Read Judgement: M/s Sharman Spinning Mills Pvt. Ltd. And others v. Union of India and others

Vivek Gupta

Chandigarh, July 6, 2021: Upholding the government’s acquisition of private land for the purpose of construction of the national highway in Punjab, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has said that the convenience of the public at large has to be given precedence over the rights of an individual.

A Division bench of the high court made the observation while dismissing a petition that attempted to resist the construction of a bypass/ring road in Punjab’s Ludhiana town, which once completed shall become a part of an existing national highway.

“… convenience of the public at large has to be given precedence over the rights of an individual. The compulsory acquisition of the property may not be to the liking of the individuals, however, in the larger public interest, if such acquisition is being made, the Courts are not expected to come in the rescue of someone to secure the private interest in preference to the larger public interest,” the bench headed by Justice Anil Khetarpal said.

The petitioners, who are industrialists from Ludhiana, claims to own land measuring 32 acres out of which a substantial part is sought to be acquired for building a national highway.

In their petition that challenged the said acquisition of their private land, they argued that they purchased the land for expansion of their existing manufacturing plant where export quality shawls, scarfs and suits, etc are produced.

On December 22, 2020, they filed objections contesting the compulsory acquisition of their land before the competent authority. In the objection petition, it is contended that no notification under section 3A of the National Highway Act 1956 could have been issued for constructing a ring road around Ludhiana City as it does not fall in the definition of a National Highway.

The objectors also drew the attention of the competent authority to various other alternative routes/possibilities

The National Highway Authority of India apprised the court that National Highway Number 205K was declared as a National Highway starting from its junction with National Highway No. 205 near Buhura Village (Rupnagar) and terminating at its junction with NH 205 bypass near village Mamupur (Kharar) in the State of Punjab.

Now, a link road is sought to be carved out connecting NH 205K to NH 44 and the land is sought to be acquired for laying down the aforesaid link road. The link road is a part of the already declared National Highway and therefore, the acquisition is for the existing National Highway, it added.

Deciding the matter, the bench, also comprising Justice Archana Puri, said the contention of the petitioners that it is mandatory that such land should be declared as a National Highway as provided under Section 2(2) before a notification under Section 3A can be issued, proposing to acquire the land, is without substance.

“If such would have been the intention of the Parliament, the expression used ‘any land’ would have been substituted with land under the National Highways. Still further, the expression which has been used is ‘for the building, maintenance, management or operation of a national highway’. In other words, any piece of land which is required for building or operation of a National Highway can be included in the notification under Section 3A of the Act,” the bench said

The bench stated that the next argument of the petitioners is with respect to the effect that the authorities have not carried out social impact assessment as required under part D of Chapter II of the 2013 Act.

“It may be noted here that there is no parallel provision in the National Highway Act 1956, requiring the Central Government to carry out social impact assessment,” it ruled.

Summing up the order, the bench stated that the petitioners have themselves pleaded that they have purchased the land for expansion of their existing industry. The land is encircled by a boundary wall. Hence, except the boundary wall, the piece of land sought to be acquired has no construction.

“As per the provisions of the Act, the private individuals are required to be adequately compensated,” it added.

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