(1.)These writ petitions have been filed seeking to declare the entire land acquisition proceedings initiated by the sixth respondent/Special Tahsildar (Land Acquisition), Madurai, South Neighbourhood Scheme, as lapsed. Since the issue arises in all the writ petitions is one and the same, these writ petitions are disposed of by way of passing a common order.
(2.)The case of the petitioners, in brief, is as follows:-
The petitioners are the owners of the land in Survey Nos. 22/8A, 22/7, 22/4B and 26/1A, to the extent of 0.26.0, 0.41.5, 0.32.5, 0.53.0 hectares respectively in Thoppur Village, Madurai South Taluk, Madurai District. Earlier, a land acquisition proceedings was initiated by the respondents, for the Madurai South Neighbourhood Scheme of Tamil Nadu Housing Board. After issuing a declaration under Section 6 of the the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (herein after referred as "old Act") awards have also been passed on 05.08.1994 in Award Nos.7 and 8 of 1994. Even though awards have been passed on 05.08.1994, the possession of the lands was not taken from the petitioners. Hence, the petitioners and other land owners have made representations to the authorities to exempt their lands from the acquisition proceedings, but so far, no order has been passed. However, the petitioners and others are doing agricultural operations in the above property till date and they are in physical possession of the same. Earlier, the petitioners have filed a writ petition in W.P.(MD)No.993 of 2013, seeking for reconveyance of the lands. The said writ petition was dismissed on 18.04.2013, subsequently, they have filed the present writ petitions seeking relief under Section 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (hereinafter after called as "New Act") .
(3.)According to the petitioners, as per Section 24(2) of the new Act, if award is made five years or more, prior to the commencement of the new Act, but the physical possession of the land has been taken or compensation has been paid, the said proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed and the appropriate Government shall initiate the proceedings for acquisition afresh in accordance with the provisions of the New Act. According to the petitioners, even though awards have been passed as early in the year 1994, the physical possession of the lands so far taken from the petitioners, and still they are continuing agriculture operations in the said lands, and there is a well in the said survey numbers, for which, they have also got electricity service connection, and till date they are using the same. In the mean time, they have made representations to the fifth respondent/Revenue Divisional officer, Madurai, to disturb their agricultural activities. In turn, the fifth respondent has sent a letter to the third respondent stating that the petitioners may be permitted to continue their cultivating operations on either side of road laid by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board, and the land owners are directed to disturb the other proceedings initiated by the Tamil Nadu Housing Board. All these proceedings clearly establish that the petitioners are in physical possession of the property and possession so far taken from them. Apart from that, award amount was also paid to the petitioners till date. In the above circumstances, the land acquisition proceedings deemed to have been lapsed and the petitioners are entitled to invoke Section 24(2) of the New Act. Hence, the present writ petitions have been filed.