Supreme Court allows courts to grant interim relief in land acquisition issues outside scope of Section 24(2)

Team SoOLEGAL 21 May 2018 2:09pm

Supreme Court allows courts to grant interim relief in land acquisition issues outside scope of Section 24(2)

SC has paved the way for high courts to grant interim relief to landowners during the pendency of land acquisition cases.

The order passed by the two-judge Bench of the Justices AK Goeland Indu Malhotra states that high courts may decide any issue except the applicability of Section 24(2) of the Land Acquisition Act, a quandary that is currently under the scanner of a Constitution Bench.

This order, passed on May 18, comes in the background of a controversy centred around two judgments of the Supreme Court in Pune Municipal Corporation & Anr. v. Harakchand Misirimal Solanki & Ors. and Indore Development Authority v. Shailendra (Dead) Through Lrs.

The Supreme Court in its 2014 judgment in Pune Municipal Corporation had ruled that landowners would receive higher compensation if the compensation for land acquired under the 1894 Act was retained in the treasury and was not paid to the landowner or deposited with a competent court.

On 8 February 2018, a three-judge Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, AK Goel, and Mohan M Shantanagoudar had, in Indore Development Authority, held by a majority of 2:1 that the decision in Pune Municipal Corporation is per incuriam. The Pune Municipal Corporation case was also decided by a three-judge Bench.

A couple of weeks later on February 21, another three-judge Bench comprising Justices Madan Lokur, Kurian Joseph, and Deepak Gupta took exception to the judgment in Indore Development Authority, expressing its disapproval at a three-judge Bench holding a decision rendered by another three-judge Bench per incuriam. Justice Joseph said in open court,

“I don’t want to remain silent on this issue. There are certain virgin principles which cannot be deviated from. The system exists on these holy principles. This Court should function as one institution.”

These remarks were made by the Bench while hearing the case of State of Haryana v. GD Goenka. On that day, the Bench held that until the issue concerning the reference to a larger bench is decided, all benches of the Supreme Court and High Courts were to defer hearing in all those matters concerning the interpretation of Section 24(2).

A Constitution Bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, Ashok Bhushan and DY Chandrachud would eventually be formed to consider the issue.

As a result of the order in GD Goenka, landowners were unable to get any interim relief, and state governments were given carte blanche to proceed with the acquisition and take possession of the lands under acquisition. High courts across the country were loath to grant interim relief pending the consideration of the issue by the Constitution Bench.

In this light, the Rajasthan High Court refused to grant relief in these cases, leaving it open for the petitioners to approach the Supreme Court. And on May 18, in an SLP filed and argued by advocate Anuj Bhandari, the two-judge Bench of Justices Goel and Malhotra has confirmed that high courts may grant interim relief in such cases.

While landowners will now be able to get temporary succour from courts during the pendency of cases, it might not be possible for the latter to decide matters without considering Section 24(2).

All eyes are on the Constitution Bench to settle an important question of law that has put judges of the Supreme Court at loggerheads with each other.

Source: barandbench

Tagged: SC   land acquisition cases   Justice AK Goeland   Justice Indu Malhotra   Land Acquisition Act   Constitution Bench  
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