Read Order: DELHI DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY Vs. RANJAN SOOD AND ORS. 

LE Correspodent

New Delhi, April 7, 2022: Considering that the period during which the interim order was operative, has to be excluded in the computation of five years period under section 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (2013 Act), the Supreme Court has held that the land acquisition proceedings in question should not be deemed to have lapsed.

In view of the subsequent decision of this Court in Indore Development Authority vs. Manoharlal and Ors, the Division Bench of Justice M.R.Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna affirmed that the period, during which the interim order is/was operative, has to be excluded in the computation of five years period

The appellant in the present case approached the Apex Court to assail the impugned order of the High Court passed on September 9, 2011, wherein it was stated that the land acquisition proceedings under sub-section (2) of Section 24 of Land Acquisition,Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 had been lapsed. The High Court had observed that the possession of the land in question continued with the original writ petitioners and the compensation was neither paid nor even tendered to the original writ petitioners. The Court also observed that the original writ petitioners continued to remain in possession and relied upon the earlier order dated November 9, 2011 passed in writ petition No.7714/2011, by which the High Court directed the authority to consider their application under section 48 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 on merits. 

The appellant-Authority contended that the possession of the land was taken by the Authority on September 9, 1986 following proper procedure. It was further contended that even compensation was granted to the recorder owner, Shri Shiv Kumar Jain through notice tendered under Section 12(2) of the Act, however the owner never came to the forefront to accept the same. Moreover, the appellants stated that an amount of Rs 2 crore was deposited in the form of compensation with the Land and Building Department, thus the petitioners should have not been granted the benefit of “deemed lapse”. 

The Counsel for the respondents-original writ petitioners on the other hand, countered the submissions of the appellants by stating that the specific findings of the High Court mentioned that as the original petitioners had the physical possessions of the land, thus neither the actual possession was passed nor the compensation was granted which resulted in lapse of the acquisition proceedings. It was further stated that in the earlier order dated September 11, 2011 passed by the High Court, the Division Bench directed the authority to consider their application instituted under Section 48 of the Act, 1894, as the above application was only maintainable in cases where in the possession of the land was not acquired by the acquiring authority. Thus, according to the Counsel, the land was in the possession of the original petitioners and the appellants-Authority failed to prove that they paid any amount of compensation to the original petitioner. 

The Division Bench noted that even in the stay order dated November 9,2011, there was no specific finding given by the High Court that the original writ petitioners were in possession of the land in question. On the contrary, the authority was directed to consider the application under section 48 of the Act, 1894 on merits on the assumption of the possession being with the original writ petitioners. Therefore, while passing the afroementioned order, the High Court assumed the original writ petitioners were in possession.

The Bench discussed Indore Development Authority’s Case (Supra) extensively wherein it was held that the provision of Section 24(2) providing for a deemed lapse of proceedings are applicable in case authorities have failed due to their inaction to take possession and pay compensation for five years or more before the 2013 Act came into force, in a proceeding for land acquisition pending with the authority concerned as on January 1,2014. The period of subsistence of interim orders passed by court has to be excluded in the computation of five years, this judgment held.

In Indore Development Authority’s Case (Supra), it was also emphasized that Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act does not give rise to new cause of action to question the legality of concluded proceedings of land acquisition. Section 24 applies to a proceeding pending on the date of enforcement of the 2013 Act i.e. January 1,2014. It does not revive stale and time-barred claims and does not reopen concluded proceedings nor allow landowners to question the legality of mode of taking possession to reopen proceedings or mode of deposit of compensation in the treasury instead of court to invalidate acquisition.

Noting that the stay granted by the High Court while passing the order continued when the Act, 2013 came into force, the Court asserted that the period, during which the interim order was operative, has to be excluded in the computation of five years period and so, it couldn’t be said that the land acquisition proceedings were deemed to have lapsed under sub-section (2) of section 24 of the Act, 2013.

The Division Bench said, “Assuming for the sake of argument that the original writ petitioners are found to be in possession and the compensation was not tendered, in that case also as can be seen from the order passed by the High Court on 09.11.2011 in writ petition No.7714/2011, the authority was restrained from taking any coercive action in respect of the land in question. Therefore, in view of the subsequent decision of this Court in the case of Indore Development Authority (supra – paragraph 366.8), the period, during which the interim order is/was operative, has to be excluded in the computation of five years period.”

Thus, the Top Court allowed the appeal on the ground that at the time when the Act, 2013 came into force there was a stay granted by the High Court by an order dated November 9,2011 restraining the authority from taking any coercive action in respect of the land in question and so, the judgment of the High Court declaring that the land acquisition proceedings are deemed to have lapsed under sub-section (2) of section 24 of the Act, 2013, was unsustainable.

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