Chandigarh, March 7, 2022: While dealing with a petition in which the reference petition filed by the petitioner before District Judge seeking enhancement of compensation awarded by the Collector for the acquisition of his land, was dismissed because of mentioning a wrong section in the petition, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the Reference Court should not have taken a hyper-technical view and dismissed the reference petition, as it is well-settled law that it is the substance of the petition and not the form or nomenclature, which is determinative.
Before the Bench of Justice Anupinder Singh Grewal, the petitioner challenged the order of the Reference Court, whereby its reference petition for determination of the compensation for land acquisition was dismissed on the ground that it was filed under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (Act of 1894) instead of Section 64 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (Act of 2013).
The petitioner’s counsel contended that the land of the petitioner was acquired by a notification dated April 11, 2013, issued under Section 4 of the Act of 1894. The acquisition was under the Act of 1894. However, in the meantime, the Act of 2013 came into force w.e.f. January 1, 2014, and the award was passed by the Collector under the Act of 2013. The petitioner was not satisfied with the Award of the Collector and thus sought enhancement of the compensation by preferring a reference petition before the District Judge.
However, instead of mentioning Section 64 of the Act of 2013 in the reference petition, Section 18 of the Act of 1894 was inadvertently mentioned and on this count, the reference petition was dismissed.
The counsel placed reliance upon the judgment of a Coordinate Bench of this Court in M/s Super Seals India Limited vs. The State of Haryana and others’, CR No. 5521 of 2019 wherein in somewhat similar circumstances the Reference Court was directed to follow the procedure under the relevant provisions of the Act of 2013 by treating the reference petition under Section 64 of the Act of 2013.
After considering the rival submissions, the Court observed at the outset that the land of the petitioner was acquired under the Act of 1894, while the Act of 2013 came into force w.e.f. in January 2014 and the award was passed by the Collector under this Act.
The Court opined that the reference petition preferred by the petitioner ought to have been filed under Section 64 of the Act of 2013. Further, the Court added that merely mentioning the wrong section could not change the nature of the reference petition which was for enhancement of the compensation.
Consequently, the petition was allowed and the impugned order was set aside. The Court directed the Reference Court to proceed in accordance with law from the stage of the reference petition preferred by the petitioner for enhancement of the compensation. The reference petition would be treated under Section 64 of the Act of 2013 instead of Section 18 of the Act of 1894.