|COURT||Supreme Court of India|
|JUDGES/CORAM||Justice D.K. Jain and Justice R.M. Lodha|
|DATE OF JUDGEMENT||11.02.2010|
The petition discussed Article 14 of the Indian Constitution and Section 48 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. State Government cannot discriminate appellants against other similarly situated landowners whose land released from acquisition.
The facts of the case are as follows: Large tract of land admeasuring 184.56 acres situate at Narnaul was proposed to be acquired for Urban Mini Estate by the Haryana Urban Development Authority (HUDA) and, for the said public purpose, notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 was issued on October 30, 1992. Many owners whose lands were sought to be acquired filed objections under Section 5A of the Act before the concerned Land Acquisition Officer. Pursuant to these objections, land admeasuring 11.55 acres was excluded and declaration under Section 6 of the Act was made in respect of 173.01 acres on October 28, 1993. Seventy eight landowners filed 32 writ petitions in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana challenging the notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act on diverse grounds. Inter alia, in these writ petitions, the writ petitioners also prayed for release of their respective lands. At this stage, it may also be noticed that although declaration under Section 6 was made in respect of 173.01 acres but award was passed for land admeasuring 172.57 acres only as the State Government is said to have decided to release land of 13 landowners admeasuring 0.44 acres for which ultimately release order was passed on February 28, 1997.
The main issue in the case was: Whether the action of the State Government in rejecting the appellants’ representations for withdrawal from acquisition of their land is an ultra vires act and discriminatory?
Summary of court decision and judgment
The appeal was allowed and the order of the State Government dated September 29, 2008 was set aside. The Respondent No. 1 (State of Haryana) was directed to issue appropriate order/s concerning the appellants’ lands on the same terms and in the same manner as had been done in the matters of Sumitra Devi, Ram Kala, Mani Ram and others and the portion of the lands which in the layout plan forms part of roads or common sites or public utility area shall not be considered for release
It is pertinent to mention here that at least four petitioners whose writ petitions were dismissed by the High Court on the ground that Joint Inspection Committee had not recommended release of their land, later on applied under Section 48 of the Act and by separate orders the Government released their land from acquisition. It also appears that some of the owners although did not challenge the acquisition in the court but represented to the Government for release of their land from acquisition and their lands were also released. Section 48 of the Act empowers the Government to withdraw from the acquisition of the land provided possession has not been taken. The said power is given to the Government by a statutory provision and is not restricted by any condition except that such power must be exercised before possession is taken. The statutory provision contained in Section 48 does not provide for any particular procedure for withdrawal from acquisition.
While releasing land of more than 40 landowners having plots of size from 150 sq. yards to 1500 sq. yards, if the development plan did not get materially disturbed in the opinion of the State Government, the same opinion must hold good for the appellants’ lands as well. It is unfair on the part of the State Government in not considering representations of the appellants by applying the same standards which were applied to other landowners while withdrawing from the acquisition of their land under the same acquisition proceedings. If this Court does not correct the wrong action of the State Government, it may leave citizens with the belief that what counts for the citizens are right contacts with right persons in the State Government and that judicial proceedings are not efficacious. The action of State Government in treating the present appellants differently although they are situated similarly to the landowners whose lands have been released cannot be countenanced and has to be declared bad in law.
If the Court does not correct the wrong action of the State Government, it may leave citizens with the belief that what counts for the citizens are right contacts with right persons in the State Government and that judicial proceedings are not efficacious. The action of State Government in treating the present appellants differently although they are situated similarly to the landowners whose lands have been released cannot be countenanced and has to be declared bad in law.