N.K. Patil, J.
1. The claimant-appellant, being aggrieved by the enhancement of market value and awarding of interest in judgment and award dated 25th August, 2003 in LAC No. 891 of 1983 on the file of the Civil Judge (Senior Division), Chikodi in respect of the lands in question, has presented the instant appeal.
2. Land bearing Survey No. 333 measuring 8 acres 34 guntas situate at Kabbur Village, Chikodi Taluk has been notified and acquired by Government vide its preliminary notification issued under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 on 5th March, 1981 for the purpose of 'construction of the canal of Hidkal Dam Project'. The Land Acquisition Officer, after taking all relevant factors into consideration and other materials available on file, has fixed the market value of the land in question at the rate of Rs. 30,277.17 ps. per acre. Not being satisfied with the award passed by the Land Acquisition Officer, the claimant-appellant herein filed the application for reference under Section 18(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and requested the Land Acquisition Officer to refer the same to the jurisdictional Civil Court for enhancement of compensation. The Reference Court, in turn, after thorough evaluation of oral and documentary evidence and other material available on file, has enhanced the compensation redetermining the market value of the land in question at the rate of Rs. 38,500/ per acre. Being aggrieved by the said enhancement made by the Reference Court, claimant-appellant has presented the instant appeal. Earlier, claimant-appellant herein, being aggrieved by the judgment and award passed by the Reference Court, awarding a sum of Rs. 2,700/- per acre, had filed M.F.A. No. 563 of 1994 and the said appeal filed by the appellant was dismissed by this Court. Being aggrieved by the dismissal order passed by this Court, appellant had filed Special Leave Petition in SLP No. 6039 of 2000 on the file of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India. The judgment and award passed by this Court was set aside and the matter was remitted back to this Court for reconsideration afresh. This Court after hearing both sides in M.F.A. No. 563 of 1995 by its order dated 19th February, 2002 remanded the matter to the Reference Court for fresh disposal in accordance with law after affording an opportunity to both parties to lead evidence, and further observed that, 'the period of delay from 27th October, 1990 the date of judgment and award passed by the learned Civil Judge to the date on which the matter will be taken up for fresh disposal by the learned Reference Court in accordance with law after remand attributable to the petitioner disentitling him from claiming the statutory benefits to which he is entitled under the provisions of the Act....'. Being aggrieved by that part of the judgment and award passed by this Court dated 19th February, 2002 in M.F.A. No. 563 of 1994, appellant herein once again approached Hon'ble Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 3789 of 2003 (arising out of SLP (C) No. 24349 of 2002). The said appeal had come up for consideration before the Apex Court and the Apex Court by its order dated 28th April, 2003, has once again set aside that part of the judgment of the High Court, which directs that, the appellant would not be entitled to the statutory benefit in respect of the period of delay attributable to him, holding that, since the High Court has remanded the matter with liberty to adduce fresh evidence, it would have been appropriate that whole matter was remanded. Accordingly, the Apex Court set aside the part of the order under challenge therein and observed that, since the matter has already been remanded to the Reference Court, it will be open to the parties to lead fresh evidence in that regard also. After remand, the Reference Court has framed two points on the basis of pleadings of both parties, viz., (i) whether the reference application submitted by the appellant is in-time? (ii) Whether the valuation of the property derived by the Special Land Acquisition Officer is proper and if not what would be the proper valuation of the property acquired? The Reference Court, placed heavy reliance on Ex. P. 2-copy of judgment in LAC No. 85 of 1982, wherein the Reference Court has enhanced the market value at the rate of Rs. 30,277-17 per acre. The said judgment and award passed by Reference Court has been confirmed by this Court in M.F.A. No. 397 of 1995 -- Ex. P. 3. The Reference Court, placing reliance on Ex. P. 2, having regard to similar fertility and same irrigation facility to grow 'toor' crop, has determined the market value. The said determination made by Reference Court at the rate of Rs. 38,500/- per acre is contrary to oral and documentary evidence and without following the settled principles of law laid down by Apex Court and this Court. Therefore, appellant fnecessitated to present this appeal for enhancement of compensation and award of proper interest.
3. I have heard learned Counsel for claimant-appellant and learned Government Pleader appearing for respondents. After careful perusal of the judgment and award passed by Reference Court and after evaluation of the entire original records available on file threadbare, it can be seen that, the Reference Court has committed an error [much less material irregularity] and proceeded to pass the impugned judgment and award without proper application of mind. It is significant to note that, the Reference Court has placed heavy reliance on the judgment and award passed by it in LAC No. 85 of 1982 -- Ex. P. 2, wherein Rs. 38,500/- per acre has been fixed as the market value, against the said judgment and award passed by Reference Court, the first respondent herein had filed M.F.A. No. 397 of 1995 and the said matter had come up before the Division Bench of this Court on 17th October, 2000 and this Court confirmed the judgment and award passed by Reference Court, fixing the market value at the rate of Rs. 38,500/- per acre at Ex. P. 3, observing that, they do not find any error and the judgment and award passed by Reference Court does not call for interference. It is pertinent to note here itself that, the portion of the land in Sy. No. 333 measuring 02 acres 14 guntas has been notified and acquired for the same purpose, namely, for the purpose of Chikodi Branch Canal which comes under Hidkal Dam Project (A) vide preliminary notification dated 7th December, 1978. The Reference Court ought to have followed the proposition of law laid down by the Apex Court and this Court for awarding escalation from 01 to 10% and taken the average between 01 to 10% and thereafter could have enhanced the compensation. Therefore, in my view, the Reference Court has utterly erred in not determining the appropriate and just compensation. Further, as rightly pointed out by learned Counsel for appellant, so far as interest is concerned, the Reference Court has not at all framed necessary issues as to whether the appellant is entitled to additional interest at 12%) as per the mandatory provision of Section 23(1-A) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894? It is crystal clear from the order of the Apex Court that, it has clearly set aside the part of the order under challenge before it, namely, regarding not awarding interest by this Court in M.F.A. No. 563 of 1994, dated 19th February, 2002. The said aspect has not at all been taken into consideration by the Reference Court. When that is the grievance made out before this Court and also before Apex Court, and when the matter is remitted by this Court for reconsideration and that, the same has been further clarified by Apex Court by its order dated 28th April, 2003 in Civil Appeal No. 3789 of 2003 observing that, it would have been appropriate that whole matter had been remanded, and thereafter set aside that part of the order under challenge before it, and inspite of all these, the Reference Court has not considered with regard to award of additional interest and statutory benefits as envisaged under Section 23(1-A) of the Act. This is rather one of the unfortunate cases that has come up before this Court inasmuch as it has been clarified on more than three occasions and two occasions before the Apex Court. The manner in which the Reference Court has dealt with the matter would definitely shock the conscious of this Court inasmuch as it has proceeded to pass the impugned judgment and award very much contrary to the material available on record and contrary to the judgment of this Court as well as the Apex Court. It is well-settled that, even if party fails to make out a case, it is the bounded duty of the concerned Presiding Officer to look into the original records, evaluate the same carefully and with great application of mind, to determine just, fair and reasonable market value. It is to be noted that, the landowners would have lost their valuable lands and are therefore entitled to just and reasonable market value as guaranteed under Article 300-A of the Constitution of India. The Courts must bear this aspect of the matter in mind and look into the entire material available on file and thereafter pass reasoned judgment. The Reference Court, in the instant case might have passed appropriate order after framing appropriate issues for consideration. For no fault of the claimant-appellant, he has been dragged on from pillar to post due to lack of mind by the Reference Court. When this Court has remanded the matter for reconsideration, the Reference Court ought to have proceeded and passed the judgment, after understanding the parameter of the subject-matter involved and at the time of considering such matters, the concerned officers must have pragmatic approach in deciding the same and determine the market value as it existed as on the date of issuance of preliminary notification. Inspite of the well-settled principles of law laid down by Apex Court as well as this Court, time and again, in series of matters, this Court is coming across repeated errors committed by Reference Court, which can neither be justified nor appreciated. Having regard to this background, I am of the considered view that, at any stretch, the impugned judgment and award passed by Reference Court cannot be sustained.
4. Having regard to the facts and circumstances of the case, as stated above, the judgment an award passed by Reference Court is liable to be set aside. Accordingly, it is set aside and the matter stands remitted back to the Reference Court for reconsideration of the matter afresh in accordance with law and to decide the same after affording an opportunity to claimant-appellant, in strict compliance of the mandatory provisions of the Act and having regard to the well-settled law laid down by Apex Court and this Court and the order passed by the Apex Court dated 28th April, 2003 in Civil Appeal No. 3789 of 2003 and also placing reliance on judgment and award passed by this Court in M.F.A. No. 397 of 1995 -- Ex. P. 3 which is very much available on record and dispose of the same on top priority basis having regard to the fact that, the matter is pending adjudication since several years.
5. With these observations, the appeal filed by appellant succeeds and stands disposed of. Appellant herein is directed to appear before the Reference Court in LAC No. 891 of 1983 before the Court of Civil Judge (Senior Division), Chikodi, on 29th August, 2005 and no further notice will be issued in this regard. However, the Reference Court is directed to give subsequent dates and proceed with the matter in accordance with law.