(This Appeal is filed under Section 4 of the Karnataka High Court Act, 1961, praying to set aside the Order Passed by the learned Single Judge, un W.P.No.110424/2014 (La-UDA) dated 05.11.2015 by allowing this appeal.)
P.S. Dinesh Kumar, J.
1. Belgavi Urban Development Authority and its Special Land Acquisition Officer have challenged the order dated 05.11.2015 passed by the learned Single Judge in W.P.No.110424/2014 holding that the acquisition of 1st respondent's land has lapsed by operation of law.
2. Briefly stated facts of the case are, the 1st respondent is an Ex-Serviceman and a senior citizen aged 83 years. His land measuring 1 acre 12 guntas in Sy.No.204/P1 was proposed for acquisition under the provisions of the Karnataka Urban Development Authorities Act, 1987 ('the Act' for short) by a preliminary notification dated 08.11.2000 under Section 17 (1) of the Act. It was followed by the final notification dated 14.07.2005 under Section 19 of the said Act and an award was passed on 20.04.2006. The 1st respondent was served with a notice conveying that pursuant to the said award, he was entitled to receive compensation of Rs.3,68,640/-, which the 1st respondent could receive by himself or through his power of attorney holder. It is not in dispute that pursuant to the said notice dated 20.04.2006, the 1st respondent did not receive the compensation amount. However, it appears he was corresponding with the appellant-Authority seeking withdrawal of the land from the acquisition proceedings.
3. With the above facts, the 1st respondent filed the instant writ petition inter alia with a prayer for a declaration that the award dated 20.04.2006 has lapsed by virtue of 'deeming provision' so far as it related to his land. The petition was contested by the appellant-Authority by filing statement of objections. The Authority took a stand that the land was acquired to form a layout and the sites formed therein had been allotted to various applicants. However, on consideration of material on record, the learned Single Judge held that the acquisition had lapsed' automatically since the compensation was paid even after the commencement Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (New Land Acquisition Act).
4. Feeling aggrieved by the ruling of the learned Single Judge, the appellants have presented this appeal.
5. Shri Huliyal, the learned counsel appearing for the appellants urged a solitary ground in support of this appeal that the provisions of the 'New Land Acquisition Act' are not applicable to the facts of this case. He contended that 1st respondent's land was acquired under the provisions of Urban Development Authority Act and therefore, the impugned order is unsustainable in law.
6. In reply, Sri Ramesh N. Misale, learned counsel for the 1st respondent-owner of the land would contend that the award was passed by the authority on 20.04.2006 and the compensation was deposited in the court only on 27.02.2015 after 1st respondent filed the instant Writ Petition. He drew attention of this Court to Section 36 of the Karnataka Urban Development Authorities Act to contend that the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, are fully applicable to all acquisition proceedings under the Urban Development Authorities Act. He next contended that under Section 24 of the New Land Acquisition Act, if the award amount has not been paid or deposited within a period of five years or more prior to commencement of the said Act, by operation of law, the acquisition proceedings would lapse. He further submitted that the appellant-Authority has filed several documents marked as Annexures-R-19 to R-25 which clearly indicate that the Authority has misrepresented the facts to various authorities. Further, the said documents have been filed by the Authority to give an impression that sites were formed in the land in question and allotted to various applicants which had compelled them to reject 1st respondent's request to drop acquisition proceedings. Supporting the judgment of the learned Single Judge, he argued that in view of unambiguous provisions of law, the order passed by the learned Single Judge does not call for any interference and accordingly prayed for dismissal of this appeal.
7. In view of rival contentions of parties and the incontrovertible facts narrated supra, the only question that falls for our consideration is as to "whether the order passed by the learned Single Judge requires any interference?"
8. It is not in dispute that the award was passed by the appellant-Authority on 20.04.2006 and the amount was deposited on 27.02.2015.
9. Section 24 of the new Land Acquisition Act reads as follows:
"24. Land acquisition process under Act No.1 of 1894 shall be deemed to have lapsed in certain cases:-
(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, in any case of land acquisition proceedings initiated under the Land Acquisition Act., 1894 (1 of 1894), -
(a) where no award under section 11 of the said Land Acquisition Act has been made, then, all provisions of this Act relating to the determination of compensation shall apply; or
(b) where an award under said section 11 has been made, then such proceedings shall continue under the provisions of the said Land Acquisition Act, as if the said Act has not been repealed.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), in case of land acquisition proceedings initiated under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1 of 1894), where an award under the said section 11 has been made five years or more prior to the commencement of this Act but the physical possession of the land has not been taken or the compensation has not been paid the said proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed and the appropriate Government, if it so chooses, shall initiate the proceedings of such land acquisition afresh in accordance with the provisions of this Act:
Provided that where an award has been made and compensation in respect of a majority of land holdings has not been deposited in the account of the beneficiaries, then, all beneficiaries specified in the notification for acquisition under section 4 of the said Land Acquisition Act, shall be entitled to compensation in accordance with the provisions of this Ac)."
10. The proviso to Section 24 (2) above makes it amply clear that where the compensation has not been paid pursuant to an award under Section 11 for five years or more prior to commencement of the New Land Acquisition Act, the acquisition proceedings shall be 'deemed to have lapsed'. Admittedly, the award was passed in the year 2006 and the amount was not deposited till 2015. The New Land Acquisition Act has came into force with effect from 01.01.2014. Consequently, the provisions of Section 24 (2) of New Land Acquisition Act are attracted.
Parliament has enacted this statute with a deeming fiction. In the facts and circumstances of this case, we have no hesitation to hold that learned Single Judge was right in holding that by operation of law, the acquisition proceedings have lapsed.
11. Adverting to the solitary ground urged by the learned counsel for the appellants that the provisions of the New Land Acquisition Act are not applicable to the Karnataka Urban Development Authorities Act, we may profitably note that a Constitution Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of NAGPUR IMPROVEMENT TRUST VS. VITHAL RAO reported in AIR 1973 SC 689 has held as follows:
"26. Can classification be made on the basis of the public purpose for the purpose of compensation for which land is acquired? In other words can the legislature lay down different principles of compensation for lands acquired say for a hospital or a school or a Government building? Can the legislature say that for a hospital land will be acquired at 50% of the market value, for a school at 60% of the value and for a Government building at 70% of the market value? All three objects are Public Purposes and as far as the owner is concerned it does not matter to him whether it is one Public Purpose or other. Article 14 confers an individual right and in order to justify a classification there should be something which justifies a different treatment to this individual right. It seems to us that ordinarily a classification based on the public purpose is not permissible under Article 14 for the purpose of determining Compensation. The Position is different when the owner of the land himself is the recipient of benefits from an improvement scheme, and the benefit to him is taken into consideration in fixing compensation. Can classification be made on the basis of the authority acquiring the land? In other words can different principles of compensation be laid if the land is acquired for or by an Improvement Trust or Municipal Corporation or the Government? It seems to us that the answer is in the negative because as far as the owner is concerned it does not matter to him whether the land is acquired by one authority or the other."
12. To any landowner and the 1st respondent in the instant case, it is immaterial as to which Statute is invoked to acquire his land by a State or its instrumentality. It would be incongruous to construe that a landowner would be entitled to different rate of compensation under different Statutes, which may be invoked by a State or its authorities.
13. Adverting to the submission of Shri Ramesh N.Misale, with regard to the incorrect statements made by the appellants, a careful perusal of Annexure-R-19 shows that the appellants have taken a specific stand that sites were formed in the land owned by the 1st respondent and allotted to various applicants. It is to be noted that Section 36 of the Karnataka Urban Development Authorities Act makes it clear that except the acquisitions which took place by an agreement, acquisition proceedings shall be regulated by the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Admittedly, a perusal of Annexure-R5 -notice would make it clear that the award dated 20.04.2006 was passed by the appellant-Authority under Section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894, stood repealed as per Section 114 of the New Land Acquisition Act with effect from 01.01.2014. Therefore, appellants cannot be heard to contend that the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 or its successor New Land Acquisition Act are not applicable to the facts of tin- case. Indisputably, the 1st respondent is a State under Article 12 of the Constitution. It is an Authority fully controlled by the State Government. Section 31 (2) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, casts a duty upon the acquiring authority namely, the Collector (the Special Land Acquisition Officer in the case on hand) to deposit the compensation amount in the Court to which a Reference under Section 18 would lie. The facts herein disclose that even, after a lapse of nearly 9 years, no deposit was forthcoming till the petitioner moved this Court with the instant writ petition in the year 2014.
14. During the course of the hearing, Shri Huliyal, learned counsel for the appellants furnished a layout map. He admitted that the land in question has not been allotted to any applicant.
15. The 1st respondent is an octogenarian ex-serviceman and in the evening of his life. As long back as on 09.05.2008 (as per Annexure-R-19) the Authority has written a letter conveying categorically that the appellants were unable to consider the request to drop acquisition proceedings, as sites were formed in the land in question and as they were already allotted to the applicants. It is rather unfortunate that an Authority that is a 'State' under Article 12 of the Constitution has treated an ex-army person and a senior citizen in this despicable manner by conveying a factually incorrect position. It is extremely tedious for a citizen in this country to find out the factual matrices of the case. Defence personnel protect the frontiers of our country at the risk of their life. It is appalling to note that a State owned Authority has treated a; senior citizen and an Ex-army person in this opprobrious manner.
16. The initial stand taken by the appellants herein by categorically stating before this Court that the sites in question were formed and they were distributed among the applicants is highly disturbing.
17. In the circumstances, we can only but fully concur with the view taken by the learned Single Judge in holding that the acquisition proceedings in respect of the land in question have lapsed by virtue of 'deeming provision'.
18. The 1st respondent, has suffered severe hardship and turmoil at the hands of appellants due to the awful stand taken by them and tenaciously pursuing their wrong cause. Hence, this appeal deserves to be dismissed with costs. But, we are conscious of the fact that a decade has passed by from the date of final notification. Therefore, it would be an onerous task to fix responsibility and to recover the costs from the errant officials. We are also pained to note that the appellants would not leave the first respondent in peace even after the learned Single Judge held that the acquisition proceedings have lapsed. The appellants have pursued this appeal with impunity on an incorrect premise and false assertion that sites were formed in the land acquired from the first respondent and they were distributed to various applicants. In the circumstances, we deem it appropriate to impose a token cost of Rs.25,000/- payable jointly and severally by the appellants, who have instituted this appeal and direct that appellants shall pay the said cost through a demand draft/banker's cheque to be sent by registered post to the first respondent within two weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment.
19. In the result, the appeal stands dismissed with costs. As the main matter itself is disposed of, IAS for dispensation and stay listed along with the appeal are dismissed as having become unnecessary.