1. This appeal under Section 54 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 is by the Collector, Seoni and is directed against an award made by the Additional District Judge, Seoni on 2nd May, 1967 on a reference under Section 18 of the Act
2. An area of 7.35 acres of land belonging to the respondents out of Khasra No. 47/1 situate in village Nangelipeth, District Seoni was acquired by the State Government in 1963 for implementation of Seoni Water Supply Scheme. The notification under Section 4 of the Act was published in the Government Gazette on 4th November, 1963. Notices under Section 9 of the Act were issued to the respondents on 28th December, 1963 in reply to which they filed their claim for compensation on 25th February, 1964. The respondents stated that though the price of the land was much more, they were willing to accept compensation at the rate of Rs. 1,500/- per acre. The land Acquisition Officer made his award en 17th August, 1964. On the material produced before him he held that value of the land acquired was Rs. 450/- per acre. He, therefore, awarded a sum of Rs. 3,804/- (including 15 percent for compulsory nature of acquisition) as compensation for the land as also interest at 4 per cent from the date of taking over of possession, i.e. 19th September, 1964 until payment. The respondents then applied for a reference under Section 18 of the Act. The Additional District Judge, Seoni who heard and decided the reference came to the conclusion that the market value of the land should be fixed at Rs. 11,000/-per acre. On this finding a sum of Rupees 80,850 together with 6% interest was awarded by the Additional District Judge to the respondents as compensation.
3. Before we proceed to examine the contentions advanced on behalf of the appellant we must first dispose of a preliminary objection regarding the tenability of appeal. The objection is that the Collector has no right of appeal and therefore the appeal should have been filed by the State. There is no substance in this objection as it is concluded against the respondents by a Division Bench ruling of this Court in Collector, Raigarh v. Chaturbhuj, 1964 MPLJ 220 at p. 222: (AIR 1964 Madh Pra 196 at p. 199) where it was observed:
'On behalf of the respondents, Shri R.K. Verma has raised a preliminary objection that the appeals should have been filed in the name of the State Government and as they have been preferred by the Collector, Raigarh, they should be dismissed. It is true that the State Government is the real party aggrieved and the appeals should have been filed in the name of the State Government through the Collector as their agent. However, the defect does not appear to us to be fatal. The Collector has a right to act for the Government under the specific provisions of the Act. For instance, it is the duty of the Collector to make an award and after he has done so, it is he who takes possession of the land under Section 16. The duty of paying the compensation is laid on the Collector under Section 31. Section 28 requires the Collector to pay interest on the amount awarded by the Court in excess of his award. In fact, all these amounts have to be paid by the State Government; but under the special provisions of the Act it is the Collector who has to perform that duty. Now, if the Collector wants to be relieved of a part of the statutory liability created by the award of the Court, he should in our opinion, be entitled to prefer an appeal against the award. We do not think that it is necessary to file the appeal formally in the name of the State Government.'
4. The first contention raised for the appellant is that the Court below had no jurisdiction to award to the respondents more than Rs. 1,500/- per acre for they claimed compensation only at this rate in their reply to notices issued under Section 9 of the Act.
5. After the respondents were served with notices under Section 9 of the Act, they filed their claim in which they stated as under:
'1, That the non-applicants do not oppose the acquisition proceedings because the land in question is being acquired foron essential public purpose, namely, water-works.
2. As regards price, the non-applicants have already made it clear that although the price of the land looking to the situation and the locality is and can be much more, however, the non-applicants are willing to accept at the rate of Rs. 1,500/- per acre.
3. It is submitted that the area 7.53 acres out of Khasra No. 47/1 may be acquired on payment of the price of the land at the rate of Rs. 1,500/- per acre, as the lands adjoining this land and situated in a lesser advantageous position are sold at this rate. As a matter of fact the non-applicants have already received offers of the land in question at the rate of 0.25 N. P. per square foot, but the non-applicants are refusing those offers in view of the fact that the land in question is being acquired for a public purpose.'
Whatever may have been the reason, the respondents restricted their claim of compensation to Rs. 1,500/- per acre and it was not open for the Court to award to them more than what they claimed. A clear statutory provision to that effect is contained in Section 25(1) of the Act which reads as follows:
'When the applicant has made a claim to compensation pursuant to any notice given under Section 9, the amount awarded to him by the Court shall not exceed the amount so claimed or be less than the amount awarded by the Collector under Section 11.'
The Court below has not made any reference to Section 25(1) and has got over the difficulty by placing reliance on In re Zamindar of Ettayapuram, AIR 1943 Mad 337. In that case, it was held that compensation may be allowed at a rate higher than what is claimed in an application for reference under Section 18, but it cannot exceed the limit imposed by Section 25(1) and, therefore, cannot be in excess of what is claimed in reply to notice under Section 9. This case thus does not at all support the view taken by the Court below.
6. It has further been said in the Judgment under appeal and has also been argued before us for the respondents that their willingness to accept compensation at the rate of Rs. 1,500/- per acre was in the nature of an offer and as it was not accepted by the Collector who awarded compensation at the rate of Rs. 450/- per acre, the respondents were not bound by their initial offer. There is no substance in this argument. A claim made on a notice under Section 9 for getting compensation cannot be equated to an offer which leads to the formation of a contract. Section 25(1) is plain and contains a statutory injunction to the Court not to award compensation in excess of whatis claimed in pursuance of a notice under Section 9. The unambiguous language of this Section cannot be defeated by an argument based on an analogy of offer and acceptance. It will be seen that the injunction here is for the Court and certainly in no sense can it be said that a claim made in reply to notice under Section 9 is an offer made to the Court. Whatever may have been the reason to claim compensation at the rate of Rupees1,500/- per acre, the Court is bound to take it as the maximum limit which cannot be exceeded.
7. We, therefore, accept the contention that the Court below was clearly wrong in making an award in favour of the respondents which was far in excess of the amount claimed by them before the Collector.
8. Next it is urged that the finding that the market rate of land at the time of notification under Section 4 was Rupees11,000/- per acre is without any evidence and that the respondents have failed to prove that the compensation awarded by the Collector was not proper.
9. It must be recalled that the notification under Section 4 of the Act for acquisition of the land was published on 4th November. 1963. This date is therefore the relevant date with reference to which the market value of the land has to be determined. The respondents in the Court below have produced in evidence two sale deeds Exs. N. A. 1 and C.D. 1. The first sale deed is of 23rd April, 1966 and the second one is of 27th July, 1966. These sale deeds which were executed nearly two and half years after the notification under Section 4 cannot be taken as relevant for valuing the land in these proceedings. As regards the appellant, a sale deed executed on 2nd May, 1963 (Ex. A-1) has been filed and proved. This sale deed relates to 7.55 acres of land which was sold for a sum of Rs. 3,500/-. This land is at a distance of two furlongs from the acquired land. This sale was also relied upon by the Collector in fixing the compensation at the rate of Rs. 450/-per acre. In the absence of any other satisfactory evidence, Ex. A-1 can certainly be taken to be the best available evidence for determining the compensation.
10. It may here be mentioned that P. W. 1 Gokulprasad who is the purchaser of the sale deed Ex. A-1, during his cross-examination, stated that he purchased some land of the respondents two years back, that is, some time in 1965 at the rate of -/8/- annas per square foot. In fact, this statement formed the basis of the finding of the Court below that the market value of the land acquired should be fixed at Rs. 11,000/- per acre. There is no document in support ofthis alleged sale which according to the statement of the witness is as yet incomplete as he has not paid the full purchase price. The statement of the witness as regards this sale is wholly unconvincing. Moreover, the alleged sale being of 1965 cannot be legitimately used for determining the market value of the land acquired in 1963.
11. It was contended on behalf of the respondents that the acquired land had a potential value for building purposes and therefore it should be valued as a building site. It is admitted that the land was agricultural land and had not been diverted for building purposes. The land seems to be on the outskirts of Seoni town but that in itself does not show that the land had a potential value for building purposes. It was for the respondents to lead evidence to show that at the relevant time there was a tendency of the town to develop in that direction and that prior to the acquisition new buildings had been constructed in the neighbourhood. Having gone through the record, we do not find any clear evidence to that effect and, therefore, we do not accept the contention of the learned counsel that the land should be valued as a building site. In Raghubans Nara-yan v. Government of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1967 SC 465 their Lordships quoted the following passage from one of their earlier decisions, viz., Jijabhoy v. District Collector, Thana, Civil Appeals Nos. 313 to 315 of 1963, D/- 30-8-1965 (SC) which is pertinent in this connection:
'The question therefore turns upon the facts of each case. In the context of building potentiality many questions will have to be asked and answered: whether there is pressure on the land for building activity, whether the acquired land is suitable for building purposes, whether the extension of the said activity is towards the land acquired, what is the pace of the progress and how far the said activity has extended and within what tune, whether buildings have been put up on lands purchased for building purposes, what is the distance between the built-in-land and the land acquired and similar other questions will have to be answered. It is the overall picture drawn on the said relevant circumstances that affords the solution.'
In Raghubans Narayan's case, AIR 1967 SC 465, there was evidence to the effect that there was a 'school building near the acquired land that the land abutted on the road and that some houses had been built on the opposite side of the road. It was held that this did not constitute evidence of building potentiality. It was pointed out that there should be evidence on record 'of building activity of a substantial nature being carried on in the neighbourhood of the acquired landat about the time when the notification was issued.' As we have already stated there is no such evidence in the case and therefore it cannot be said that valuation should be made on the basis of the potentiality of the land as building site.
12. It may also be mentioned that in their application under Section 18, the respondents mentioned that the lands in the neighbourhood had been sold at the rate of Rs. 1,250/- and 1,350/- per acre. The situation of these lands which are in the neighbourhood of the land acquired is shown in a map which the respondents filed along with the application. Afterwards, they gave particulars that these sales took place in July and September, 1963. The respondents, however, did not produce any evidence in respect of these sales presumably under the expectation that they would get more compensation by producing evidence of sales that took place in 1966. The 1963 sales that were pleaded by the respondents were denied by the appellant and in the absence of any evidence the respondents cannot now be allowed to fall back on those sales. But that no doubt goes to show that even on the admission of respondents contained in application under Section 18, the market value of Rupees 11,000/- per acre determined by the learned Additional District Judge was fantastic and palpably wrong.
13. Having considered the evidence asa whole to which we have already referred, in our opinion, on the material on record, the respondents have failed to substantiate that the award made by the Collector was not proper. In Asst. Development Officer v. Tyaballi, AIR 1933 Bom 361, it was laid down that the party claiming enhanced compensation was in the position of a plaintiff and he must produce evidence to show that the award of the Collector was inadequate. He can no doubt discharge the initial burden be producing evidence showing prima facie that the award is inadequate. But in the absence of any such evidence the award will stand. This statement of the law was cited with approval by a Division Bench of this Court in 1964 MPLJ 220: (AIR 1964 Madh Pra 196). As already stated the respondents who were challenging the award did not produce any relevant material before the Court showing that the amount awarded by the Collector was inadequate. In our opinion, therefore, the award must stand.
14. The appeal is allowed. The awardmade by the learned Additional DistrictJudge, Seoni is set aside and it is ordered that the Collector's award shall stand.The respondents will pay the costs ofboth the Courts to the appellant.