Vinod Kumar and Ors vs. District Magistrate, Mau and Ors
Case Number: Civil Appeal No 5107 of 2022
Name of Judges: Hon’ble Judges B.R. Gaval and J. B. Pardiwala
Order Date: 07.07.2023
Facts of the Case:
- This appeal is at the instance of unsuccessful original writ petitioners and is directed against the order passed by a Division Bench of the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad dated 28th February, 2020 in Writ-C No. 7310 of 2020 by which the High Court rejected the writ application filed by the appellants taking the view that the District Magistrate is competent to look into the legality and validity of the order passed by the Special Land Acquisition Officer (for short, ‘SLAO’) under Section 3G(5) of the National Highways Authority Act, 1956 (for short ‘the Act 1956’).
- The Central Government issued a notification dated 23.01.2015 in exercise of power under Section 3A(1) of the Act 1956 proposing to acquire few parcels of land situated in the District Mau for the purpose of four lane widening of the National Highway No. 29. The said notification included the land bearing Gat Nos. 158, 160 and 161 reply of the village Ahirani Bujurg, District Mau (UP).
- In the aforesaid context, a further notification dated 21.01.2016 was issued under Section 3D of the Act 1956 declaring that the land as aforestated would be acquired for the public purpose. Upon issuance of such notification, the land vested in the Central Government.
- The competent authority i.e. the Special Land Acquisition Officer vide award dated 28.11.2016 passed under Section 3G of the Act 1956 determined the compensation to be paid to the landowners (parties before us) for the acquired land.
THE HON’ BLE SUPREME COURT OBSERVED AS FOLLOWS:
- The Collector acts as a representative of the State whilst holding proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act. In fact, he conducts the proceedings on behalf of the State. The award of the Collector is not the source of the right to compensation; it is the pre-existing right which is recognized by the Collector and guided by the findings arrived at in determining the objections, if any, the Collector quantifies the amount of compensation to be placed as an offer of the appropriate Government to the owner recognized by the State. The offeree may accept or decline the offer. It he accepts the offer and the Government takes possession over the land, the title of the offeree is extinguished and vests absolutely in the Government free from all encumbrances. The power to make an award Under Section 11 and to make a reference Under Sections 18 or 30 of the Act is a statutory power. The sweep of jurisdiction of Court to determine the disputes is also statutory and is controlled by the bounds created by Section 17 or 30 whereunder the reference has been made to the Court. The power has to be exercised to the extent to which it has been conferred by the Statute and on availability of pre-existing conditions on the availability of which and which alone the power can be exercised.
- Award made by the Collector is final and conclusive as between the Collector and the ‘persons interested’, whether they have appeared before the Collector or not, on two issues: (i) as to true area, i.e. measurement of land acquired, (ii) as to value of the land, i.e. the amount of compensation, and (iii) as to the apportionment of the compensation among the ‘persons interested’ again, between the Collector and the ‘persons interested’ and not as amongst the ‘persons interested’ inter se. In the event of a reference having been sought for Under Section 18, the Collector’s award on these issues; if varied by Civil Court, shall stand superseded to that extent. The scheme of the Act does not attach a similar finality to the award of the Collector on the issue as to the person to whom compensation is payable; in spite of the award by Collector and even on failure to seek reference, such issue has been left available to be adjudicated upon by any competent forum.
- We are of the view that when it comes to resolving the dispute relating to apportionment of the amount determined towards compensation, it is only the Principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction which can do so. Principal Civil Court means the Court of the District Judge.
- Our final conclusion is as under: If any dispute arises as to the apportionment of the amount or any part thereof or to any person to whom the same or any part thereof is payable, then, the competent authority shall refer the dispute to the decision of the Principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction within the limits of whose jurisdiction the land is situated. The competent authority possesses certain powers of the Civil Court, but in the event of a dispute of the above nature, the summary power, vesting in the competent authority of rendering an opinion in terms of Sub-section (3) of Section 3H, will not serve the purpose. The dispute being of the nature triable by the Civil Court that the law steps in to provide for that to be referred to the decision of the Principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction. The dispute regarding apportionment of the amount or any part thereof or to any person to whom the same or any part thereof is payable, would then have to be decided by that Court.
- Circumstance referred to above, the order passed by the District Magistrate, Mau dated 16.01.2020 is hereby quashed and set aside. The writ application No. 7310 of 2020 stands allowed. In view of the dispute between the parties as regards apportionment of the amount of compensation, the Special Land Acquisition Officer shall now refer the dispute to the Principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction in accordance with sub-clause (4) of Section 3H of the Act 1956.
- The appeal is allowed accordingly. There shall be no order as to costs. Pending application, if any, stands disposed of accordingly.