1. In both these writ petitions, acquisition of plots of the petitioners under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, for purposes of providing house sites to landless agricultural labourers of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes is challenged. Identical questions arise in the two petitions and it is desirable to dispose them of by one judgment.
2. Writ Petition No. 7586 has been filed by three petitioners who are the tenure-holders of plot or chak No. 910 in village Phulli, Pargana Zamania, district Ghazipur. A notification under Sections 4(1) and 17(4) of the Land Acquisition Act dated November 20, 1974, was published in the official Gazette. The notification mentioned the plot or chak No. 910 also. In the body of the notification, it was stated that the land was needed for a public purpose, namely, for Rural Housing Scheme. At the bottom of the notification, the purpose, for which the land was required was stated thus:--
'Free allotment of house sites to landless agricultural labourers of Scheduled castes/ tribes, village artisans etc. in the aforesaid 'village of District Ghazipur.' A notification under Sections 6 and 17(1) of the Act dated November 26, 1974, was then published in the official Gazette. The writ petition was filed on July 22, 1975.
3. Writ petition No. 7658 has been filed by two petitioners who claim to be the Bhumidhars of plot No. 77 in village Mansur-pur, Pargana and Tahsil Baghpat, District, Meerut. A notification under Sections 4 and 17(4) of the Land Acquisition Act dated February 14, 1975, mentioning the plots of the petitioners, was published in the official Gazette. The purpose mentioned was exactly the same as in the notification in the other writ petition. A notification under Sections 6 and 17(1) of the Act dated February 21, 1975, was then published in the official Gazette. These petitioners also filed the writ petition on July 22, 1975. At the time of the admission, it was directed that these two writ petitions be listed for hearing before a Division Bench at an early date. That is how these writ petitions have come up before us.
4. In both the petitions, the acquisition has been challenged on the following grounds:--
(1) That the acquisition is in contravention of the provisions of Section 122-C of the U. P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Act and of Rule 115-L of the U. P. Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Rules, 1952;
(2) that the land of the petitioners was not needed for the purpose set out in the notifications as there was sufficient land available in the villages for house sites for members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes;
(3) that there was no urgency and the provisions of Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act could not be legally invoked; and
(4) that the land belonging to the petitioners was neither waste nor arable land and, consequently, the provisions of Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act could not be applied to it.
5. Section 122-C was introduced in the Zamindari Abolition Act by U. P. Act No. 21 of 1971. It provides for the allotment of land for house sites for members of the Scheduled Castes, agricultural labourers etc. Sub-sections (1) and (2), which are relevant for purposes of these eases, read thus :--
'122-C. Allotment of land for housing sites for members of Scheduled Castes, agricultural labourers etc.-- (1) The Assistant Collector Incharge of the Sub-division, of his own or on the resolution of the Land Management Committee, shall ear-mark any of the following classes of land for the provision of abadi sites for the members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes and agricultural labourers and village artisans--
(a) Land referred to in Clause (i) of sub-sec. (1) of Section 117 and vested in the Gaon Sabha under that section;
(b) lands coming into possession of the Land Management Committee under Section 194 or under any other provision of this Act;
(c) any other land which is deemed to be or becomes vacant under Section 13, Section 144, Section 163, Section 186 or Section 211;
(d) Where the land ear-marked for the extension of abadi and reserved as abadi site for Harijans under the U. P. Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1953, is considered by him to be insufficient, and land ear-marked for other public purposes under that Act is available then any part of the land so available. (2) Notwithstanding anything in Sections 122-A, 195, 197 and 198 of the Act, or in Sections 4, 16, 19, 28-B and 34 of the United Provinces Panchayat Raj Act, 1947, the Land Management Committees may, with the previous approval of the Assistant Collector Incharge of the Stub-division, allot, for purposes of building of houses, to persons referred to in Sub-section (3)--
(a) any land ear-marked under Sub-section (1);
(b) any land ear-marked for the extension of abadi sites for Harijans under provisions of the U. P. Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1953;
(c) any abadi sites referred to in Clause (vi) of Sub-section (1) of Section 117 and vested in the Gaon Sabha;
(d) any land acquired for the said purposes under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.'
Sub-section (3) onwards provides the procedure for making the allotment of land. Rule 115-L, in its present form, was introduced on March 16/17, 1972. Sub-rules (1) and (2), which are relevant, are in these words:--
'115-L. (1) The Assistant Collector Incharge of the sub-division may, wherever land ear-marked for the extension of abadi for Harijans under the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1953, and any other land of abadi site vested in Gaon Sabha is insufficient to meet the housing requirement of persons referred to in subsection (3) of Section 122-C, proceed to ear-mark land for abadi sites in accordance with subsection (1) of the said section.
(2) In case the land enumerated in Clauses (a), (b) and (c) of Sub-section (2) of Section 122-C available in a village is insufficient, the Collector may prepare a proposal for acquisition of land under the Land Acquisition Act 1894, and forward the same to the State Government for their orders.' Sub-rule (2) was deleted with effect from January 17, 1975. This sub-rule was in force at the time when the notifications in Writ Petition No. 7586 were published but had been deleted by the time the notifications in Writ Petition No. 7658 were published.
6. So far as the first ground is concerned, there does not appear to be any contravention of the provisions of Section 122-C of the Zamindari Abolition Act or of Rule 115-L of the Rules. Clause (d) of Section 122-C (2) and Sub-rule (2) of Rule 115-L clearly contemplate acquisition of Land under the Land Acquisition Act for purposes of providing housing sites for the members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. That being so, the acquisition of land under the Land Acquisition Act for this purpose can hardly be said to contravene the provisions of Section 122-C or of Rule 115-L. It is urged by the learned Counsel for the petitioners that Sub-rule (2) of Rule 115-L lays down a condition precedent to the acquisition of land for this purpose under the Land Acquisition Act. According to the learned Counsel the condition precedent is that the land available in the village of the classes enumerated in Clauses (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (2) of Section 122-C should be insufficient for the purpose. They further say that the insufficiency of the land has to be determined objectively by the Collector before he forwards a proposal for the acquisition to the State Government and that this determination is justiciable.
7. We are unable to agree that Rule 115-L (2) prescribes any condition precedent to the acquisition of land under the Land Acquisition Act for the purposes of Section 122-C (2). The requirement of Rule 115-L (2) is no more a condition precedent than is the requirement in every case of acquisition under the Land Acquisition Act to consider whether there is need or not to acquire the land for the public purpose. In the present case the need is to be judged by the Collector and by the Government after taking into consideration the land already available for the purpose under the provisions of Clauses (a), (b) and fc) of Section 122-C (2). Rule 115-L (2) can only be said to provide a guideline to the Collector for forwarding the necessary proposals to the Government for acquisition of the land.
8. When the acquisition is under the Land Acquisition Act for a public purpose, though that purpose may be the purpose under Section 122-C (2), Zammdari Abolition Act of providing housing sites to the members of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act alone will apply to the acquisition. No condition precedent to such acquisition can be spelled out of the provisions of either Section 122-C of the Zamindari Abolition Act or of Rule 115-L. This conclusion is borne out by the decisions of the Supreme Court. In Patna Improvement Trust v. Lakshmi Devi, (AIR 1963 SC 1077) the Supreme Court held that even though the Bihar Town Planning and Improvement Trust Act 1951, itself provided the procedure for the acquisition of land, the power of the State Government to acquire land for the Improvement Trust under the Land Acquisition Act was not affected. In Nandeshwar Prasad v. U. P. Government, (AIR 1964 SC 1217) notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the Land Acquisition Act were published by the State Government for acquiring land for a development scheme of the Kanpur Development Board, tt was argued that the acquisition for the Board could only be made under the Land Acquisition Act as amended by Section 114 of the Kanpur Urban Area Development Act, 1945, and as this was not done, the acquisition proceedings were bad. The Supreme Court held that if the Board decided under Section 71 of the Development Act to acquire the land for the Board, Section 114 came into play and the Land Acquisition Act with the modifications mentioned in the Schedule applied, but if the acquisition was by the Government under the Land Acquisition Act for a public purpose, though the purpose was the purpose of the Board, the Development Act had no application at all, and the Government proceeded to acquire under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act alone.
9. A question similar to the one which we are considering arose before the Supreme Court in Ambalal v. Ahmedabad Municipality, (AIR 1968 SC 1223). The Bombay Municipal Boroughs Act, 1925, empowered the Municipality to acquire land for its purpose by private negotiation and Section 52 thereof authorised the State Government, when there was any hindrance to the acquisition by the Municipality, to acquire the land under the Land Acquisition Act. Notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the Land Acquisition Act were published by the Government acquiring the land in dispute for the purposes of the Municipality. It was contended before the Supreme Court that the power to acquire the land could only be exercised by the State Government, when there was a hindrance to the acquisition by the Municipality and since there was no proof of such hindrance, the proceedings for acquisition were void. The Supreme Court repelled this contention observing :--
'In any case, the power of the appropriate Government under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act to notify land needed or likely to be needed for a public purpose is not subject to the restriction that when the public purpose is of the municipality, the municipality has attempted to purchase the land by private treaty and has failed in that attempt. The scheme of the Land Acquisition Act is that whenever the land is needed for a public purpose or is likely to be needed for a public purpose, the Government may resort to the machinery provided under the Act for acquiring the land. When the public purpose is the purpose of a local authority and the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act are put in force for acquiring land at the cost of any fund controlled or managed by a local authority. Section 50 of the Land Acquisition Act provides that the charges of and incidental to such acquisition shall be defrayed from such fund. There is no other bar statutory or otherwise to the acquisition of the land for purposes of a municipality. In issuing notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, the appropriate Government is therefore not prevented, merely because the municipality has not attempted to acquire the land by private treaty. There was, therefore condition precedent to the acquisition of the land before a notification under Section 4 of the land Acquisition Act was issued, which was not complied with.'
10. These decisions establish that though there may be provisions relating to acquisition of land in a statute, they do not affect or control the acquisition of land under the Land Acquisition Act, even if the acquisition is for purpose under that statute. The provisions of the statute cannot be construed as imposing a condition precedent to the acquisition under the Land Acquisition Act. In the cases before us also the acquisition is by the Government under the Land Acquisition Act for a public purpose, which is a purpose contemplated by Section 122-C of the Zamin-dari Abolition Act. To such an acquisition the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act alone will apply. The provisions of Rule 115-L (2) cannot be held to prescribe a condition precedent to such an acquisition.
11. From the counter-affidavits filed on behalf of the State Government it is clear that in both cases the Collector had sent his proposals for the acquisition of certain land for this purpose and, after considering these proposals and satisfying itself as to the necessity to acquire the land, the State Government issued the notifications. The Collectors in both cases must be presumed to have considered the question of the insufficiency of the land available for the purpose and to have forwarded the proposals for the acquisition on that basis. The main argument of the learned Court for the petitioner is that sufficient land, in fact, of the classes mentioned in Section 122-C and surplus land acquired under the U. P. Imposition of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act is available in each village and housing sites can be provided to the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes out of this land. This is really the second ground raised by the petitioners.
12. The second ground is that since Section 122-C of the U. P. Zamindari Abolition Act makes certain lands available for this purpose and since this land is sufficient to meet the requirement there is no need to acquire the petitioners' land. Such an argument, in our opinion, is not open. The declaration under Section 6(1) of the Land Acquisition Act in each case states:--
'..... the Governor is pleased to declare under Section 6 of the said Act that he is satisfied that the land mentioned in the schedule below is needed for a public purpose, namely, Rural Housing Scheme.'
Sub-section (3) of Section 6 provides that this declaration shall be conclusive evidence that the land is needed for a public purpose. This provision shuts out all enquiries by the Court into the question of genuineness or otherwise of the need. The question whether the need for an acquisition can be examined by a Court or not arose before the Supreme Court in Ratilal v. State of Gujarat, (AIR 1970 SC 984). The Supreme Court answered the question in the negative observing :--
'It was also urged that there was no need for acquiring any land for the scheme in question. Section 6(3) of the Land Acquisition Act provides that a declaration under Section 6 shall be conclusive evidence that the land proposed to be acquired is needed for a public purpose. Therefore this Court cannot go into the question whether the need was genuine or not unless we are satisfied that the action taken by the Government was a fraudulent one. We are also unable to concede to the proposition that the need of a section of the public cannot be considered as a public purpose. Ordinarily the Government is the best authority to determine whether the purpose in question is a public purpose or not and further the declaration may it be under Section 6 is a conclusive evidence of the fact that the land in question is needed for public purpose -- see Smt. Somavanti v. State of Punjab, (1963) 2 SCR 774 = (AIR 1963 SC 151). That decision lays down that conclu-siveness in Section 6(3) must necessarily attach not merely to a 'need' but also to the question whether the purpose was a public purpose.'
13. Thus, the question whether the land sought to be acquired is or is not genuinely needed for the public purpose can only be examined by the Court, if it is established that the action of the Government was fraudulent or in colourable exercise of power or mala fide. Though there is a bald assertion in the writ petition that 'the acquisition proceedings are colourable exercise of jurisdiction,' there are no averments in that writ petition to support this assertion and no materials have been provided in support thereof. It is nobody's case that the tend is being acquired for a collateral purpose or that it will not be used for the purpose set out in the notification. There is no reason, whatever, to doubt that the land is being acquired for the purpose mentioned in the notifications and that it will be utilized for that purpose. That being so, this is not a case where it can be said that the action of the State Government in acquiring the land of the petitioner is fraudulent, mala fide or a colourable exercise of power. The declaration that the land is needed for the public purpose is conclusive and the Court cannot go behind it It is, therefore, not open to the petitioners to challenge the acquisition on the ground that sufficient land is available in the village and it is not necessary to acquire their plots.
14. The next two grounds relate to the applicability of Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act to the acquisitions. The application of Section 17 has the result of depriving the petitioners of the opportunity of filing objections to the acquisition of their land under Section 5-A of the Act. The relevant provisions of Section 17, as applicable to Uttar Pradesh, are as follows:--
'17 (1) In cases of urgency, whenever the appropriate Government so directs, the Col-lector, though no such award has been made, may, on the expiration of fifteen days from the publication of the notice mentioned in Section 9, Sub-section (1) take possession of any waste or arable land needed for public purposes or for a company. Such land shall thereupon vest absolutely in the Government, free from all encumbrances.
(1-A) The power to take possession under Sub-section (1) may also be exercised in the case of other than waste or arable land, where the land is acquired for or in connection with sanitary improvements of any kind or planned development.
(4) In the case of any land to which, in the opinion of the appropriate Government, the provisions of Sub-section (1), Sub-section (1-A) or Sub-section (2) are applicable, the appropriate Government may direct that the provisions of Section 5-A shall not apply, and, if it does so direct, a declaration may be made under Section 6 in respect of the land at any time after the publication of the notification under Section 4, Sub-section (1).'
Para 2 of the notifications under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act in each of the two petitions reads thus:--
'The Governor being of opinion that the case is one of urgency and, as such, the provisions of Sub-section (1) and Sub-section (1-A) of Section 17 of the said Act are applicable to the land, is further pleased under Sub-section (4) of the said section to direct that the provi-sions of Section 5-A of the said Act shall Dot apply.'
15. The third ground urged on behalf of the petitioners is that really there was no urgency for the acquisition and that the State Government has formed its opinion without applying its mind to the matter. It is well settled that the question of urgency is a matter for the subjective satisfaction of the Government and it is not open to the Courts to examine the propriety or correctness of the satisfaction on an objective appraisal of facts. Opinion of the Government can be challenged as ultra vires in a court of law, it can be shown that the Government never applied its mind to the matter or that action of the Government is mala fide. (See Raja Anand Brahma Shah v. State of U. P., (AIR 1967 SC 1081). The conclusion of the Government that there is urgency, though not conclusive, is entitled to great weight. (See Jage Ram v. Slate of Haryana, AIR 1971 SC 1033).
16. The purpose of the acquisition is to provide free house sites to landless agricultural labourers of the Scheduled Castes/ Tribes, village artisan etc. Providing of house sites to houseless members of the weaker section of the society is surely a matter of urgency in a welfare State. Strong reliance was placed by the learned Counsel for the petitioners on the following observations of a learned Single Judge of the Karnataka High Court in Thimme Gowda v. State, (AIR 1974 Kant 158):--
'On a perusal of the records, T find that there was absolutely no material before the Government for the formation of their opinion that the matter was so urgent as to invoke the power conferred under Section 17(4). The statement of objections does not give the basis or the circumstances justifying the dispensing of the enquiry. It is now well settled that the Government could dispense the enquiry under Section 5-A only in exceptional cases when the case is so urgent that the time that is likely to be spent over the hearing directed by Section 5-A, would produce great harm or public mischief. The acquisition proposed is only to provide sites to siteless people, and that purpose ordinarily cannot be regarded as an urgent purpose so as to invoke (the provisions of Section 17(4) of the Act the present case cannot be an exception to that rule.'
With respect we are unable to subscribe to this view.
17. It was then argued that the mention of both Sub-section (1) and Sub-section (1-A) of Section 17 in the notification showed that the Government had not applied its mind to the question whether the land sought to be acquired was waste or arable or other than waste or arable and that this vitiated the notification. Reliance was placed on the following observations of the Supreme Court in Raja Anand Brahma Shah v. State of U. P., AIR 1967 SC 1081 :--
'If, therefore, in a case the land under acquisition is not actually waste or arable land but the State Government has formed the opinion that the provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section 17 are applicable, the Court may legitimately draw an inference that the State Government did not honestly form that opinion or that in forming that opinion the State Government did not apply its mind to the relevant facts bearing on the question at issue.'
The object of both Sub-sections (1) and (1-A) is to enable the Government, in cases of urgency, to direct the Collector to take possession of the land acquired even before the award of compensation has been made. Once the Government is satisfied that the case is one of urgency, it can, under Sub-section (1), direct the Collector to take possession of waste for arable land and, under Sub-section (1-A) direct the Collect or to take possession of other than waste or arable land if the land is acquired for or in connection with sanitary improvement or planned development. In the present cases, the notifications are not only in respect of the plots of the petitioners but they cover a large number of plots belonging to many different persons and lying in several villages. Some plots may be waste, some arable and others neither waste nor arable. Government having been satisfied in the present cases that the matter was of urgency, it may well have decided that the Collectors should be directed to take possession over all the plots before the award of compensation was made, whether they be waste or arable or other than waste or arable. Since the acquisition was for Rural Housing Scheme, it was for or in connection with planned development and the provisions of Sub-section (1-A) could be applied to the acquisition. Sub-section (1) could also be applied in respect of the waste or arable plots. Since the Government had reached the subjective satisfaction about the urgency and had decided to direct the Collectors to take possession of all the land, it could very well take the aid of Sub-section (1) as well as of Sub-section (1-A). The conditions necessary for the application of both the Sub-sections were satisfied in the case. In such a case, when directions were being issued to take possession of all lands and plots, whether waste or arable or other than waste or arable, it was unnecessary for the Government, at the stage of issuing the notification, to determine the nature of each plot or parcel of land and to find out whether it was waste or arable or other than waste or arable. If the conditions for the applicability of both the sub-sections were satisfied, it was open to the Government to make use of both of them and to make mention of them in the notification. There is no bar or illegality to the adoption of such a course. A notification saying that, in the opinion of the Government, the provisions of Sub-sections (1) and (1-A) are applicable to the land cannot be struck down on the ground of non-application of the mind merely because Government has not examined and determined the nature of each plot or parcel of land. If the Government was satisfied that the provisions of Sub-sections (1) and (1-A) were applicable, it could legitimately exclude the operation of the provisions of Section 5-A. That is precisely what has been done in these cases. In our opinion, there is no illegality in the notifications on account of the use of the provisions of Sub-sections (1) and (1-A) of Section 17 therein.
18. The fourth and the last ground urged by the petitioners is that the land, which was sought to be acquired, was neither waste nor arable and, therefore, the Collector could not take possession thereof in pursuance of the directions given under Sub-section (1) of Section 17 in paragraph 2 of the notification under Section 6. Paragraph 2 reads thus:--
'The Government, being satisfied that the case is one of urgency, is further pleased under Sub-sections (1) and (1-A) of Section 17 of the said Act, to direct that the Collector of ..... though no award under Section 11 has been made, may on the expiration of fifteen days from the publication of the notice mentioned in Sub-section (1) of Section 8, take possession of any waste or arable land forming part of the land mentioned in the schedule for the said public purpose.' It will be noticed that the Collectors have been directed only to take possession of waste or arable land. The objections of the two sets of petitioners in the two petitions are that their plots are neither waste nor arable and that no direction could have been issued in respect of their lands. The case of each set of petitioners will have to be examine separately.
19. In Writ Petition No. 7586 of 1975, the three petitioners have claimed that they are the tenure-holders of Plot of Chak No. 910 in village Phulli, Pargana Zamania, district Ghazipur. According to the petitioners, the area of this land is more than 7 bighas but only one bigha and 10 biswas out of it have been acquired. These petitioners have alleged in paragraph 11 of the petition that there is abadi of the petitioners in this land. In the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the State, it was stated that the entire land was cultivatory and that there was no abadi therein. In the rejoinder-affidavit, the petitioners stated that the petitioners had erected their 'madai' (temporary thatched shed) in which they and their cattle were living and that they had dug a well and installed a pumping set thereon. Even if all these assertions of the petitioners are accepted, it will not help them. The plot is a big plot measuring over 7 bighas and only 1 bigha and 10 biswas out of it have been acquired. There is no assertion made by petitioners that their 'madai' or well stands on that part of their land which has been acquired. The notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the Land Acquisition Act mention that a plan of the land may be inspected in the office of the Collector. The petitioners have apparently not inspected that plan and have not stated anywhere that the part of their land, which has been acquired, is not waste or arable land. They have also not stated that the portion of their land, other than that on which the 'madai' and the well stand is not cultivable. In this state of the pleadings, it is not possible to hold that the land of the petitioners, which has been acquired, is not arable land. The land is cultivated land. In Raja Anand Brahma Shah's case AIR 1967 SC 1081 the Supreme Court has held that arable land means land which is mainly used for ploughing and for raising crops. In Ishwarlal Girdhar Lal Joshi v. State of Gujarat, AIR 1968 SC 870 it was held that by arable land is meant not only land capable of cultivation but also land actually cultivated. The land of the petitioners, which was acquired, was thus arable land and the direction to take possession thereof was validly given.
20. In Writ Petition No. 7658, the two petitioners claim to be Bhumidhars of Plot No. 77. They have alleged that they have raised a boundary wall round this plot and that they also use this plot for manure-pits and cattle troughs and have put up some sort of roof over it. They have also alleged that, during consolktation operations, this plot was left for abadi purposes of the petitioners at their request. All these allegations have been denied in the counter-affidavit and it has been asserted that the plot is a cultivatory one on which crops are grown. In their rejoinder-affidavit, the petitioners have filed a certified copy of C. H. Form No. 41. It shows that the plot is irrigated from a well. In the remarks column the word 'Abadi' is written. This document cannot establish that the plot was reserved in consolidation proceedings as abadi of the petitioners. C. H. Form No. 41 is merely a 'Khasra Mutabiqat' and there is no occasion to mention in it whether a plot has been reserved for abadi or not. Further, under the Consolidation of Holdings Act, plots are reserved for the extension of the village abadi but not for the abadi of any particular tenure-holder. The plot being a bhumidhari plot, the normal presumption is that it is an arable piece of land. The petitioners have not shown that any such structures have been erected on it as would change its nature. The plot is cultivable and is arable and the direction to the Collector to take possession of it under Sub-section (1) of Section 17 is perfectly legal.
21. The four grounds of attack against the acquisitions having failed, the two petitions are dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.