WPC No. 3076 of 2016
Baishakhu Ram Binjhavar Vs South Eastern Coaldields Ltd.
DATE OF ORDER:
11 September 2017
Hon'ble Shri Justice Sanjay K. Agrawal
Petitioner: Baishakhu Ram Binjhavar
Respondent: South Eastern Coaldields Ltd.
The main grounds for the writ petitions are that the land acquisition award was passed on September 6, 2007, but South Eastern Coalfields Limited (SECL) deposited compensation on November 21, 2007, and compensation should have been deposited by the respondent SECL through the State prior to the award’s passing; as a result, the award is void and cannot be implemented.
Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013
- Section 18 - Approved Rehabilitation and Resettlement Scheme to be made public.–The Commissioner shall cause the approved Rehabilitation and Resettlement Scheme to be made available in the local language to the Panchayat, Municipality or Municipal Corporation, as the case may be, and the offices of the District Collector, the Sub-Divisional Magistrate and the Tehsil, and shall be published in the affected areas, in such manner as may be prescribed, and uploaded on the website of the appropriate Government.
- Section 24 -Land acquisition process under Act No. 1 of 1894 shall be deemed to have lapsed in certain cases. - (2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), in case of land acquisition proceedings initiated under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1 of 1894), where an award under the said section 11 has been made five years or more prior to the commencement of this Act but the physical possession of the land has not been taken or the compensation has not been paid the said proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed and the appropriate Government, if it so chooses, shall initiate the proceedings of such land acquisition afresh in accordance with the provisions of this Act.
- The 48 land owners who have filed the batch of writ petitions question the legality, validity, and correctness of the land acquisition proceeding case in the Village of Budbud, Tahsil of Pali, District of Korba. They also asked that the entire land acquisition proceeding, including the award dated 6-9-2007, be quashed. Alternatively, they have asked for the compensation awarded to them under the Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, to be recalculated in accordance with the revised compensation rate announced by the State Government on 19 March 2010 in order to pay the difference in compensation, and to grant the petitioners interest at the rate of 1% per month beginning on the date the revised compensation rate went into effect, which is 19 March 2010.
- Lastly, it has been requested that the respondents be instructed to develop a suitable rehabilitation plan, implement it, and provide other rehabilitation benefits in accordance with the Madhya Pradesh Rehabilitation Policy, 1991 as well as the Chhattisgarh Model Rehabilitation Policy, 2007. It has also been requested that the petitioners be granted regular salaries until regular employment is available in accordance with clause 11 of the Chhattisgarh Model Rehabilitation Policy, 2007.
- Whether the writ petitions as framed and filed challenging the land acquisition proceedings including the award dated 6-9-2007 are maintainable or hit by delay and laches in filing the writ petitions?
- Whether by reason of fact that the award was passed on 6-9-2007, the SECL was directed to take possession on 19-11-2010 by the Tahsildar concerned and possession was delivered to the SECL, and payment of compensation was made to the land holders/petitioners on 12-3-2013, can the land acquisition proceedings deemed to have been lapsed as contemplated by Section 24 of the Act of 2013?
- Whether the writ petitioners are entitled for higher compensation in absence of reference under Section 18 read with Section 31 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894?
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE PETITIONER
- The learned Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the entire land acquisition proceeding, which was started as a result of the issuance of a notice under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894 and culminated in an award dated 6-9-2007 in a Land Acquisition Case in Village Budbud, TahsilPali, District Korba, deserves to be overturned for the simple reason that the award was made before the compensation was deposited by SECL to the State on 21-11-2007.
- Only in the month of January 2013 was the notice under Section 12(2) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 issued, and up until that point, no compensation had been lodged with the reference court as required by Section 31 of the Act of 1894.
- It was further submitted that even though the petitioners stopped receiving compensation on 12-3-2013, they continued to own the land until the new Act of 2013 took effect on 1-1-2014, as shown by the fact that Panchnama has been prepared showing that they are in possession. Because possession has not been removed from them, the procedure must be restarted in accordance with Section 24(2) of the Act of 2013. As a result, the proceeding would stand lapsed.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENTS
- The learned Counsel for the Respondent submitted that the writ petitions were delayed and lax in how they were written and filed. Given that the award was unquestionably passed on 6-9-2007 and that the majority of the petitioners received compensation on 12-3-2013, the excessive 9-year delay in filing the writ petitions questioning the acquisition has not been adequately and properly explained, and as a result, on this single ground alone, the writ petitions deserve to be dismissed.
- It was further submitted that in accordance with the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, the Land Acquisition Officer has passed an award in favour of the petitioners, and compensation has also been determined. Because the writ petitioners did not request an increase in compensation by referring to the Collector, they are not permitted to question the acquisition process and challenge the award, and as a result, they deserve.
- According to Section 16 of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894, the petitioners’ right, title, and interest in the land would be extinguished upon acquisition, and they would become persona non grata. As a result, the land would become the government’s property free from all encumbrances. This occurred after the petitioners’ rights were properly acquired. As a result, the petitioners lack the authority to contest the acquisition process.
- The Hon’ble Judge observed that by memo dated 23-4-2004, the Government of India’s Ministry of Coal and Mines, Department of Coal, requested the Korba County Collector to acquire 215.751 hectares of tenancy land and 20.837 hectares of government land at the villages of Budbud and Rahadih for the Saraipali Open Cast Project, Colony, road and infrastructure, and coal excavation. They did this by invoking the provisions of the urgency clause found in Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act.
- On 29 April 2005, a notification pursuant to Section 4 was passed and published; it appeared in the Chhattisgarh Rajpatra on 20 May 2005. After that, on September 23, 2005, a notification pursuant to Section 6 was published, and on September 6, 2007, the award was finally passed. 10,34,41,863 was deposited as compensation with the state government. In the presence of the SECL, state government officials inspected the properties, and by order dated November 19, 2010, the Tahsildar finally gave the SECL possession of the property and instructed that the title be changed to the SECL’s benefit.
- The only defence against the land acquisition is that it is judged to have expired because the compensation was not deposited when the award was passed. The petitioners’ argument cannot be taken into consideration since they have not provided any evidence to support it and have not alerted the court to any legal provisions that would prevent the issuance of the award, if any, or the deposit of the compensation sum as a prerequisite.
The matters were dismissed as part of the writ petitions challenging the land acquisition award and the land acquisition procedures of the petitioners’ land on the grounds of delay and laches as well as the argument that the petitioners were not authorised to use a mutually exclusive and damaging plea based on the doctrine of election. The benefits of Section 24(2) of the Act of 2013 were ineligible for the petitioners.The new Land Acquisition Act of 2013 and the updated rate released by the government on March 19, 2010, did not provide the petitioners with any rights to higher compensation calculations.Within 45 days after the day a copy of this order is produced, the petitioners were entitled to consideration of rehabilitation under the policy in effect on the date their land was acquired. As a result, the writ petitions were only partially granted qua the rehabilitation. The writ petitions were partially granted to the extent outlined above, with the parties responsible for covering their own costs.
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