RAJESH KHANNA Vs. UNION OF INDIA AND ORS.
HIGH COURT OF DELHI
Union of India And Ors.
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S. Ravindra Bhat, J. -
(1.)In the present proceeding under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the relief claimed is a declaration that by reason of Sec. 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (hereafter referred to as the "new Act"), the acquisition proceedings initiated under the now repealed Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (hereafter referred to as the "old Act"), have lapsed. The appropriate consequential directions have also been sought by the petitioners. The brief facts are that the petitioner claimed to have acquired title to the suit property through a registered sale deed dated 17.03.1978 and consequently - in respect of another part - through registered gift deed dated 04.04.1985. The suit property along with other lands were subject matter of a notification under Sec. 9 of the old Act. The petitioner contends that he objected to the acquisition proceedings under Sec. 5A of the old Act on 16.12.1980. His earlier effort to have the acquisition proceedings invalidated were unsuccessful; W.P.(C) 1291/1981 initiated in that regard was dismissed by this Court on 16.11.1983. That order was affirmed by the Supreme Court. On 05.06.1987, the award in respect of the properties notified for acquisition, including the suit property was published. The petitioner sought for enhancement of compensation. Apparently, those proceedings have not ended. In the backdrop of these facts, the new Act was brought into force with effect from 01.01.2014. The petitioner contends that by virtue of Sec. 24(2) of the new Act, the reliefs claimed have to be granted by this Court. The petitioner alleges that neither was compensation paid and that the compensation determined by the Land Acquisition Collector (LAC) was not paid so as to trigger the operation of Sec. 24(2). It was also contended that the respondents did not take any positive step towards physically dispossessing the petitioner, hence the alternative requirement of Sec. 24(2), i.e. possession not having been taken by the respondents, also stands fulfilled.
(2.)The respondents have entered appearance and filed their reply. The stated position of the Govt. of NCT of Delhi (GNCTD) - which published a notification under the old Act and whose LAC also determined the compensation is as follows:
"8. That it is submitted that the physical possession of the lands under reference was taken on 31.12.2013 however the compensation was sent in RD. It is submitted that as per the Ordinance 2014, the compensation has been duly lying deposited in the account specifically maintained for the purpose of disbursement of compensation to the recorded owners thus the acquisition proceedings would not lapse on account of nonpayment of compensation to the petitioners."
(3.)The petitioners rely upon the decision of the Supreme Court in Pune Municipal Corporation and Anr. v/s. Harakchand Misirimal Solanki and Ors. : 2014 (3) SCC 183. It is contended that since the requirement of Sec. 24(2) of the new Act are not cumulative but alternative, even if arguendo, it was accepted that paper possession/symbolic possession of the land was taken by the respondents, nevertheless, non -payment of compensation entitles relief under Sec. 24(2). Learned counsel for the respondents contends, on the other hand, that since possession was concededly taken on 31.12.2013, the relief ought not to be granted. In Pune Municipal Corporation (supra), the Supreme Court had the occasion to interpret Sec. 24(2) of the new Act. The provision reads as follows:
"(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub -section (1), in case of land acquisition proceedings initiated under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, where an award under the said Sec. 11 has been made five years or more prior to the commencement of this Act but the physical possession of the land has not been taken or compensation has not been paid the said proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed and the appropriate Government, if it so chooses, shall initiate the proceedings of such land acquisition afresh in accordance with the provisions of this Act:
Provided that where an award has been made and compensation in respect of a majority of land holding has not been deposited in the account of the beneficiaries under Sec. 4 of the said Land Acquisition Act, shall be entitled to compensation in accordance with the provisions of this Act."
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