G. Chockalingam, J. -
(1.)HEARD Mr. G. Saravanan, learned counsel for the appellants in W.A. No. 1305 of 2014, Mr. V. Ayyadurai, learned counsel for the appellants in W.A. Nos. 1153 to 1155 of 2014 and Mr. R. Rajeswaran, learned Special Government Pleader appearing for the respondents in all the Writ Appeals.
(2.)THE appellants, as petitioners before the Writ Court, prayed for issuance of Writs of Certiorarified Mandamus to call for the records comprised in G.O. Ms. No. 137, Revenue Department, dated 23.01.1982, No. II(2)/REV/317(c)82, pertaining to Section 4(1) Notification and Declaration as made in G.O. Ms. No. 137, Revenue Department, dated 23.01.1982, No. II(2)/REV/317(d)/82, as published in Part II Section 2 of the Tamil Nadu Government Gazette Extraordinary, dated 28.01.1982 and to quash the same and to consequently forbear the respondents from interfering with the peaceful possession and enjoyment of the writ petitioners in respect of the subject lands. The learned single Judge dismissed the Writ Petitions, against which, the writ petitioners are on appeals before this Court.
The case of the appellants/petitioners before the Writ Court is as follows:
"(a) The subject matter lands belong to the writ petitioners, either by way of ownership or by inheritance as legal heirs and they had put up houses in a portion of their respective lands and residing therein and have been in exclusive possession and continuous enjoyment ever since then and that being the fact, the respondents initiated land acquisition proceedings by invoking the urgency clause under Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (for short, 'the Act'), stating that the lands are required for construction of a Taluk Office complex with residential quarters for the officers of Kattumannarkoil Taluk.
(b) Earlier, W.P. Nos. 4264 to 4266, 4606 and 4609 of 1983 came to be filed questioning the correctness of the reasoning for invoking the urgency clause under Section 17 of the Act and this Court, by order dated 02.08.1991, dismissed those Writ Petitions, holding that invocation of the urgency clause was proper. Thereafter, it is stated that no steps were taken to locate the said Taluk Office as specified in the acquisition proceedings and in the meanwhile, the appellants/writ petitioners have been in possession and enjoyment of the properties continuously. The acquisition proceedings were initiated in 1982 and even after the dismissal of the said Writ Petitions in 1991, the respondents, though proceeded to acquire the lands of the writ petitioners invoking the urgency clause, had not made use of the lands for the specified purpose and therefore, the purpose of urgency no longer survives. Hence, the appellants/writ petitioners made representations to the respondents, requesting them to exclude their lands from the acquisition proceedings, but the respondents replied stating that they had already taken possession of the lands in question on 11.06.1992 and therefore, the writ petitioners were directed to receive the compensation from the Revenue Divisional Officer, who is neither the Land Acquisition Officer, nor has got any jurisdiction to deal with the acquisition proceedings.
(c) Further, the Taluk Office had been located in some other area, which shows that the purpose of invoking the urgency clause for construction of Taluk Office, does not exist and that the purpose of construction of Taluk Office also has been fulfilled. In view of the same, when the writ petitioners have been in continuous possession and enjoyment of the properties in question, the respondents shall not use the lands for any other purpose by disturbing their continuous possession.
(d) When a similar challenge was made by one Rt. Rev. P. Arockiasamy, Bishop of Tanjavur Bishop House, representing the Immaculate Conception Church, Udayargudi, Kattumannarkoil, South Arcot District, in W.P. No. 17975 of 1992 to quash the acquisition proceedings, this Court, by order dated 09.02.2000, allowed the said Writ Petition, holding that since no notice on the person interested as required under Sections 9(1) and 9(2) of the Act was issued, the land acquisition proceedings including the passing of the Award, were held vitiated and accordingly, the acquisition proceedings were quashed by this Court. Therefore, when this Court already took the above view in respect of the very same Section 4(1) Notification and Section 6 Declaration, dated 23.01.1982, resulting in vitiation of the land acquisition proceedings, the present Writ Petitions filed by the appellants/writ petitioners may be allowed for the reason that the Writ Appeal filed by the Government in W.A. No. 980 of 2002, as against the order dated 09.02.2000 passed in W.P. No. 17975 of 1992, was dismissed, confirming the order of the learned single Judge.
(e) It is further pleaded that the entire land acquisition proceedings are liable to be quashed, the same being arbitrary, mala -fide and colourable exercise of power for the reason that no Taluk Office was constructed for more than 20 years for want of funds. When the urgency clause had been invoked by issuing the impugned Notification under Section 4(1) of the Act, by dispensing with the enquiry under Section 5 -A of the Act, it is appropriate for the respondents to have constructed the Taluk Office, which has not been done, which shows that the urgency clause has been wrongly invoked, resulting in lapsing of acquisition proceedings even statutorily.
(f) The writ petitioners further state that there was no service of notice under Sections 9(2) and 9(3) of the Act on them and that the acquisition proceedings lapsed in terms of Section 11 -A of the Act. When the respondents acquired the lands of the writ petitioners, the Act provides that they should deposit the compensation amount payable to the land owners, in the Court concerned, which has not been done and the respondents have simply kept the compensation in the Revenue Deposit before the Sub -Treasury, Chidambaram, which shows that they have not passed any Award, thereby, the respondents have not complied with the mandatory provisions of law. Therefore, it is not available for the respondents to plead that they have paid the compensation amount in terms of Section 17(3 -A) of the Act, since the provisions contained therein clearly show that the Collector, without prejudice to the provisions of Sub -section (3) therein, shall tender payment of 80% of the compensation before taking possession of any land to the persons interested. Therefore, when the land owners, whose lands were sought to be acquired in 1982, were not paid the compensation for about 20 years, the entire land acquisition proceedings may be held to be vitiated."
(3.)THE respondents filed counter affidavit before the Writ Court contending that the present Writ Petitions are not at all maintainable, since the land owners earlier challenged the very same acquisition proceedings and this Court, by order dated 02.08.1991, dismissed the earlier Writ Petitions, as stated above, holding that the invocation of urgency clause was proper and therefore, the present Writ Petitions at the instance of the very same land owners, cannot be entertained, as the principle of res -judicata will not only apply to civil proceedings, but the same will also apply to writ proceedings. With regard to the delay in utilising the lands of the writ petitioners for which the urgency clause was invoked under Section 17 of the Act, it is stated that when W.P. No. 17975 of 1992 was filed by the Bishop of Tanjavur representing Immaculate Conception Church, Udaiyargudi, Kattumannarkoil, against the land acquisition proceedings in respect of Survey Nos. 92/3 and 92/4 to an extent of 0.46.0 hectares, this Court allowed the said Writ Petition by order dated 09.02.2000, quashing the acquisition proceedings, against which, W.A. No. 980 of 2002 filed by the Government was dismissed, by judgment, dated 10.06.2002. Barring the lands in S. Nos. 92/3 and 92/4 to an extent of 0.46.0 hectares, the remaining extent of 1.55.5 hectares of lands in the other survey numbers, were taken possession by the Government on 11.06.1992 and the same were handed over to the Public Works Department for construction of the Government Office complex and thereafter, the office building for Agriculture Department has been constructed in a portion of the acquired lands and the office of the Assistant Director of Agriculture, Kattumannarkoil, has also been functioning in the new building from 2002 and an extent of 0.02.0 hectares had been earmarked for constructing the office building for Members of Legislative Assembly, Kattumannarkoil and the Public Works Department has also constructed the building in the subdivision bearing No. 92/1.B. Hence, the purpose of invocation of urgency clause got defeated and the Taluk Office had been constructed in some other place, and therefore, the respondents prayed for dismissal of the Writ Petitions.