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Centre seeks Constitution bench hearing on the interpretation of land acquisition law on fair compensation


IANS New Delhi
The Centre on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to set up a constitution bench to hear a batch of petitions relating to Section 24 of the Land Acquisition Act that provides for fair compensation to land owners.
"We will look into it," said Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta called for an early formation of a constitution bench to hear such petitions pending before the court.
"A large number of matters are pending adjudication involving interpretation of Section 24(2) of the 2013 land acquisition law by a constitution bench", said Solicitor General Mehta.
On March 6, 2018, the matter was heard by a bench of then Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice A.M. Khanwilkar, Justic D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ashok Bhushan.
The five-judge constitution bench has to examine the correctness of the payment of compensation to the land owners whose land has been acquired as well as when the award granting compensation would come into effect.
The matter came up following conflicting judgements by two benches of the strength of three judges each.
The three-judge bench headed by former Chief Justice R.M. Lodha had interpreted Section 24(2) of the 2013 law on Right to Fair Compensation.
This was overruled by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra on February 8, 2018.
The judgement by the three-judge bench headed by Justice Mishra had held that 2014 judgement was passed without taking into account the provisions of the 2013 law on land acquisition.
The matter was then referred to then Chief Justice Misra by two separate judge benches headed by Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Aadarsh Kumar Goel (since retired and now NGT Chairman) respectively.
This came about after another three-judge bench taking exception to February 8, 2018, judgement directed all high courts not to proceed with the hearing of land acquisition matters pending before them.
The three-judge bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur by its February 22, 2018 order had urged the other top court's smaller bench (of the strength of two judges each) hearing the land acquisition matters to defer the hearing.
The bench headed by Justice Lokur objected as to how a three-judge bench can overrule the judgement passed by another bench of the same strength.
Defending the overruling of 2014 judgement by a three-judge bench on February 8, 2018, then Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta (now Solicitor General) had on March 6 last year said that there was nothing wrong if a three-judge bench holds per-incuriam (characterized by lack of due regard to the law or the facts) the judgement by a three-judge bench delivered in 2014.
However, Mehta faulted February 22, 2018 order by a three-judge bench virtually putting on hold February 8, 2018, judgement.
At this Justice Sikri had on March 6 wondered how overturning the 2014 judgement by another three-judge bench was right but putting on hold the February 8 judgement by another three-judge bench was wrong.
Justice Sikri had said that prima facie the over-turning of 2014 judgement by three-judge bench on February 8 was not correct.

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First Published: Jan 30 2019 | 8:52 PM IST

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