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Whether grievance be adjudicated if it is put up too late.

FACTS: 

  • A notification under Section 4 of the Act 1894 came to be issued for acquiring the lands in question for  the construction of Gas Compressor Station and necessary facilities under the Reliance Gas  Transportation, Surat on 30.07.2008. Declaration under Section 6 of the Act 1894 was issued on  1.6.2009. The Land Acquisition Officer/Collector declared the award under Section 11 of the Act, 1894  awarding compensation @ Rs. 69/- per square meter, vide award dated 6.4.2011.  
  • Notice under Section 12(2) of the Act, 1894 with a copy of the award was issued to the  landowners/appellants on 25.04.2011. The appellants filed Special Civil Application No. 1428/2012  before the High Court challenging notifications under Sections 4 & 6 of the Act, 1894 as well as award  dated 6.4.2011.  
  • The Division Bench of the High Court vide judgment and order dated 7.8.2012 dismissed the said writ  petition. However, while dismissing the writ petition, the Division Bench reserved liberty with the  appellants to pursue such remedy as may be available to them for enhancement of the compensation  or any other relief to which they may be legally entitled. 

Arguments by appellant: – 

  • Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the appellants has vehemently submitted that in the facts and  circumstances of the case and more particularly when the appellants challenged the acquisition  proceedings which ended in 2013 when this Court dismissed the special leave petition and thereafter  within a period of six months from the date of dismissal of the special leave petition, the appellants  filed reference under Section 18 of the Act, 1894, the Reference Court ought to have entertained the  same and ought to have considered the reference on merits. 
  • It is submitted that as such while dismissing Writ Petition No. 1428/2012, the Division Bench of the High  Court specifically reserved liberty in favour of the appellants to pursue such remedy as may be available  to them for enhancement of compensation and thereafter when the appellants filed reference for  enhancement of the compensation, the same could not have been dismissed on the ground of  limitation. 
  • in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case, narrated hereinabove, the time taken by the  appellants in pursuing the writ petition before the High Court and thereafter before this Court  challenging the acquisition proceedings is required to be excluded. 
  • the valuable lands of the appellants have been acquired compulsorily under the provisions of the Act,  1894 and the Land Acquisition Officer awarded compensation @ Rs. 69/- per square meter only. It is  submitted that the lands acquired have been situated in Surat and were very valuable lands. It is  submitted that the landowners are entitled to just compensation for the acquired lands. 

Arguments by Respondents: Shri Shyam Divan, learned senior counsel was appearing on behalf of respondent  No. 3 

  • That the time limit to file reference under Section 18 of the Act, 1894 for enhancement of the  compensation would be six months from the date of receipt of the award under Section 12(2) of the  Act, 1894. It is submitted that in the present case the appellants were served notice under Section 12(2)  of the Act with a copy of the award on 25.4.2011. It is submitted that therefore the period of six months for referring expired on 6.10.2011. It is submitted that therefore the Reference Court rightly dismissed  the reference as barred by limitation.
  • The time limit to file reference under Section 18 of the Act, 1894 for enhancement of the compensation  would be six months from the date of receipt of the award under Section 12(2) of the Act, 1894. It is  submitted that in the present case the appellants were served notice under Section 12(2) of the Act  with a copy of the award on 25.4.2011. It is submitted that therefore the period of six months for  referring expired on 6.10.2011. It is submitted that therefore the Reference Court rightly dismissed the  reference as barred by limitation. 
  • It is further submitted by Shri Shyam Divan, learned senior counsel appearing on behalf of respondent  No.3 that even otherwise while preferring Special Civil Application No. 1428/2012, the appellants did  challenge the award also contending inter alia that the amount of compensation awarded is on a lower side. It is submitted that while dismissing the writ petition, the Division Bench specifically observed that the objections raised by the appellants before making the award were mainly related to the amount of compensation and they are not stated to have applied for reference under Section 18 of the Act,  leading to the inference that either they were satisfied with the award of compensation or have missed the time limit for applying for reference under Section 18 of the Act, 1894. It is submitted that the  Division Bench has further observed that therefore the petition and the prayers made therein are found to be an afterthought and not a bona fide grievance about any injustice. It is submitted that therefore also no interference of this Court is called for. 
  • He further relied upon some judgments as follows: Officer on Special Duty (Land Acquisition) & Another v. Shah Manilal Chandulal & Others, (1996) 9 SCC 414 and Mahadeo Bajirao Patil v. State of Maharashtra & Others, (2005) 7 SCC 440 

Observations: It is too late to make the grievance with respect to the inadequacy of the compensation,  those observations are to be read while considering the prayer of the appellants challenging the acquisition proceedings. It appears that the acquisition was also challenged on the ground that the amount awarded is inadequate. To that, the observations were made by the High Court that it is too late to raise such a dispute.  Therefore, the High Court ought to have interfered with the decision of the reference Court dismissing the reference on the ground of limitation and ought to have remitted the matter to the reference Court to decide the reference on merits. 

Judgement – Allowed 

Original Judgment – Manharlal Shivlal Panchal & Others Vs The Deputy Collector & Special Land Acquisition Officer &  Others (CIVIL APPEAL NO. 9004 OF 2022) 

 

Written By:  Ananya Dey, Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri Law College Email – ananyadey2517@gmail.com

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