SURESWARI DEVI Vs. STATE OF ODISHA
HIGH COURT OF ORISSA
STATE OF ODISHA
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D. Dash, J. -
(1.) The petitioner by filing this writ application has prayed for a direction to the opposite parties (State of Odisha and its functionaries) to take steps for initiation of proceeding afresh under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (hereinafter, called "the LA Act?) to acquire the land measuring Ac.2.25 decimals as described in the schedule under Annexure-1 to this application and pay just and adequate compensation as assessed as per the present market rate and in accordance with law; in the alternative to deliver of possession of said land.
(2.) The factual matrix of the case, in hand, is that one Soubhagya Manjari, the wife of late Anup Singh was the original owner having the right, title, interest and possession of the land in question. She has died leaving behind the petitioner and other sons and daughters as her legal heirs and successors who have succeeded to all the properties of said Soubhagya Manjari.
It is stated that in the year 1974, the State having constructed the building over the land in question for use as District Agriculture Office, staff quarters, godown etc. and have been so occupying the land and buildings standing over it in running the office and other associated activities. It is further stated that although the State is in occupation of the land of the petitioner by putting up constructions over there and using those for its purpose, no such step has been taken either for payment of adequate compensation as payable for the same nor it is being vacated for being possessed by the petitioner and others as its owner exercising all such rights.
It is the case of the petitioner that Govt. in the Department of Revenue by notification dated 15.10.1976 had intended to acquire Ac.2.25 decimals of land under khata no.432, plot no.412 in Mouza-Khariar for public purpose for construction of staff quarters, garages, godown and passage to the Agriculture Office, Khariar. The notification was one under section 4(1) of the L.A. Act. Land Acquisition Case No.228 of 1976 had been registered for the purpose. The matter however did not proceed further. Be that as it may, the State again made the notification on 09.09.1986 which was published in the official gazette on 30.10.1986 as at Annexure-2 whereupon Land Acquisition Case no. 29 of 1986 came to be registered before the Land Acquisition Officer, Khariar. Field enquiry had been conducted, demarcation of the land had also been made. The owner, Soubhagya Manjari Devi had been served with a notice dated 7.3.1987 (Annexre-3) to that effect. In response to the same, Soubhagya Manjari had asked the Authority to calculate the compensation taking the market price of the land @ Rs.3000/- per decimals. It was stated that assessment of the market price of the land as it was then prevailing was not made keeping in view the fact that the land in question is situated within the area of Khariar Notified Area Council and bounded P.W.D. Road from Khariar to Nuapada and Bhawanipatna with other offices of the Govt. situating nearby. It is further stated that although more than three and half decades have passed in the meantime, the land owner and on her death, the petitioner and other legal heirs have not been paid with the compensation. Thus it is said that the land in question is in unauthorized occupation of the State through its functionaries and its continuance as such is wholly illegal. The petitioner asserts the present market value at Rs.1.00 lakh per decimal. In the above premises, the petitioner claims that she and other legal heirs and successors of Late Soubhagya Manjari either be paid with the compensation for the said land as per the assessment in consonance with the present market price and in accordance with the law as now prevails and holds the field or the possession of the land in question be restored to them.
The opposite party no. 5, the District Agriculture Officer, Khariar has filed the counter on behalf of the opposite party nos. 2 and 5.
The settled position of law has been stated at paragraph-4 that once the land is vested in the State, free from all encumbrances, it cannot be divested and proceedings under the Act would not lapse, even if an award is not made within the statutory period. The position of law that once the land is acquired and vested free for all encumbrances, it is not the concern of the land owner whether the land is being used for the purpose for which it was acquired or for any other purpose. He becomes persona non-grata, once the land vests in the State and has a right to only receive compensation for the same, unless the acquisition proceeding is itself challenged. It is stated that the State has no requisite power to reconvey the land to the person-interested nor can such person claim any right of restitution on any ground whatsoever unless there is some statutory amendment on the score.
Banking upon the above, it is said that the prayer of the petitioner for delivery of possession of the land is not tenable. It is next stated that the payment of compensation for the land in question by the State as per the assessment in terms of the present market price of the land is not acceptable as the land in question had been voluntarily spared by the predecessor-in- interest of the petitioner.
At paragraph-5 of the counter, it has been admitted that the land measuring Ac.1.72 decimals is in occupation of the District Agriculture Officer having godown, garage, office of Asst. Agriculture Officer etc. It is stated that construction over the land had taken place in the year 1976. The husband of Soubhagya Manjari Devi was the member of State Legislative Assembly and also the Cabinet Minister. He being a public spirited and forward looking person was taking initiative for all around development of Khariar. He wanted the Agriculture Office to be located at Kharirar instead of Nuapada which is the Sub-Divisional headquarter. So in order to ensure that said office functions there at Khariar, he and his wife Soubhagya Devi volunteered to spare the land in question for the purpose of necessary construction and user by the State and its functionaries and handed over the possession of the same whereafter constructions have been made. It is stated that such constructions have been made to the knowledge of the erstwhile owner and all her family members. After constructions, those have been used as such. It is stated that they had relinquished their right, title and interest over the said land whereafter the constructions have been made and therefore from that time onwards, no such objection was raised either by the erstwhile owner or by her legal heirs and successors nor they have advanced any claim for compensation or for restoration of possession of the land in question.
The publication of the notifications under the LA Act, as have been pleaded in paras-3 to 5 of the writ application, have not been denied. It is stated that the land acquisition proceeding was initiated by notification and Land Acquisition Case no. 228 of 1976 had been registered and the compensation for the land under occupation of the State measuring Ac.1.72 decimals was assessed at Rs.20,330/- which was not objected to by the land owner and the amount has been accordingly deposited by Bank draft dated 21.11.87.
(3.) The counter filed by the Land Acquisition Officer (opposite party no.3) and Asst. Collector (opposite party no.4) run in the same vein as that of the counter filled by the opposite party nos. 2 and 5.;
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