Accordingly, both the appeals are allowed and impugned  judgment  and  order
dated 21.01.2008 passed by the High Court in CWP No.10611 of  2004,  is  set
aside. No order as to costs.

………………………….J
(Ranjan Gogoi)

………………………..J
(Prafulla C. Pant)
New Delhi
Dated: January 19, 2016

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