Read Judgment:  DELHI DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY Vs. GOODFREY PHILLIPS  LIMTED & ORS

Mansimran Kaur

New Delhi, May 09, 2022: Referring to its judgment in Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal & Ors, the Supreme Court has reiterated that twin conditions have to be satisfied before proceedings can be said to be lapsed under Section 24 of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. These conditions include possession of land not taken and/or compensation not paid.

While allowing the appeal instituted against an order passed by the Delhi High Court whereby proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 were declared to have been lapsed in terms of Section 24 (2) of  Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013, the Division Bench of Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramanian observed that twin conditions that are possession not taken and/or compensation not paid for  lapse of acquisition proceedings was not found in the instant case.

The present appeal was preferred against an order dated December 9, 2016 passed by the High Court of Delhi whereby the writ petition filed by the first respondent was allowed and the proceedings initiated under the Land Acquisition Act, 1984 were declared to have been lapsed in terms of Section 24 (2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. 

Fact is brief for perusal of the present appeal was that the land situated in 12 villages for the planned development of Delhi started way back in 1980. The intention to acquire the land was published through notification dated November 5, 1980 with respect to the land situated in villages Chattarpur, Satbari Maidangarhi, Sayoorpur and Rajpur Khurd. The declarations under Section 6 of the Act were published on May 27, 1985 June 6, 1985 and February 26, 1986 and the awards were announced on May 20, 1987 or thereafter. 

Thereafter the original land owners entered into an agreement to sell on September 25, 1990.  Consequently the purchaser purchased the land through sale deeds dated August 30, 1991 and February 27, 1991. Though it was contended by the appellant that the sale deed was not registered, however the Counsel for the respondent- purchaser stated that the sale deeds were registered. 

Subsequently, the purchaser filed a writ petition before the High Court reported as Godfrey Phillips v. Union of India.  The said writ petition along with the other two writ petitions were dismissed by the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court on November 18, 2005.  The High Court recorded a finding that the vendors of the writ petitioners including the purchasers did not file any writ petition and had thus accepted the acquisition proceedings. The Special Leave Petition filed against the said judgment was dismissed on February 8, 2010 along with other Civil Appeals reported as Om Parkash Vs. Union of India.  It was thereafter that the purchaser filed another writ petition after the commencement of the 2013 Act for declaring that the acquisition proceedings stand lapsed under Section 24. 

The prayer in the writ petition filed was for quashing of the notification under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act, and the award in respect of land measuring 28 Bigha 8 Biswa, forming part of revenue estate of Village Sahoorpur falling in Tehsil Saket, Delhi. The purchaser also claimed a Mandamus to hand over vacant and peaceful possession of the land measuring 28 Bigha 8 Biswa.

The stand of the appellant in the counter affidavit before the High Court was that since the acquisition proceedings had attained finality, there cannot be any lapsing of something which has already achieved finality under the Act.

The Counsel for the appellant further  contended that the purchaser had no right to claim lapse of acquisition proceedings in view of the judgment of this Court in the case of Meera Sahni v. Lt. Governor of Delhi  and a three judge Bench judgment in the case of M. Venkatesh v. Bangalore Development Authority . It was further contended that the judgment in Balbir Singh wherein the land owners were directed to deposit the amount of compensation along with interest was no more a binding precedent in pursuance to the judgment of this Court in the case of Abhey Ram & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors., when the judgment of  Delhi Development Authority v. Sudan Singh was found to be bad in law. Thus, once the judgments in Abhey Ram’s Case(Supra) and Delhi Administration v. Gurdip Singh Uban & Ors declared that Sudan Singh was not correctly decided, the same construed that the judgment in the Balbir Singh case also ceased to be of any relevance and couldnot be a binding precedent, the Counsel submitted. 

On the contrary, the Counsel for the respondent submitted that writ petition was disposed of on a  mere ground of lapsing of the acquisition in view of Section 24 of the 2013 Act, however on identical facts , this Court remitted back the matter to the High Courts for fresh decisions after the decision of this Court in the case of Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal & Ors, the Counsel for the respondent submitted. It was further submitted that the subsequent purchaser has a right to claim lapsing of the acquisition proceedings in the view of the judgment of this Court in Government v. Manav Dharam Trust & Anr.

The Court observed that there were no merits in the contentions raised by  the Counsel for the purchaser. It was further observed that writ petition was filed after the commencement of the 2013 Act on a short question that the acquisition proceedings stand lapsed. The Court relied on the case of Indore Development Authority wherein it was held that twin conditions have to be satisfied before proceedings can be lapsed  that are possession not taken and/or compensation not paid. 

It was further held that under Section 16 of the Act, vesting of title in the Government is complete immediately upon taking of possession, and the acquired land becomes the property of the State under Sections 16 and 17 of the Act without any condition or limitation either as to title or possession. It was held that if once panchnama had been drawn of taking possession, thereafter re-entry or retaining the possession is that of the trespasser.

Further, this Court in a judgment reported as Shyam Nandan Prasad & Ors. v. State of Bihar & Ors, wherein it held that the notification under Section 6 of the Act could not have been set aside and should have individualized justice vis-à-vis each writ petitioner. In Chairman and Managing Director, Tamil Nadu Housing Board & Anr. v. S, Saraswathy & Ors,  this  Court held that Section 6 declaration cannot be treated to be quashed in entirety unless it is quashed in toto or in its wholeness by the Court specifically.

In another judgment reported as State of Haryana & Anr. v. Devander Sagar , this Court has held that the acquisition proceedings cannot be quashed by one or two land owners. It is the duty of the land owners to challenge the acquisition proceedings at lease before award is pronounced and possession is taken.

The Court further submitted that in the instant case the original land owner had filed a writ petition before the Delhi High Court but such writ petition was dismissed on December 2, 1985.  Thereafter, the Special Leave Petition was withdrawn on September 12, 1989 even though the reservation was conveyed by the counsel appearing for the appellant. The Court noted that the said withdrawal was after the judgment of the High Court in Balbir Singh’s Case(Supra). It was further observed that the original land owners made a conscious decision not to continue with the Special Leave Petitions. Thus, all the objections which were available to the original land owner including the purchaser up to that stage couldnot be permitted to be raised again, the Court opined. 

It was further held that the deposit by the purchaser, either in terms of the impugned order or the order passed in Balbir Singh, was wholly inconsequential. The amount of compensation was paid on behalf of the appellant. Therefore, the compensation of the acquired land paid by the appellant couldnot lead to lapsing of the acquisition in terms of Indore Development Authority’s Case (Supra), the Court remarked. 

The Bench said, “The writ petition was filed after the commencement of the 2013 Act on a short question that the acquisition proceedings stand lapsed. This Court in Indore Development Authority has held that twin conditions have to be satisfied before proceedings can be said to be lapsed i.e., possession not taken and/or compensation not paid.”

The purchaser had in fact filed a writ of mandamus for delivering the possession of the entire acquired land. Such a claim of Mandamus depicted  that the purchaser was out of possession. Therefore, the condition in Indore Development Authority for lapsing of the acquisition was not satisfied, the Court observed.  It was further observed that as per the purchaser, the possession had been taken of the part of the land and compensation was deposited in respect of the remaining land. Thus, the twin conditions as laid down by this Court were not satisfied, the Court observed. 

The Bench also held that the purchaser has no right to claim lapsing of acquisition proceedings in view of the recent larger Bench judgment of this Court reported as Shiv Kumar & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.wherein the judgment rendered by two-Judge Bench in Manav Dharam Trust’s Case(Supra) was not found to be a good law. Hence, the purchaser has no right to claim a declaration sought for, added the Bench.

In view of the above observations, the appeal was allowed. The order passed by the High Court was set aside. However, directions were issued to the appellant to refund the amount of Rs.16, 61,774 to the purchaser, without any interest as such deposit was a voluntary offer to deposit, in accordance with the law.

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