(1.)As common question of law and facts arise in this group of appeals and as such are between the same parties, all these appeals are decided and disposed of together by this common judgment and order.
(2.)Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment and order in respective writ appeals preferred by the appellant herein - the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee, Bangalore (hereinafter referred to as the "APMC"), by which the Division Bench of the High Court has dismissed the said writ appeals and confirmed the common judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge passed in respective writ petitions preferred by the private respondents herein - original land owners and declared that the acquisitions of the lands in question has lapsed under Sec. 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act, 2013"), the APMC, Bangalore has preferred the present appeals.
(3.)The facts leading to the present appeals in a nutshell are as under:
3.1 That the lands in question were acquired in three parts. The first acquisition was in respect of 172 acres 22 guntas of land owned by respondent No.4 - Jamanlal Bajaj Seva Trust (for short "Trust"). Second acquisition was in respect of 104 acres 5 guntas of land owned by very respondent No.4 - Trust and the third acquisition was in respect of 3 acres 34 guntas of land (which is not the subject matter of appeals before this Court).
3.2 The relevant facts in respect of first and second acquisitions are as under:
In respect of 172 acres 22 guntas (First Acquisition)
3.2.1 That a notification was issued under Sec. 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (hereinafter referred to as "the Act, 1894") on 3/9/1994 in respect of 172 acres 22 guntas of land owned by respondent No.4 herein - Trust in Srigandadakaval Village, Yeshwanthpura Hobli, Bengaluru for establishing a mega market by the appellant - APMC, Bangalore.
3.2.2 One Rajajinagar House Building Cooperative Society challenged the notification issued under Sec. 4(1), before the High Court of Karnataka by way of Writ Petition No.28988/1994. It was the case on behalf of the said society that the land should be acquired for them and not for APMC. The said writ petition came to be dismissed by the High Court vide order dtd. 23/12/1995.
3.3.3 Thereafter a notification/declaration under Sec. 6 of the Act, 1894 was issued on 10/10/1996 and published on 13/10/1996. A draft award was prepared in respect of 172 acres 22 guntas of land on 12/8/1998.
3.3.4 On the instructions given by the Land Acquisition Officer, the appellant - APMC deposited Rs.9,14,14,873.00 on 19/8/1998 towards approximate cost of the acquisition.
3.3.5 It appears that the aforesaid Rajajinagar House Building Cooperative Society filed another writ petition being W.P. No.6880/1997 before the High Court, before the acquisition of 172.50 acres of land at Srigandadakaval Village could be completed. The High Court granted an ex parte order of stay of acquisition proceedings vide interim order dtd. 16/9/1998. Thereafter respondent no.4 - original land owner filed Writ Petition No.3884/1998 before the High Court, challenging the acquisition proceedings. Vide interim order dtd. 8/2/1999, the High Court ordered stay of dispossession.
In respect of 104 acres 5 guntas (Second Acquisition)
3.4 That a notification under Sec. 4(1) read with Sec. 17(4) of the Act, 1894, dispensing with the requirement of hearing was issued on 13/4/1999 in respect of 104 acres 5 guntas of land owned by respondent No.4 - Trust in Herohalli Village, Yeshwanthpura Hobli, Bangalore North Taluk, for establishing a mega market by the appellant - APMC. A final notification under Sec. 6(1) read with Sec. 17(1) to 17(4) was issued in respect of 100 acres 11 guntas out of 104 acres 5 guntas which had been notified under Sec. 4(1) on 13/4/1999, leaving an area of 3 acres 34 guntas out of acquisition. An enquiry under Sec. 5A was dispensed with.
3.4.1 That one Vishwaneedam Trust filed Writ Petition No.708/2000 before the High Court challenging the said acquisition. The High Court granted stay of dispossession in respect of 35 acres out of the 100 acres 5 guntas situated in Herohalli Village.
3.4.2 Respondent No.4 - Trust - original land owner filed Writ Petition No.37140/2000 challenging the notifications dtd. 13/4/1999 and 26/10/1999 in respect of the lands at Herohalli Village.
3.4.3 According to the appellant, possession was taken and handed over to the APMC by the Land Acquisition Officer vide an Official Memorandum of Possession dtd. 6/10/2000 in respect of 65 acres 19 guntas of the lands at Herohalli Village.
3.4.4 That an award was made by the State Land Acquisition Officer (SLAO) on 22/5/2002, referring to a Government order dtd. 26/3/2002, in respect of 100 acres 11 guntas covered by Sec. 6 notification dtd. 26/10/1999. The award provided for payment of compensation to respondent No.4 - Trust after excluding 34 acres 14 guntas of acquired land treating the same as Phut Kharab belonging to the Government and further excluding 35 acres in respect of the writ petition filed Vishwaneedam trust in which an order of stay of dispossession had been passed by the High Court. The said compensation was accepted by respondent No.4 under protest. Respondent No.4 - Trust - original land owner filed a Land Acquisition Case No.1/2003 seeking enhancement of compensation which seems to be pending.
3.5 Thus, Writ Petition No.3884/1998 filed by respondent No.4 - original land owner was in respect of 172 acres 22 guntas of land. Writ Petition Nos.37140-37146/2000 was in respect of 100 acres of land and Writ Petition No.708/2000 was filed by Vishwaneedam Trust in respect of second acquisition (part).
3.6 A common statement of objections was filed by the appellant - APMC to all the writ petitions.
3.7 That the APMC filed IA No.01/2007 in W.P. No.37140/2000, to permit APMC to hand over 9 acres of land out of 65 acres 11 guntas to the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and 4 acres to the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB). That vide order dtd. 21/3/2007, the learned Single Judge allowed the said IA No.01/2007 and granted permission to the APMC as prayed.
3.8 At this stage, it is required to be noted that in respect to the lands in question and other lands owned by respondent No.4 - Trust, proceedings were pending before the Land Reforms Tribunal, Bangalore N. Taluk. At this stage, it is required to be noted that it was the specific case on behalf of the State and the APMC that unless the proceedings under the Karnataka Land Reforms Act (KLR Act) are disposed of, the compensation is not required to be deposited as, if ultimately it is held that the land acquired is excess vacant land under the provisions of KLR Act, in that case, the said land would vest with the State Government and therefore, no compensation would be payable. Therefore, since the Government was not proceeding with making of awards or offering compensation on the ground that proceedings were pending before the Land Reforms Tribunal, by the same order dtd. 21/3/2007 the learned Single Judge directed the Tribunal to dispose of application No.LRF 2099/74-75 under Sec. 66 of the KLR Act, within three months.
3.9 The order passed by the learned Single Judge dtd. 21/3/2007 granting permission to the APMC to hand over 9 acres of land to BDA and 4 acres of land to BWSSB was challenged before the Division Bench of the High Court by way of Writ Appeal No.1011/2007. The Division Bench of the High Court stayed the order of the learned Single Judge. The said appeal along with some companion appeals came to be disposed of by the Division Bench vide order dtd. 28/6/2012, directing learned Single Judge to decide all the connected writ petitions finally and continued the interim stay granted by the Division Bench until the final disposal of all the petitions.
3.10 Thereafter APMC filed IA No.03/2008 seeking permission to build a wall around 65 acres of land, which came to be allowed vide order dtd. 12/2/2009. It is reported that thereafter APMC has completed the fencing work.
Proceedings before the Land Reforms Tribunal
3.11 That the Land Reforms Tribunal (hereinafter referred to as "the Tribunal") passed an order dtd. 12/1/2010 in the proceedings under the KLR Act holding that 213 acres 20 guntas of respondent No.4 - Trust's land was excess land under the said Act.
3.11.1 The order passed by the Tribunal was challenged before the High Court in Writ Petition No.4311/2010. The High Court vide order dtd. 24/3/2014 remitted the proceedings to the Tribunal with directions for a fresh consideration.
3.11.2 On remand the Tribunal passed a fresh order dtd. 22/9/2015 and declared that 265 acres 24 guntas of land held by respondent No.4 - Trust was excess land. That the order passed by the Tribunal dtd. 22/9/2015 was challenged before the High Court and the High Court vide order dtd. 2/5/2017 set aside the order passed by the Tribunal dtd. 22/9/2015 and once again remitted the matter to the Tribunal.
3.11.3 That the Tribunal passed a fresh order dtd. 28/11/2017 and declared that 354 acres 10 guntas was excess land. The order passed by the Tribunal dtd. 28/11/2017 was again the subject matter before the High Court by way of Writ Petition No.55344/2017. By judgment and order dtd. 30/6/2021, the learned Single Judge has quashed and set aside the Tribunal's order dtd. 28/11/2017. It is reported that against the judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge of the High Court dtd. 30/6/2021 passed in Writ Petition No.55344/2017, the State has preferred a writ appeal being W.A. No.1089/21, which is reported to be pending before the Division Bench of the High Court.
3.12 That all the aforesaid writ petitions being W.P. No.3884/1998 (in respect of 172 acres of land), W.P. Nos. 37140-37146/2000 (in respect of 100 acres of land) and others writ petitions being W.P. No.708/2000 and 19579-19585/2001, were clubbed together. During the pendency of the aforesaid writ petitions the Act, 2013 came into force. Therefore, the writ petitioners submitted an application dtd. 24/2/2014 seeking to invoke the benefit of the Act, 2013 and urged that the benefit of provisions of the said Act would be available to it.
3.13 That the learned Single Judge framed the following points for consideration:
"a. Whether the disposal of these petitioners should be deferred pending adjudication and determination by the Land Tribunal, Bangalore North Taluk of the excess holdings or otherwise under the provisions of the Karnataka Land Reforms Act, 1961 of the very lands which are the subject matter herein.
b. Whether the possession of a portion of the lands in question having said to have been given to APMC can be said to be valid and in accordance with law.
c. Whether the invocation of Sec. 17 of the LA Act in the acquisition of a portion of the lands for the same purpose was justified.
d. Whether the acquiring authority could keeping abeyance the mandate to pay or deposit the compensation amount pending disposal of the proceedings before the Land Tribunal in respect of the lands.
e. Whether the acquisition proceedings have lapsed by virtue of the 2013 Act."
3.14 That though some observations were made on the proceedings under the Act, 1894, thereafter, without further finally deciding any other point framed for consideration, as reproduced hereinabove, the learned Single Judge has allowed the writ petitions by holding that respective acquisitions have lapsed under Sec. 24(2) of the Act, 2013.
3.15 Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the common judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge dtd. 24/6/2014 holding that respective acquisitions have lapsed under Sec. 24(2) of the Act, 2013, the APMC preferred writ appeals before the High Court. By the impugned common judgment and order, the Division Bench of the High Court has dismissed the said appeals confirming the judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge declaring that the acquisition have lapsed under Sec. 24(2) of the Act, 2013.
3.16 Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned common judgment and order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court in respective Writ Appeal No.1732/2014 and others along with accompanied appeals, the APMC, Bangalore, has preferred the present appeals.