K. Madhava Reddy, A.C.J.
1. These writ appeals by the Special Deputy Collector, Land Acquisition, Kurnool, are directed against the judgment of our learned brother Raghuvir, J. allowing a batch of writ petitions and directing the respondents therein to cause a reference to the Civil Court under S. 18 of the Land Acquisition Act 1 1894 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'). In this batch of writ appeals the common question of law that arises for consideration is whether the respondents herein are entitled to seek a reference beyond a period of two months from the date of the award.
2. Srisailam Hydro Electric Power Project resulted in submission of large extent of villages on either side of the river in Kurnool and Mahaboobnagar districts. These lands were notified for acquisition under S. 4(1) of the Act. As a result of submersion, several hundred thousands of persons were uprooted from their villages. Compensation was determined by the Special Deputy Collector, Land Acquisition under several awards. Invariably where the notices were issued, very few claimants entered their appearance and participated in the award proceedings. It is common ground that in respect of the lands which form the subject-matter of Award No. 24 of 1977 which was made on 27-10-1977 and other lands which formed the subject-matter of the writ appeals, none of the claimants appeared before the Land Acquisition Officer and took part in the award enquiry. The award was, however, made and notices of the award are purported to have been issued under S. 12(2) of the Act. No particular form of notice is prescribed under the Act and the rules made thereunder. In the instant case, a statement was prepared in Telugu Language with a heading 'Notice under S. 12(2) of the Act'. In that notice Award No. 24/77 dt. 27-10-1977 was mentioned. It relates to Yerravaram village in Nandikotkur taluk of Kurnool district. A statement in four columns was prepared, first column giving the extent of the land, second column the total amount determined, third column mentioning the names of the persons entitled to receive the amount and the fourth column left blank for obtaining the signature of the person concerned. It is also stated therein that the persons named in the statement are declared entitled to receive the amount specified against their names in respect of the lands mentioned therein. Towards the end of the statement, there is a note that 'if within one week of the issuance of the notice, the persons concerned do not receive the amount, the amount would be deposited under revenue deposits and it would not carry any interest'. It is the case of the appellant that this constitutes sufficient notice of the making of the award as contemplated by S. 12(2) of the Act. It is contended that inasmuch as the respondents-claimants have not filed any applications within two months of service of the said notice for making a reference to the Court under proviso (b) to S. 13(2) they are not entitled to seek a reference. It is also further contended that the claimants have received compensation without protest and consequently in view of the second proviso to S. 31(2) of the Act, are not entitled to seek a reference. In the counter-affidavit it was averred that after the receipt of the said notice, the claimants did not ask for a copy of the award.
2-A. Section 12 of the Act reads as follows :
'12. (1) Such award shall be filed in the Collector's Office and shall, except as hereinafter provided, be final and conclusive evidence, as between the Collector and the persons interested, whether they have respectively appeared before the Collector or not, of the true area and value of the land and the apportionment of the compensation among the persons interested.
(2) The Collector shall give immediate notice of his award to such of the persons interested as are not present personally or by their representatives when the award is made.'
Under the said provision, an obligation is cast upon the Collector to give immediately notice of his award to such of the persons interested as are not present personally or by their representatives, he has to give notice not only of the award but also as to when it was made. After notice under Ss. 9 and 10 of the Act, the Collector is required to make an enquiry as to who among the persons interested, are making the claim for compensation, the extent of the land, the value of the land at the date of the publication of the notification under S. 4(1) of the Act and the persons among the rival claimants entitled to receive and the proportion in which the amount of compensation awarded is to be apportioned. Section 11 contemplates enquiry and award by the Collector. In awarding compensation, the Land Acquisition Officer is required to keep the several factors mentioned in Ss. 23 and 24 of the Act in view.
3. The right to seek a reference is provided under S. 18(2) of the Act. If a person is not present when the award was made, as pe4r the amendment made in the year 1959 under Act 20 of 1959, the person must seek a reference within two months from the date of service of notice from the Collector under S. 12(2). With respect to the compensation determined as payable to the persons interested, the persons who have put in a claim, have been given a right to seek a reference. In other words, the persons whose property is being compulsorily acquired for a public purpose, is entitled to seek a reference within the period stipulated under the Act which period would begin to run from 'the notice of the award to such of the persons interested as are not present,' It is, therefore, necessary to determine what the notice under S. 12(2) of the Act should contain. When S. 12(2) requires the Collector give a notice of his award, it must necessarily mean, in our view, the award itself. Mere intimation that in respect of certain person, does not constitute a notice of the award. The award contemplated by S. 11 of the Act must be with reference to the date of the notification. It must contain the claim made by the claimant. If there is a dispute as to the measurement of the land acquired, there should be determination of the extent and if there is a dispute as to the measurement of the land acquired, there should be determination of the extent and if there is a dispute as to the amount of compensation payable for such land, it should be determined having regard to the factors mentioned in Ss. 23 and 24 of the Act. If, in a particular case, the land has been taken possession of invoking the emergency provisions, the claimant would be entitled not merely to the value of the land as such but also interest from the date of taking possession. If there is a dispute as to the person or persons entitled to receive compensation, the Land Acquisition Officer is required to determine the person or persons entitled to receive compensation and if there are more than one person he has to apportion the compensation among the persons who, according to him, are entitled to receive compensation. It is left to the discretion of the Collector under S. 29 to apportion the amount among several claimants or refer the dispute as to apportionment to the Court under S. 30. Nonetheless, these are the several matters which have to be recorded in the award and under S. 12(2) of the Act, the Collector is required to give notice of such award. A mere statement as is referred to above on which the signatures of some of the claimants have been obtained in our opinion, does not constitute notice of the award made by the Collector, nor does it fulfil the requirements of S. 12(2) of the Act.
4. The learned Government Pleader Mr. Innayya Reddy, however, contended that the expression 'notice of the award' envisaged by S. 12(2) does not mean that the award itself should be served on the claimants. According to him, it is enough if the extent of the land acquired, the total amount of compensation determined as payable to the claimants, the name of the claimant entitled to receive the same are furnished and that would constitute sufficient notice of the award and fulfil the requirement of S. 12(2). If within two months of receipt of such a notice an application is not made, then under the proviso (b) of S. 18(2) the claimant would be disentitled to seek a reference under the Act. We are unable to agree with this contention. In order that a person may be entitled to seek a reference, he must know on what grounds his claim for a higher amount of compensation has been rejected. He must also know whether the Collector has determined the compensation with reference to the date of the notification. If there is a dispute as to the apportionment, on what grounds his claim has been rejected or accepted only in part, as the case may be, should be made known to the claimant. Without knowing the basis on which a lesser amount is awarded, he would not be in a position to seek a reference. The law would not except the claimant to seek a reference in every case irrespective of whether the amount awarded is reasonable or not. The legislature in incorporating sub-section (2) of S. 12 could not have intended only the substance of the award to be intimated to the claimants. In our view, the expression 'notice of the award' occurring in sub-sec. (2) of S. 12 clearly postulates that the award as such should have been communicated to the claimants.
5. The Supreme Court in State of Punjab v. Qaisar Jehan Begum, : 1SCR971 , dealing with proviso (b) to sub-sec. (2) of S. 18 of the Act which lays down inter alia that reference may be sought 'within six weeks from the date of the Collector's award' which words are deleted by Act 22 of 1959 in the application of the Land Acquisition Act to the State of Andhra Pradesh observed that any period of limitation should commence from the date of the knowledge of the award. As to what constitutes 'knowledge' the Supreme Court held thus (at p. 1607) :
'It seems clear to us that the ratio of the decision in Harish Chandra's case : 1SCR676 is that the party affected by the award must know it, actually or constructively , and the period of six months will run from the date of that knowledge. Now, knowledge of the award does not mean a mere knowledge of the fact that an award has been made. The knowledge must relate to the essential contents of the award. These contents may be known either actually or constructively. If the award is communicated to a party under S. 12(2) of the Act, the party must be obviously fixed with knowledge of the contents of the award whether he reads it or not.
xx xx xx xxHaving regard to the scheme of the Act we think that knowledge of the award must mean knowledge of the essential contents of the award'
On the facts of the case the Court held that merely because the claimant had filed a petition on a particular date, though it was with reference to the land acquired and the compensation paid, he could not be attributed knowledge of the award. If knowledge of the award means knowledge of the essential particulars, the present notice under S. 12(2) does not even refer to the date of taking possession nor the amount awarded towards the value of the land, or structured and the interest if any paid. It does not state what the decision of the Land Acquisition Officer was with reference to the rival claims, if any, made. In those circumstances, it cannot be said that the claimants were given notice of the award.
6. In W. P. No. 460 of 1982, a Bench of this Court, to which one of us (K. Madhava Reddy, Acting Chief Justice) was a party, has held that when the notice under S. 12(2) of the Act has not been issued as contemplated by the Act, the claimants do not lose their right to seek a reference.
7. Since the notice under S. 12(2) itself has not been issued as contemplated by the Act and the statement prepared in respect of the lands acquired referred to above, in our view, (does not?) constitute 'notice of the award', the writ petitioners are not precluded from seeking a reference under S. 18(2) beyond the period of two months from the date of the award.
8. Another ground on which the appellant seeks to question the correctness of the order under appeal is that the writ petitioners had received the compensation without protest and in view of the second proviso to S. 31(2) they are disentitled to seek a reference. It is no doubt true that if a claimant has received the amount of compensation without protest, that proviso precludes him from seeking a reference. Section 18(1) entitles any person interested, who has not accepted the award, to seek a reference by making an application in writing to the Collector. As already discussed above, when the notice of award itself has not been properly issued and served on the writ petitioners, the question of any of them accepting the award does not arise. The statement upon, which their signatures have been obtained does not establish that they have received the amount within one week of the issuance of the statement. There is nothing to show that they have thereafter received the amount without protest knowing that it was the amount awarded to them by way of compensation in respect of the land notified under S. 4(1) for acquisition. In the absence of any such proof, the persons, who have not received notice as contemplated by S. 12(2), cannot be deprived of their right to seek a reference under S. 18(2) of the Act. In fact the period of limitation prescribed under the second proviso to S. 18(2) cannot be deemed to have commenced to run and therefore they can seek a reference even now. Now that the learned single Judge has directed a reference to be made on the footing that S. 12(2) notice has not been duly served, we do not think, that we should once again give a similar direction.
9. In view of the above discussion, these writ appeals are dismissed. No costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 150/- in each.
10. Writ appeals dismissed.