‘State Acquiring Private Land Without Payment of Full Compensation is Not Acceptable’: High Court Imposes 10L Exemplary Cost on J&K Government

Team SoOLEGAL 16 Feb 2022 5:00pm

‘State Acquiring Private Land Without Payment of Full Compensation is Not Acceptable’: High Court Imposes 10L Exemplary Cost on J&K Government

The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court has ruled that the State cannot be allowed to acquire private property without first paying full compensation to affected persons for an indefinite length of time. A Division bench comprised of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjay Dhar stated, in criticizing the State’s sluggish behavior,

“It is an alarming situation that State is acquiring private land without payment of full compensation. This kind of action or omission on the part of the State authorities is not acceptable and cannot be allowed to continue for an indefinite period. We deprecate such practice and expect that the state would henceforth take all possible measures to ensure passing of an award within a reasonable time and payment of fair compensation to the persons interested where ever the land is acquired.”

Factual background:

The petitioners were residents of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir’s village Kanli Bagh in Baramulla (erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir). They had sought the Court’s writ jurisdiction to halt the entire acquisition procedures in respect of around 150 kanals and 03 Marlas of land that had been notified for acquisition for the public purpose of creating a Housing colony at Sangri in Baramulla.

On May 27th, 1978, a final declaration was issued under Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act (“the Act”) in relation to the aforementioned acquisition. On 15.10.1982, the collector, Housing and Urban Development Department, Srinagar drafted a draught award, under which a provisional award was granted on 17.03.1998, directing payment of compensation at 5,000/- per kanal with 15% Jabrana (solatium). Furthermore, a simple interest rate of 4% was commanded to be paid from July 1978 to July 1985/1995 for the time of possession, but no final award was pronounced, as required by Section 11 of the Act for the acquisition proceedings to be completed.

The petitioners had previously petitioned the Court in a writ petition, requesting a writ of mandamus to the State to re – start acquisition proceedings. The state did not file a response in that instance. As a result, the court was forced to rule on the case without hearing the state’s side of the story. It asked the state to investigate the petitioner’s claims and make a decision in conformity with the law within two months. The state, on the other hand, did not take any such action.

The petitioners then filed a contempt petition. It was finally dismissed since the state’s counsel stated that the contemplation order would be issued on or before February 09th, 2018. The contemplation order was only issued on March 15th, 2018. However, the applicants were denied relief once more. As a result, this petition was filed.

Observations of the Court:

The Court concluded that the defendants took control of the land, and as a result, the villagers were divested of the land, which came to be vested in the State. In the normal course, the land acquisition proceedings would have dissolved for lack of a final award within two years of the date of declaration under Section 11B of the Act. However, in this case, the urgency clauses were applied, and control of the land was taken over, resulting in the land being vested in the State. Because the land vested in the state cannot be divested, the acquisition processes have reached a conclusion and will not expire, allowing the acquisition proceedings to be de – notified. In such cases, the respondents have no choice but to render a final award, as required by Section 11 of the Act.

It went on to say,
“…there is no dispute to the fact that the land stands acquired and that its possession has been taken over and handed over to the indenting department decades ago but till date final award has not been passed. The villagers as such have been deprived of the proper compensation of the acquired land which is clearly violative of the statutory provisions of the Land Acquisition Act and Article 300A of the Constitution of India. It rather amounts to denial of the basic human right to the villagers for almost about forty years.”

The Court emphasized that the right to acquire and occupy land/property was once a basic right and is currently a constitutional one. It has even been acknowledged as a fundamental human right. According to Article 300 – A of the Indian Constitution, no one can be stripped of his property without due process of law. As a result, failure to pay the compensation as stipulated by the statutes amounts to deprivation of the person’s right to the property.

The Court cited Krishna Reddy V. Special Deputy Collector Land Acquisition, AIR 1988 SC 2123, in which the Supreme Court observed, while directing the statutory authorities to make the payment of compensation as soon as possible, that a person who has been uprooted may face starvation, and thus the delayed payment may lose the charm and utility of compensation. As a result, the compensation must be assessed and paid as soon as possible.

As a result, the court issued a writ of mandamus, giving the respondents three months to decide on the ultimate award. It further concluded that the petitioners would be entitled to and paid compensation based on the final decision, as well as all statutory benefits, including interest, within one month of the final award’s announcement, after adjusting the amount already paid to them under the tentative award. Furthermore, it imposed exemplary costs of Rs. 10 Lakhs on the defendants for dragging the petitioners through unnecessary litigation for decades and depriving them to their property without adequately paying them for such a long period of time.

Tagged: J&K   Jammu   Kashmir   Ladakh   HighCourt   Court   Order   Impose   10lakh   Chief   Justice   Pankaj   Mithal   Sanjay   Dhar   State   CompensationPayment   Land   Private   Acquiring   Government   Krishna   Reddy   Deputy   Collector   Land   Supreme   Court   Article   300   Constitution   IndiaSection   11   Petitioners  
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