1. In this appeal by the State Government represented by the District Social Welfare Officer. Guntur (hereinafter referred to as the L.A.O., i.e. Land Acquisition Officer), and the Memorandum of Cross objections preferred by the claimants who are the respondents in the appeal, arise out of certain land acquisition proceedings initiated by the L.A.O. in respect of the lands belonging to the claimants bearing S. Nos. 430/1A 431/1, 431/3 and 431/ 2B of Inkollu village of a total extent of 6 acres 34 cents. The notification issued under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act on 109 19159 stated that the public purpose for which the land was needed was the provision of house-sites for Harijans as the Harijan Cheri of Inkollu village was highly congested.
By his award dated 5-11-1959 the L.A.O. fixed the compensation payable to the lands at Rs. 1,600 per acre. Dissatisfied with the award, the owners of the lands, who had claimed that each acre of the land was worth Rs. 6,000 applied to the LAO to refer the matter for determination by the Court. The reference was numbered as Original Petition No. 9 of 1960 to the Subordinate Judge's Court, Bapatla, and the learned Subordinate Judge, by an order dated 5-10-1961 increased the amount of compensation to Rs. 2,500 per acre which, in his opinion, was the proper market value of the lands at the crucial date.
2. This appeal is directed against that judgment and the contention of the learned Government Pleader on behalf of the appellant is that the compensation allowed by the Court below is excessive, whereas the claimants, in their Memorandum of Cross-objections, contend that the amount of compensation is too low.
3. It is not suggested before me by either side that the learned Subordinate Judge has misdirected himself as to the principles which regulate the fixing of compensation of lands compulsorily acquired, but their complaint is that the lower Court has erred in applying those principles to the facts of the instant case. After referring to various decisions bearing upon the subject, the learned Judge stated the position thus in paragraphs 5 and 6 of his order:
'Thus it is seen from the above principles that the best evidence to prove what a willing purchaser would pay for the land under acquisition would be the evidence of genuine sales effected about the time of notification for acquisition either in respect of the land or any portion thereof or the sale of lands precisely parallel in all circumstances to the land under compulsory acquisition. In order to ascertain the market value of the property at certain time it is an indicium and a valuable indicium as to the value of the property to ascertain what prices have been recently obtained for lands more or less similarly situated in the same neighbourhood. But the circumstances in each case under which the purchases are made must be borne in mind If the plot be a small plot, a higher price is probably obtained than if it were a large one. The precise situation of the land in each case is often a matter of very considerable importance as either enhancing or lowering the price.
All facts must be weighed and considered to see whether the value assessed is proper
Affirmative of fact that the value fixed by the Government is proper or not, depends upon the claimants.'
4. In Gajapatiraju v. Revenue Divisional Officer, AIR 1939 PC 98, the Privy Council pointed out that the compensation must be determined by reference to the price which a willing vendor might reasonably expect to obtain from a willing purchaser. That is what is meant by the expression 'market value' or 'market price' Their Lordships further pointed out that in the case of land, its value in general can also be measured by a consideration of the prices that have been obtained in the past for land of similar quality and in similar positions
5. Similarly, the Supreme Court in Special Land Acquisition Officer, Bangalore v. Adinara-yan Setty, : AIR1959SC429 , pointed out that one of the methods of valuation to be adopted in ascertaining the market value of the land at the relevant time is to take into account the price paid within a reasonable time in bona fide transactions of purchase of the lands acquired and possessing similar advantages and to strike an average of the price paid in such transactions.
6. Therefore, the sole question that falls for determination is whether the amount of compensation awarded by the Subordinate Judge is so high or so low as to warrant interference by this Court, viewing the matter as a Court of appeal and bearing in mind that it is scarcely possible to weigh the quantum of compensation in golden scales.
7. It appears from Ex. A-6, the award passed by the L.A.O. (P.W. 1) that S. No. 430 now designated as S. No. 430/1A measuring 1 acre 1 cent stands registered in the revenue accounts as Sen Dry, while S. No. 431/1, 2B and 3 of the extents of 1 acre 49 cents, 2 acres 44 cents and 1 acre 40 cents respectively stand classified as service Inam Dry and that dry crops like cholam, variga and commercial crops like country tobacco leaf, groundnut and chilly ere usually raised in these lands. All these lands are situated south of Harijan Cheri with a 'donka' in-between. The L.A.O. refers to five documents of sale transactions in ascertaining the market value of the lands in question. The documents are Exs. A-1 to A-5. Ex. A-1 is a sale deed dated 25-6-1958 in respect of the sale of one acre of land in S. No. 193 for a price of Rs. 1,000 (the learned Subordinate Judge has wrongly mentioned the price as Rs. 1,800). Ex. A-3 dated 11-8-1958 evidences the sale of 2 acres in S. No. 193 for Rs. 3,000, i. e., at Rs. 1,500 per acre. Ex. A-4 dated 16-5-1958 is a sale of 2 acres in S. No. 193 for Rs. 3,000 in favour of the vendor under Ex. A-3. It is to be noted that S. No. 193 is about three furlongs north-west of the lands acquired. S. No. 193 and the acquired lands bear the same soil and classification, taram, rate and physical features as well. But the soil of the land sold under Ex. A-1 is a little saline and is not of the same quality as that of the lands covered by the sales under Exs. A-4 and A-3.
So the L.A.O. took the sales under Exs. A-3 and A-4 into account, but ignored the sale under Ex. A-1. Ex. A-2 dated 17-7-1957 is a tale deed in respect of an extent of 17 acres 13 cents in S. No. 183 for Rs. 42,825. The L.A.O. eschewed this sale from consideration on the ground that the land covered by it is in the midst of a rich block of lands far away from the lands acquired and that enquiries revealed that the agreement for sale of this land was drawn up as far back as 1950 and the reasons for the delay in executing the sale deed and registering it and the high price paid a long time ago, were not known. Ex. A-5 dated 24-8-1955 evidences a sale of 70 cents in S. No. 443/3 for Rs. 1,500. The L.A.O. ignored this sale also on the ground that the laud lies 3 1/2 furlongs to the south-east of the lands acquired and the transaction was some four years before the notified date. Thus, the L.A.O. relied only on Exs. A-3 and A-4 and arrived at tile figure of Rs. 1,600 per acre as the proper market value of the lands in question.
8. Before the lower Court, on behalf of the State Government, the oral evidence of P.W. 1, the L.A.O. and P.W. 2 the Karnam of the village within whose revenue jurisdiction the lands in question are situate, was relied on in addition to the documentary evidence furnished by the sale deeds Exs. A-1 to A-5. On the other hand, the claimants relied on the evidence of R.Ws. 1 to 8 and the documentary evidence furnished by the sale deeds, Exs. B-1 to B-12. The learned Subordinate Judge examined the oral and documentary evidence adduced by the parties and ultimately reached the conclusion that Ex. B-10, a sale deed dated 16-3-1959 in respect of the sale of 1 acre 70 cents in S, No. 435/2, afforded a true basis for the determination of the market value of the lands acquired and on that footing, fixed the compensa-tion at Rs. 2,500 per acre. Out of the documents relied on by the Government, the learned Subordinate Judge agreed with the L.A.O. that Exs. A-2 and A-5 should be left out of account for the reasons given by the L.A.O. He was, however of the view that the L.A.O. should have taken into account not only the evidence afforded by Exs. A-3 and A-4, but also by Ex. A-l under which according to him, one acre of land in S. No. 193 had been sold for Rs. 1,800. Here the learned Subordinate Judge was wrong, because the value as it appears from Ex. A-1 is only Rs. 1,000 per acre. The L.A.O. has given a good reason for ignoring Ex. A-1 and that is that the soil in this particular land is somewhat saline as compared with the soil in the lands covered by Exs. A-3 and A-4. In my opinion, the L.A.O. was right.
9. Then the learned Subordinate Judge proceeded to consider the documents relied on by the claimants. In doing so, he observed as follows with regard to post and prior notification transactions and the value to be attached to them:
'In determining the market value of the lands acquired by Government, post-notification transactions should not necessarily be ignored altogether. All transactions must be relevant which can fairly be said to afford a fair criterion of the value of the property as on the date of notification. If any considerable interval has elapsed, one should naturally attach little or no value to subsequent sales, just as transactions long prior to the notification date will usually be discarded.'
The learned Judge discarded Exs. B-1, B-2, B-4, B-5, B-7 and B-9 as they related to transactions five or six years prior to the notification. The learned Judge then turned to Exs. B-3, B-6, B-10 ana B-12 on the one side, which were all pre-notification sales, and to Exs. B-8 and B-11, which were post-notification sales. The learned Judge pointed out that Ex. A-14 is a village plan showing the topography of the several lands within the revenue jurisdiction of the village of Inkollu. As regards Ex. B-3 dated 8-8-1958 he pointed out that 98 cents in S. No. 557/2 had been sold for Rs. 3,200; that this land is just two fields south of the residential village and abuts the main road and is nowhere near the land acquired. Further the Karnam (P.W. 2) had deposed that this land was purchased for cattle-shed. On this evidence the learned Judge was of the view that it did not appear appropriate to judge the value of the lands acquired with reference to the price fetched under the sale under Ex. B-3.
As regards Ex. B-6, this is what the learned Judge said:
'Ex. B-6 dated 20-6-1958 evidences sale of 17 1/2 cents in S. No. 411/3 for Rs. 700. R.W. 4 is the vendor. This land is very near the village, vide Ex. A-14. P. W. 2, the Karnam, has attested the original of Ex. B-6. He says that the acquisition was for erecting tobacco barns. It must be noted that normally a particular person owning an adjoining property or who has some particular object in desiring to acquire some special piece of land will be inclined to pay a higher price. It is the evidence of P.W. 2 who attested Ex. B-6 and so, competent to speak, that the acquisition was for a particular purpose. What has been acquired is only a small extent. The land, as seen from Ex. A-14, is near the residential part of village and adjoining the land which immediately abuts the main road leading into the village. These features do not obtain in reference to lands under review; in the circumstances, no comparison of similarity obtain for judgment of the values.'
Then as regards Ex. B-12 dated 8-2-1959, which evidences a sale of 57 cents in S. Nos. 405/2 and 415/3 for Rs. 3,500, which was acquired by the Panchayat Board, this is what the learned Judge said:
'Even this land does not bear any similarity to the lands in question. These lands are in the village proper. It is seen from Ex. A-11 that in S. No. 415 there is a Travellers' Bungalow and S. No. 405 adjoins the land which is of residential sites and, as spoken to by P.W. 2, is centrally situate and near the bus-stand and village market; obvious, that the value under this sale deed can furnish no pro-per guidance for the value of the lands under consideration.
10. I shall refer a little later to the learned Subordinate Judge's view as regards the sale deed Ex. B-10.
11.As regards the post-notification sales evidenced by Exs. B-8 and B-11, this is how the learned Judge dealt with them;
'Under Ex. B-8 dated 26-11-1959, 51 cents of S. No. 410/6 has been sold for Rs. 2,000 to R.W. 5. It is seen from the plan, Ex. A-14, that the land is near the village. P.W. 2 says that the land is a house-site. R.W. 5 admits that when he purchased the site, there were two or three houses in this S Number. No doubt, he says that crops can be raised on the land, but it is clearly seen to be a convenient site for house and so is not an agricultural land where crops are raised. It is admitted by R.W. 5 that neighbours of this site are rich people and the neighbouring land-owners are rich. The acquired land lies far away from this over a mile away. On this material on record, I have no hesitation to conclude that the evidence furnished by this document is not proper guidance for the point under consideration.'
As regards Ex. B-11 dated 21-3-1960, showing that one acre in S. No. 246/1 was sold for Rs. 6,700, the learned Subordinate Judge pointed out that it related to a sale conducted by the Official Receiver, Guntur at a competitive price; that the land acquired is in an entirely different block north of the village at a distance of about a mile away from the acquired lands and that it was not shown to bear any similarity to the lands acquired. Therefore, this sale afforded no proper guidance.
12. Having thus eschewed all but one of the documents produced by the claimants, the Subordinate Judge relied upon Ex. B-10 as affording a proper basis for the determination of the market value of the lands in question. Ex. B-10 is a sale deed dated 16-3-1959 under which 1 acre 70 cents in S. No. 435/2 was sold for Rs. 5,000. R.W. 7 was the attestor. This land is south-east of S. No. 431 portions of which have been acquired, Only one field S. No. 434 is in-between. The learned Judge was not prepared to accept the statement of P.W. 2, the Village Karnam, that this land was sold by one of the claimants to his niece and the price had been boosted up purposely to serve as favourable evidence in the acquisition proceedings. The learned Judge pointed out that the notification was nearly six months after the date of the sale, that the sale was for the discharge of debts which were mentioned in the body of the document and that it was not shown that this land Is in any way inferior to S. No. 433 which has been acquired. So the learned Judge took Ex. B-10 into consideration in arriving at the market value of the acquired lands. The learned Judge, therefore, concluded :
'I am inclined to the conclusion that S. No. 435/2 being in the same block as S. No. 431, removed only by one land in-between, the sale also being nearer in proximity with the relevant date than the rest of the documents, taking into consideration this transaction, if the price is fixed at Rs. 2,500, it will be a reasonable one. I adopt this valuation. On the above material, I hold that the value should be at the rate of Rs. 2,500 per acre.'
13. It is contended by the learned Government Pleader that even on the reasoning of the learned Subordinate Judge, he should nave taken Exs. A-3. A-4 and B-10 into account and struck an average of the three transactions; and if that were done, the rate per acre would be only Rs. 1,980. No doubt there is some force in this contention. But it seems to me that the learned Subordinate judge was inclined to attach greater importance to Ex. B-10 than to Exs. A-3 and A-4, although he was of the view dial Exs. A-3 and A-4 should not altogether be ignored. That was apparently the reason why he did not fix the compensation at Rs. 2,940, which would be the correct figure if Ex. B-10 alone went into the reckoning; but in view of the evidence furnished by Exs. A-3 and A-4, the learned Judge reduced the figure by Rs. 440. On the whole. I am unable to say that the lower Court has gone wrong in fixing the market value of the lands in question at Rs. 2,500 peracre. In this view, the appeal fails and is dismissed with costs.
Memorandum of Cross-objections.
14. In support of the Memorandum of Cross-objections, Sri Venkatarama Sastry has urged that the lower Court should have taken into consideration the evidence furnished by the pre-notification sales under Exs. B-3, B-6 and B-12, as also the post-notification sales evidenced by Exs. B-8 and B-11 and fixed the compensation at Rs. 3,000 per acre. I have already referred to the reasons given by the learned Subordinate Judge for ignoring these sales. I see no reason to disagree with the lower Court's view with regard to them.
15. It was then contended that even on the footing that Ex. B-10 furnished the true guide, the lower Court should have fixed the market value at Rs. 2,940 and not at Rs. 2,500 as it did. As indicated above, the lower Court arrived at that figure having in mind the evidence furnished by the two sale deeds Exs. A-3 and A-4 also, In any case, the claimants cannot complain of the method of valuation adopted by the lower Court. In this view, the Memorandum of Cross-objections is also dismissed with costs.