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Saturday, July 2, 2016

Section 48(1) of the Act does not permit withdrawal of acquisition proceedings of any land after possession of the land is taken.- “48. Completion of acquisition not compulsory, but compensation to be awarded when not completed. -(1) Except in the case provided for in section 36, the Government shall be at liberty to withdraw from the acquisition of any land of which possession has not been taken.”- it is an admitted fact that an effort to withdraw the land in question from the acquisition proceedings was initiated only after possession of the land in question was taken from the land-owners and Section 48(1) of the Act does not permit withdrawal of acquisition proceedings of any land after possession of the land is taken.In our opinion, it was also not just and proper for the Court to show undue sympathy towards the land-owners by asking them to make a representation when it was against the legal provisions to withdraw the land from the acquisition in view of the provisions of Section 48 of the Act. Such undue sympathy has relegated the land-owners to this long drawn litigation which has not helped them at all. The fact remains that the land in question is required for a public purpose i.e. for widening of a road. There is no need to say that under the Act, the State has power to acquire land for a public purpose and widening of a public road is definitely a public purpose for which the land can be acquired. In view of the aforestated facts, we are of the view that the acquisition proceedings could not have been quashed by the High Court, especially when the Government had not acted in accordance with law while withdrawing the land in question from the acquisition proceedings. In the circumstances, we quash and set aside the impugned judgment dated 24th January, 2012 delivered by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Writ Appeal Nos.475 and 1455 of 2011. The Appeals are allowed with no order as to costs.

                                                                  REPORTABLE


                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.5377 OF 2016
             (@ SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO.19642 OF 2012)


Visakhapatnam Urban Development Authority    ... Appellant


                                   Versus

S.S. Naidu & Ors.                                  ... Respondents

                                    WITH

                         C.A. NOS.5378-5379 OF 2016
                    (@ S.L.P.(C) NOS.19644-19645 OF 2012)

                                    WITH

                  CONTEMPT PETITION (CIVIL) NO.233 OF 2013
                                     IN
                        CIVIL APPEAL NO.5377 OF 2016
                        (@ SLP (C) NO.19642 OF 2012)



                               J U D G M E N T

ANIL R. DAVE, J.



1.    Leave granted.

2.    At the request of the learned counsel for  the  parties,  the  appeals
have been finally heard today.

3.     Chequered  history  of  these  appeals  started  with   issuance   of
notification  under  Section  4(1)  of  the  Land  Acquisition   Act,   1894
(hereinafter  referred  to  as  “the  Act”)  on  20th  March,  1978.     The
respondents are the land-owners of the land forming part of  TS  No.83/1  of
Waltair Ward  of  Visakhapatnam,  which  is  the  subject  matter  of  these
appeals.  Necessary notification  under  Section  6  of  the  Act  was  also
issued. The award was made and ultimately compensation  in  respect  of  the
land in question was also determined at  Rs.7,82,612.56.   The  said  amount
was deposited in the Court. The  land  in  question  was  required  for  the
purpose of widening of a road.

4.    After the Award was made, the respondents/land-owners of the  land  in
question made a request to the authorities concerned for withdrawal  of  the
acquisition, though possession of the land in question was, in  fact,  taken
on 20th February, 1982.  The matter ought to have ended  there  because  the
land was acquired, possession was taken and the amount of  compensation  was
also deposited with the Court, but in pursuance of the request made  by  the
land-owners, the acquisition proceedings initiated under Section  4  of  the
Act was ordered to be withdrawn under G.O.M.  No.156  dated  25th  February,
1982.  Thus, by virtue of the said  Government  Order,  acquisition  of  the
land in question was withdrawn.  Subsequently, Government Order  dated  25th
February, 1982, whereby  the  acquisition  proceedings  was  withdrawn,  was
cancelled under G.O.M. No.714 dated 11th November, 1983.

5.    Effect of the proceedings which had taken place  upto   now  was  that
the  land  was  acquired,  possession  was  taken,  Award   was   made   and
compensation was deposited with the Court and yet G.O.M. No.156  dated  25th
February,  1982  was  issued,  whereby  the  acquisition   proceedings   was
withdrawn, but subsequently withdrawal of the  acquisition  proceedings  was
cancelled and thus the  notification  dated  20th  March,  1978,  which  was
initially issued, remained in force.

6.    At this stage, the owners of the land in question filed Writ  Petition
No.11326 of 1983 praying for quashing of G.O.M. No.714 dated 11th  November,
1983, whereby withdrawal of the land acquisition proceedings was  cancelled.
 The said Petition  was  disposed  of  on  25th  April,  1984  by  giving  a
direction to  the  authorities  to  reconsider  the  issue  with  regard  to
acquisition of the land in question.   The  said  order  dated  25th  April,
1984 was challenged by filing Writ Appeal No.1081 of 1984 and the said  Writ
Appeal was dismissed on 1st February, 1989.

7.    In pursuance of a representation made as per order dated  25th  April,
1984, vide G.O.M. No.121 of 27th February, 1990,  the  Government  requested
the Collector to return the land in question to  the  land-owners,  but  the
said G.O.M. No.121 was cancelled by another G.O.M. No.222 dated 30th  April,
1998.  The said G.O.M. No.222 gave rise to another  Writ  Petition  No.14818
of 1998 filed by the land-owners which was disposed  of  on  13th  November,
1998, whereby the Government was directed  to  reconsider  the  issue.   The
aforesaid order passed in the Writ Petition was challenged  by  filing  Writ
Appeal No.2312 of 1998, but the said  Writ  Appeal  was  dismissed  on  27th
February, 2002.  The Respondents also filed Writ Appeal No.1074 of 1999  for
return of the land in question, which was allowed by the High Court and  the
authorities were directed to deliver possession of the land in  question  to
the land-owners. Being aggrieved,  the  appellants  herein  approached  this
Court.  This Court vide order dated 22nd February, 2006  disposed  of  Civil
Appeal Nos.1665 and 1666 of  2004  by  directing  the  State  Government  to
reconsider the representation made by the land-owners.

8.    In pursuance of the order passed by this  Court,  by  an  order  dated
18th May, 2009, by virtue of G.O.M. No.314, the State Government decided  to
withdraw the acquisition proceedings in respect  of  the  land  in  question
but, once again, on 18th August, 2009,  by  virtue  of  G.O.M.  No.515,  the
Government authorities cancelled the decision with regard to  withdrawal  of
the acquisition proceedings.  Again, Writ  Petition  No.17249  of  2009  was
filed challenging the said decision dated 18th August, 2009.  The said  Writ
Petition was allowed on 7th  February,  2011.   Against  the  said  decision
rendered in the said Writ Petition, Writ Appeal  No.475  of  2011  and  Writ
Appeal No.1455  of  2011  were  filed  by  Visakhapatnam  Urban  Development
Authority and the State of Andhra Pradesh  respectively.  Both  the  Appeals
were dismissed by a common judgment dated 24th January, 2012  and  the  said
judgment has been challenged by the aforestated both parties.

9.    Upon perusal of the aforestated undisputed facts,  it  is  very  clear
that though possession of the land in question was taken on  20th  February,
1982, the Government wanted the acquisition to  be  cancelled  and,  in  our
opinion, it could not have been done in view of the  provisions  of  Section
48 of the Act.   Relevant portion of Section 48 of  the  Act  is  reproduced
hereinbelow :-

“48. Completion of  acquisition  not  compulsory,  but  compensation  to  be
awarded when not completed. -(1) Except in the case provided for in  section
36, the Government shall be at liberty to withdraw from the  acquisition  of
any land of which possession has not been taken.”


10.   Every time, when the authorities decided to withdraw  the  acquisition
proceedings, power given under Section 48 of the Act was exercised.  In  our
opinion, after taking possession of the land  in  question  from  the  land-
owners, power under Section 48 of the Act could not have been exercised.

11.   Though this is the third round of the litigation, it  is  an  admitted
fact that an effort to withdraw the land in question  from  the  acquisition
proceedings was initiated only after possession of the land in question  was
taken from the land-owners and Section 48(1) of  the  Act  does  not  permit
withdrawal of acquisition proceedings of any land after  possession  of  the
land is taken.

12.   Possibly, the Court was having some sympathy for the  land-owners  and
therefore, some recommendations were  made  by  the  Court  with  regard  to
making representation to the Government authorities about withdrawal of  the
acquisition proceedings in respect of the land in question, but  every  time
withdrawal of the land from the acquisition  proceedings  were  followed  by
cancellation of the withdrawal.

13.   Be that as it may, the Courts were quite sympathetic towards the land-
owners and therefore, every time  the  land-owners  were  asked  to  make  a
representation to the  Government  and  therefore,  these  three  rounds  of
litigation have  taken  place,  which,  in  our  opinion,  is  not  fair  or
justifiable.  In our opinion, it was also not just and proper for the  Court
to show undue sympathy towards the land-owners by  asking  them  to  make  a
representation when it was against the  legal  provisions  to  withdraw  the
land from the acquisition in view of the provisions of  Section  48  of  the
Act.  Such undue sympathy has relegated the land-owners to this  long  drawn
litigation which has not helped them at all.

14.   The fact remains that the land in question is required  for  a  public
purpose i.e. for widening of a road.  There is no need  to  say  that  under
the Act, the State has power to  acquire  land  for  a  public  purpose  and
widening of a public road is definitely a public purpose for which the  land
can be acquired.

15.   We have  considered  the  submissions  made  by  the  learned  counsel
appearing for both the sides.  In view of the aforestated facts, we  are  of
the view that the acquisition proceedings could not  have  been  quashed  by
the High Court, especially when the Government had not acted  in  accordance
with law while  withdrawing  the  land  in  question  from  the  acquisition
proceedings.

16.   In the circumstances, we quash and set  aside  the  impugned  judgment
dated 24th January, 2012 delivered by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in  Writ
Appeal Nos.475 and 1455 of 2011.   The Appeals are allowed with no order  as
to costs.

17.    In view of the fact that Civil Appeal No.5377  of  2016  (@  SLP  (C)
No.19642 of 2012) has been  allowed,  the  contempt  proceedings  would  not
survive and are, accordingly, disposed of.




………………..……………….J.
                                     (ANIL R. DAVE)



                                                          …….…………..……………….J.
                                     (ADARSH KUMAR GOEL)

NEW DELHI;
JUNE 29, 2016.

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