Read Order: National Highway Authority of India v. The Competent Authority, Land Acquisition-cum-District Revenue Officer, Ludhiana and others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, July 11, 2022: While dealing with a writ petition wherein the dispute between the parties was with regard to the correct assessment of the nature of the land as well as its market value, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has recently held that as per the scheme of the National Highways Act, 1956, the amount is to be assessed by the Arbitrator, nominated by the Central Government. 

Further, the Bench of Justice Anil Kshetarpal added, “The Arbitrator has been conferred with the same powers as are available to the Reference Court appointed under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 or the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.”

Since such matter lies within the domain of the Arbitrator which is the statutory Arbitrator it is considered appropriate to relegate the petitioner to the remedy before the Arbitrator.

Vide this writ petition, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) prayed for quashing of the corrigendum award dated December 30, 2021, passed by the competent authority (Land Acquisition-cum-District Revenue Officer, Ludhiana). 

Union of India, at the request of the NHAI, acquired the land. The Land Acquisition Collector originally passed an award, but the same was modified by the competent authority, by way of the above-mentioned corrigendum, to the extent that a certain parcel of land which was previously assessed as agricultural land, was now assessed as the land used for residential/commercial purpose. 

As per Section 3G of the National Highways Act, 1956, if the amount determined by the competent authority is not acceptable to either of the parties, then on the application, the Central Government is required to refer the matter to the Arbitrator. 

The Court noted at the very outset that in substance, the petitioner challenged the correctness of the assessment made by the competent authority. Such matters, the Court added, can be decided by the Arbitrator, who is to be appointed by the Central Government. 

Thus, the Court, while holding that at this stage, entertaining a writ petition shall not bring finality to the dispute, held,

“As per the scheme of the Act, the amount is to be assessed by the Arbitrator, nominated by the Central Government.”

Further, Justice Kshetarpal asserted that the Arbitrator has been conferred with the same powers as are available to the Reference Court appointed under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 or the Right to Fair Compensation, Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. 

It was also observed that ultimately, the dispute between the parties is with regard to the correct assessment of the nature of the land as well as its market value and since such matter fell within the domain of the Arbitrator which is the statutory Arbitrator, the Court considered it appropriate to relegate the petitioner to the remedy before the Arbitrator. 

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