Read Order: SH. NARDEV SONI AND ORS v. UNION OF INDIA AND ORS 

Mansimran Kaur

New Delhi, July 6, 2022: In a land acquisition matter where the litigants approached the Court after 62 years for setting aside the acquisition, the Delhi High Court has held that axiomatic delay disentitles a party to discretionary relief under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. The Top Court also opined that the law does not permit a person to approbate and reprobate at the same time. 

The Division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Gaurang Kanth observed that in the instant case there was an inordinate delay of almost 62 years in challenging the acquisition proceedings, the  petitioners accepted the enhanced compensation without reserving any right whatsoever, the Delhi High Court dismissed the instant petition filed by the petitioner assailing the notification dated November 13, 1959 and August 18, 1960  issued by  the Delhi Administration under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 with regard to acquisition of a property in the estate of Village Kalu Sarai, Delhi.


The relevant facts stemming from the present petition were that the  evacuee property acquired by the Central Government under section 12 of the Displaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act, 1954 and the same accordingly vested with the Central Government in terms of Section 12 (2) of the Displaced Persons Act.  A public auction was held on in respect of the evacuee property in terms of Section 20 of the Displaced Persons Act. Late Dewan Kesho Dass Soni, the predecessor in interest of the petitioners, who was a displaced person under the Displaced Persons Act, emerged as the highest bidder for purchase of the evacuee property with a bid price of Rs. 91,000/-.

 Late Dewan Kesho Dass Soni executed an indemnity bond in favor of the President of India for an amount of Rs. 9,110/- (towards 10% of the purchase price of the said evacuee property as required by the auctioneers.  Sale Certificate  was issued in favor of Late Dewan Kesho Dass Soni and Mr. Radha Kishan Nagpal. The provisional possession of the evacuee property was never taken over by Late Dewan Kesho Dass Soni or his associate Mr. Radha Kishan Nagpal. Meanwhile, the Delhi Administration issued impugned notification dated November 13, 1959 under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and acquired certain portions of land at public expense for a public purpose i.e., for the planned development of Delhi. 

Subsequently, through another notification dated August 18, 1960 under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the balance portion of the evacuee property was issued by the Government of Delhi for the purpose of establishment of College of Engineering and Technology. On August 25, 1961, a Sale Certificate was issued to Late Dewan Kesho Dass Soni and Late Radha Kishan Nagpal declaring them the purchasers of the evacuee property with effect from August 24, 1961 in relation to their respective share in the evacuee property.

The physical possession of the evacuee property was taken by the second respondent  on November 10, 1961. The Land Acquisition Collector vide 3 separate Awards fixed the price of the land at Rs. 4000 per Bigha.

Thereafter, on June 28, 1962 Late Dewan Kesho Dass Soni and Late Radha Kishan Nagpal preferred applications under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 applying to the Land Acquisition Collector to refer the matter for determination of the Court on the ground that property had been greatly undervalued and that its market value should have been held to be not less than Rs. 50,000/- per bigha. Consequently, through order dated September 7, 1996 , the Additional District Judge, enhanced the compensation awarded to the predecessors in interest of the Petitioners from Rs. 4,000/- per bigha to Rs. 12,000/- per bigha with 15% solatium and 6% interest from the date of possession till the date of payment.  The same was challenged through three regular first appeals filed before the present Court.

 The same were allowed by a common judgment and the compensation was further increased to Rs.17, 000/- per Bigha, with 15% Solatium and 6% interest from the date of possession till the date of actual payment.In pursuance of the same, three execution petitions were filed Late Dewan Kesho Dass Soni and Late Radha Kishan Nagpal before the Court of Additional District Judge, for execution of the aforesaid order. During the pendency of the proceedings for enhanced compensation, Dewan Kesho Dass Soni and Mr. Radha Kishan Nagpal expired and their legal heirs  were impleaded as party to those proceedings. Eventually the land acquisition proceedings with regard to the evacuee property and the litigations arising out of the said proceedings came to an end in the year 2003. 

It was the case of the petitioners that that in the year 2013, the Supreme Court in the matter of Saraswati Devi vs Delhi Development Authority and Others, settled the question of law vis-à-vis the validity of the acquisition of properties that had been auctioned under the provisions of Displaced Persons Act. 

After hearing the submissions of the parties at length, the Court noted that  the  predecessor in interest of the petitioners were well aware of the acquisition proceedings in respect of the evacuee property. They accepted the compensation in respect of the evacuee property under protest and sought enhancement of compensation.

The Court further observed that the legal position regarding the approach to be adopted in cases challenging land acquisition proceedings is no more res integra. The litigations pertaining to the enhanced compensation came to an end in the year 2003 as the execution petitions were disposed of as satisfied. Hence the process of impugned land acquisition and the litigations emanating there from with respect to the evacuee property culminated about 20 years back, the Court noted. 

 Reliance was placed on the judgment of the Top Court in M.S Dewan vs UOI & Ors, wherein the question of delay and latches in challenging the land acquisition proceedings was dealt with. In view of the same, the Court noted that in the instant case there was an inordinate delay of almost 62 years in challenging the acquisition proceedings. The petitioners accepted the enhanced compensation without reserving any right whatsoever, the Court noted. 

The axiomatic delay disentitles a party to discretionary relief under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Moreover, this Court is not convinced with the explanation rendered on behalf of the petitioners for such a substantial and inordinate delay in approaching this Court, the Court further remarked. In light of the aforesaid observations, the Court dismissed the instant petition on account of being meritless.  

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