Raju, J. -
(1.)These two appeals involve common and identical questions of law and are dealt with together. In C.A. No. 3515 of 1997, the challenge is to the judgment dated 21-1-1997 of the Gauhati High Court, Agartala Bench, made in Civil Rule No. 12 of 1997, whereunder the High Court, applying the earlier decision rendered in Civil Rule 10 of 1997, directed, while setting aside the order dated 18-9-1996 of the Land Acquisition Collector, the said Collector to consider the petitions filed by the respondent-land owners under S.28-A of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (hereinafter referred to as "The Act") on merits and in accordance with law, holding them to be within the period of limitation stipulated therefor. The appeal in C.A. No. 3516/1997 is against the above noticed earlier decision in Civil Rule 10 of 1997 dated 21-1-1997.
(2.)So far as C. A. No. 3515 of 1997 is concerned, relying upon the Reference Court's Award dated 19-9-1994 in case Nos. Misc. L. A. 29/92 and 30/92, the respondents sought by a petition filed on 16-12-1994 for re-determination of the compensation for their lands invoking S. 28-A of the Act. The Land Acquisition Collector rejected the claim by his order dated 18-9-1996 on the ground that the same was not filed within the stipulated period of three months inasmuch as, according to the Collector, the period of limitation had to be calculated from 25-5-1994, an earlier Award of the Reference Court in respect of the lands covered by the same Notification under S. 4(1) of the Act and not with reference to the latest or subsequent Awards of the Reference Court. So far as the appeal in C. A. 3516 of 1997 is concerned, the Land Acquisition Collector, was moved by the land owners for re-determination of compensation in respect of their lands invoking S. 28-A of the Act, with reference to an award of the Reference Court made on 5-5-1994 in respect of cases Misc. L. A. 34-36/1992 and on 8-6-1994 in Misc. Cases Nos. 40, 41, 45 and 46/1992. The petition was filed on 1-8-1994. But the Land Acquisition Collector by his order dated 18-9-1996, rejected the same as time barred on the view that in respect of the lands covered by the very same Notification under S. 4(1) of the Act, there was an earlier Award passed by the Reference Court on 21-12-1993 itself in Misc. Case Nos. 37, 38, 39, 42, 43 and 44/1992 and that the period of limitation has to be calculated from the earliest of the Awards, which in this case, as per Collector, was on 21-12-1993.
(3.)The fact that if the latest Awards are taken into account, the claim made under S. 28-A of the Act is well within time, is not in controversy and the Land Acquisition Collector himself noticed the said aspect. But in view of his opinion that of the Awards by the Reference Court when more than one passed on different dates are available in respect of lands covered by the same Notification, for purposes of computing the three months period stipulated in S. 28-A of the Act, the date of the earliest one would be relevant and not the subsequent or latest, the claims came to be rejected. It was this reasoning of the Land Acquisition Collector that did not meet with the approval of the High Court, in our view rightly too, in the light of the decision of this Court in Union of India and Anr vs. Pradeep Kumari (1995) 2 SCC 736.