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SC sets aside HC verdict annulling land acquisition for irrigation project

The apex court on Wednesday set aside the judgement of the Bombay High Court

Supreme Court | Bombay High Court | Land Acquisition

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The apex court verdict came on the appeal of the Executive Engineer, Gosikhurd project Ambadi, Bhandara against some landowners

The on Wednesday set aside a judgement of the which had annulled the acquisition of 203.86 hectares of land made in 2011 at a village in Bhandara district of Maharashtra for the Gosikhurd irrigation project.

The top court, referring to an earlier judgement, said that the time period during which a judicial order would inhibit action on the part of the authorities to proceed with the making of the award in lieu of the would be excluded while computing the period under the 2013 law on the

"The impugned judgment (of the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court) setting aside the award and holding that the acquisition proceedings had lapsed is, accordingly, set aside. It is held that the acquisition proceedings had not lapsed and the award is legal and valid," said the bench comprising justices A M Khanwilkar and Sanjiv Khanna.

The apex court verdict came on the appeal of the Executive Engineer, Gosikhurd project Ambadi, Bhandara against some landowners whose plots were sought to be acquired for the project by the government authorities.

Period during which the Court order would inhibit action on the part of the authorities to proceed with the making of the award would be excluded while computing the period under Section 25 of the 2013 (land acquisition) Act.

Some of the landowners had moved the high court for quashing of the compensation award of October 30, 2014, on the ground that under a provision of the 1894 Act on land acquisition, the award ought to have been passed within two years from the date of the declaration that is before August 8, 2014.

The high court, in its verdict of July 27, 2017, agreed to the submissions of landowners and had held that the acquisition proceedings having lapsed, the award was considered to be of no consequence and has been set aside.

The high court also agreed with the landowners that the award was backdated and had directed the Maharashtra government to conduct an inquiry against the Collector and the Office of Bhandara district.

Holding the land acquisition to be valid, the top court said, "We are, therefore, of the considered opinion that the prima facie opinion noted by the high court on the factum of backdating of the subject award would not make any difference to the outcome of the relief pursued by the landowners by way of writ petition for a declaration that the subject acquisition proceedings had lapsed. Such declaration, in our opinion, cannot be issued in the fact situation of the present case."

Belated issue of compensation notice would not, therefore, legally affect the validity of the award, though there may be other consequences, said Justice Khanna in the 41-page long judgement.

"Be that as it may, when satisfied that the award was made/ published within the prescribed period, even when there was backdating of the award or delay in effecting service on the landowners, the land acquisition proceedings need not be set aside."

The apex court said that the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 would apply in the present case.

"The state of Maharashtra may conduct an inquiry in reference to the imputation regarding manipulation and backdating of the subject award and take such remedial and corrective action as may be necessary and to ensure such situations do not arise in future," it said.

Referring to the judgement of a five-judge constitution bench in the "Indore Development Authority vs Manohar Lal and Others", the verdict said it was held that Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act "ousts the period spent during the interim stay, and no fault or inaction could be attributed to the authorities when the payment of compensation or taking possession of land was inhibited by operation of a stay order".

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Wed, November 10 2021. 21:23 IST