Sawant, J. -
(1.)This is a group of appeals and a writ petition. Although the facts differ, they raise a common question of law, viz., whether the provisions of Section l92(1)(c) of the Punjab Municipal Act, 1911 and the corresponding provisions of Section 203( 1)(c) of the Haryana Municipal Act, 1973 for compulsory transfer of the land to the Municipal Committees without payment of compensation are valid.
(2.)For the purpose of this common judgment, we propose to narrate the facts in Civil Appeal No. 818 of 1986. That appeal is directed against the decision dated 12th April, 1985 of the Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in a group of five writ petitions.
(3.)On 17th November, 1969, the State Government under Section 3(18) (b) of the Punjab Municipal Act, 1911 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act') declared an area admeasuring 22.23 acres as unbuilt. The said area was described in the notification as Pocket No. 6. Thereafter, on 11th May, 1976, the State Government under Section 192(3) of the Act sanctioned a Town Planning Scheme drawn up by the Municipal Committee under Section 192(1) of the Act. Under the said Scheme, the said area of 22.23 acres was transferred to the Municipal Committee in terms of the provisions of Section 192(1)(c) of the Act. The said area included land ad-measuring 11279 sq. yards owned by the writ petitioners before the High Court. Since no compensation was paid for the land, the writ petitioners challenged the transfer of the land as illegal, it being without payment of compensation. The petitioners also assailed the vires of Section 192(1)(c) of the Act. The challenge to the transfer of the land was also on other grounds with which we are not concerned here. The High Court dismissed the writ petitions on the ground, among others, that the vires was no longer open to challenge since it was upheld by the High Court in Om Prakash v. Municipality of Bhatinda, AIR 1980 Punj and Har 254. The Court also held that the writ petitions suffered from laches and hence rejected the challenge to the validity of the Scheme on that account. Again, we are not concerned here with the other grounds on which the writ petitions were dismissed.
Admittedly, the challenge to the vires of Section l92(1)(c) has been repelled by the High Court in other connected matters also, on the ground that the issue had been foreclosed by the aforesaid decision of the High Court in Om Prakash v. Municipality of Bhatinda. We are, therefore, concerned with the challenge to the constitutional validity of Section 192(l)(c) of the Act.
In Om Prakash v. Bhatinda Municipality (supra) the validity of the provisions of Section 192(1)(c) of the Punjab Municipal Act, 1911 directly fell for consideration there. The validity was challenged on the ground that the provision violated Articles 14, 19(1)(f) and 31 of the Constitution. The violation of Article 14 was alleged on the ground that the provisions conferred unlimited, unguided and arbitrary powers on the authorities to transfer the land of some persons and not to touch the land of other persons falling under the Scheme and that the provision provided a scope for pick and choose. It was also contended on this score that even the purposes for which the provisions had to be made in the Scheme are not specified and hence the arbitrariness was writ large on the face of it. This challenge was negatived by the High Court on the ground that the Legislature had made the provisions for the administration of municipalities and the duties of the municipal committees have been elaborately enumerated under the various heads in the Act itself, and Section 192(1)(c) specifically mentioned that the land shall be transferred to the municipal committees for public purposes including a public street. The Act also made provision for a public notice of the purpose for which the Town Planning Scheme was to be prepared. The second ground of attack based on the alleged violation of Article 14 was that the land could be acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the Punjab Town Improvement Act, 1922 and also under Section 192(l)(c) of the Act. If the land is acquired under the former two statutes, the land-owner was entitled to the compensation at the market rate whereas if the land was acquired under the provision of Section 192(l)(c) of the Act, he was deprived of compensation to the extent of 25 per cent of his holdings. Repelling these contentions the High Court held that the Town Planning Scheme was to be made for the development of the unbuilt area which was ultimately to the advantage of the land owners whose land fell within that area and it would appreciate to a great extent the value of the remaining land of the land owners. Further, there was, according to the Court, no acquisition of the land by the municipal committee and the land owners were not divested of the ownership or of possession of the land and there was also no discrimination between the owners of land whose lands were so transferred to the municipal committee and other land owners.
As regards the challenge to the provisions of Section 192(l)(c) on the ground of their violating Article 19(1 )(g) read with Article 31, the High Court held that the area of the respondent-Municipal Committee in that case, viz., Bhatinda Municipality was earlier within the territorial jurisdiction of Patiala State which merged in PEPSU on 22nd May, 1949 by PEPSU Municipal Ordinance No. 2006 B. K. After the PEPSU merged with the state of Punjab in 1956, the provisions of the Act were applied to the whole of the area of the erstwhile PEPSU by Act No. 5 of 1959. Thus, according to the High Court, even before the enforcement of the Indian Constitution on 26th January, 1950 the provisions of the Punjab Municipal Act, 1911 were applicable to the territories which fell within the jurisdiction of the Municipal Committee, Bhatinda and hence the provisions of Section 192(l)(c) being the "existing law" were saved by Article 3 1(5) of the Constitution and were not hit by Article 31(2) thereof as they stood then.