(1.) This is a petition under Article 226 of the Constitution.
(2.) Of the four Petitioners the first three are owners of land in village Panchhat in the jurisdiction of Kapurthala district and the fourth-Petitioner is a mortgagee of some area of land concerned in this petition. In Such. 'A' to the petition are described the full particulars and the-areas of lands belonging to the Petitioners. The total area comes to 46 kanals. On 30th May, 1953 the Government issued Notification No. 5663/LA for acquisition of land for Juliunder Branch of the Bhakra Canal and in that Notification among the three villages within the areas of which the land was to be acquired is mentioned village Panchhat in tehsil Phagwara of Kapurthala district and the area to be acquired is stated as 33 acres. The Petitioners' case is that at the instance of the Irrigation Department of the Punjab Government,, the Pepsu Government made enquiries from the Deputy Commissioner of Kapurthala district on the question where the alignment of the Jullundur Branch should be laid in the area of village Panchhat and the Deputy Commissioner reported back that it should be 2000 feet away from the village. This suggestion was accepted and demarcation and excavation work for alignment of the Juliunder Branch started at that distance from the village but that in the month of October, 1953, under the influence of some important persons, the Pepsu State, Respondent No. 1, and the Deputy Commissioner of Kapurthala district, Respondent No. 2, arbitrarily, in an abuse of their power, changed the line of alignment from a distance of 2000 feet from the village to about 750 feet from the village In November, 1953, the Tehsildar of Phagwara delivered possession of the land of the villagers of Panchhat, including the Petitioners, to the executive Engineer of Alawalpur Division, and Shri K.K. Jagia, Sub-Divisional Officer incharge of Bhakra, Canal area of village Panchhat, respectively Respondents Nos. 3 and 4, who in their turn started digging operations on the land for the Juliunder Branch Canal through the contractors, Respondents No. 6.
Respondent No. 5, Shri Gopal Singh, is an Overseer incharge of the Bhakra Canal Area within the area of village Panchhat. The Petitioners further aver that Respondents Nos. 5 and 6 have encroached upon and put to use land of the Petitioners even beyond the area required for the width of the canal and have thus caused undue damage to them and further Respondents No. 6 have laid a. service-road through the Petitioners' field as a result of which the Petitioners are not able to use their lands. It is said that the action of Respondents Nos. 1 to 5 in depriving the Petitioners of the possession of their land is illegal, ultra vires, void and without jurisdiction, because acquisition has not taken place according to the extant law and the Notification No. 5663/LA of 30th May, 1953, purporting to have been issued under Section 3 of" the Patiala Land Acquisition Act, 1995 Bk. (Act No. 3 of 1995 Bk.), is not; valid as that Act was. repealed by the Pepsu Land Acquisition Act, 2006 Bk. (Act No. 4 of 2006 Bk.), and because statutory provisions regarding the manner and method of acquisition of land have not been complied with in this case. The Petitioners claim that thus their fundamental right under Article 19(1)(f) to hold and possess their land has been infringed and consequently a writ, direction or order be issued 'to the Respondents (a) quashing-and setting aside-all illegal orders, if any, and actions taken there under, "
(b) directing the Respondents to take no further steps of excavation etc., on the Petitioners' lands; and (c) ordering and directing them to restore the Petitioners' lands detailed in Sch. 'A' in the condition as they originally were and also to pay appropriate damages for loss.
(3.) Separate replies have been made by the learned Advocate General of Pepsu on behalf of Pepsu State and the Deputy Commissioner of Kapurthala district, Respondents, Nos. 1 and 2, and by the learned Assistant Advocate General of Punjab on behalf of Respondents Nos. 3 to 52. No reply has been put in by or on behalf of the contractors, Respondents No. 6 The replies, of Respondents Nos. 1 to 5 cover the same grounds. The replies state that the Punjab Government in the Punjab P. W. D. Irrigation Department, under the. authority and decision of the Bhakra Control Board, and with the consent 'of the Pepsu State Government, is constructing the Jullundur Branch of the Bhakra Canal through Jllundur district of the Panjab and Kapurthala district of-Pepsu and that Canal will irrigate .the lands in both the .districts. At the instance of the Punjab Government, the Pepsu State Government issued Notification No. 5663/LA, dated 30th May, 1953, acquiring land, including 33 acres in the area of village Panchhat, of three villages through area of which the Canal is to be constructed, Kapurthala district. The Canal is being constructed to serve the common interest of both the States, the place of first alignment was 850 feet away from village Panchhat. Some villagers of village Panchhat made a representation to the Deputy Commissioner Kapurthala on 13th January 1953, objecting that the first alignment was too near the village habitation and upon that the Deputy Commissioner Recommended on 16th January 1953, to the Chief Engineer and Secretary P. W. D., Pepsu Government, that the proposed canal will be very close to the village Abadi and the land which is proposed to be acquired for the canal is of the best quality. It will be in the interest of the village, the land-holders concerned and of the Grow More Pood Campaign, which is of national interest, if the alignment of the canal is so altered that the canal may be situated as much north of the village as possible.
Upon this recommendation of the Deputy Commissioner the' second alignment for the canal was considered at a distance of 700 feet away from the first alignment, in other words at a distance of 1550 feet away from village Panchhat and not 2000 feet away as alleged by the Petitioners. But the position taken on behalf of the Respondents is that no work at all was started at the place of the second alignment as alleged by the Petitioners. It is denied that reversion to the first alignment was due to influence of any person and it is also said that the Petitioners have not given names of any such person. The Respondents position is that according to sound engineering principles the canal should be laid straight and curves should be avoided and it was in consideration of these principles that reversion to the' first alignment took place. Out of about 103 persons in village Panchhat whose lands have been taken possession of no body else has raised any objection excepting the four Petitioners and something like 45 villagers have already accepted compensation for damage to crops. It is further denied that the acquisition is-not according to law and the case of the Respondents Ts that the lands of the Petitioners have been' acquired in accordance with and under the law of acquisition in force in Pepsu and so the Petitioners have no case under Article 226 of the Constitution. The other objections on behalf of the Respondents are (a), that the possession of the lands was, according to the affidavits of field Qanungo Lachhman Singh and Overseer Gopal Singh, taken on 2nd December 1953, after announcement in this behalf by beat of drum in the village on 1st December 1953,-and the work on the Canal was started immediately with the result that about 75 per cent, of the construction work has been completed and about a lac of rupees have been expended and that the Petitioners delayed their petition till 19th January 1954, thus permitting the work to .go on with knowledge and taking no immediate action in the matter, (b) that no demand for justice has been made by the Petitioners from the Respondents, (c) that other adequate and efficacious remedies by way of regular civil suit or a claim for compensation under the Land Acquisition Act are available to the Petitioners, and (d) that the prayer of the Petitioners is too vague and ought not to be granted.;