1. The present order shall govern the two peti-tions mentioned above and also, in so far as the validity of the notification under Section 4 and declaration under Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act go, Misc. Petition No, 50 of 1960, in which, however, there is a separate judgment dealing with the special points raised there. In view of the frequency of such petitions it is convenient to deal in one judgment the different aspects of the problems raised in such cases with special reference to the circumstances in which certain existent rulings of this Court will apply, and those in which they may have to be distinguished.
2. In all these petitions the petitioners are owners of certain lands that are being acquired for public purposes which are different in each case but about whose being public purposes there is no controversy. In all these cases one or more of the following defects are pointed out, a few more in some and a few less in others; because of them, the prayer is under Article 226 for the quashing of the land acquisition proceedings. But as they are typical, it is convenient to deal with all of them ad seriatim. They are (i) that the notifications under Section 4 are defective for insufficient particulars (ii) that the suspension of Section 5A is not valid because the Government's order has been made simultaneously with the notifications' made under Section 4: (iii) that the absence of plot numbers in the declaration under Section 6 is a fatal defect; and (iv) that the officers exercising the powers of the Collector were not properly empowered. Emphasis, however, is placed on the insufficiency of particulars in the declarations nnder Section 6.
3. Ground (i) -- There is a decision by this High Court reported in Iftikhar Ahmed v. State, 1961 Jab LJ 124: (AIR 1961 Madh Pra 140), where it was held that the mere mention of the locality in a notice under Section 4 is not sufficient. That case was peculiar because there the acquisition was of some land in a crowded locality in the heart of the city of Bhopal and it was felt by the Court that it would be absurd to expect the thousands of owners of lands to go and object just on the possibility of their property also being acquired. Normally, and at all events in these cases, the position is materially different. Because of it, and because of the Supreme Court ruling (vide infra) it would be proper to hold that the remarks in the judgment referred to would apply only to very special congested areas like those in that case. In this regard, it is useful to refer to the ruling of the Supreme Court in Babu Barkya v. State of Bombay, AIR 1960 SC 1203.
'The purpose of the notification Under S, 4 is to carry on a preliminary investigation with a view to finding out after necessary survey and taking of levels, and if necessary digging or boring into the subsoil whether the land was adapted for the purpose for which it was sought to be acquired. It is only under Section 6 that a firm declaration has to be made by Government that land with proper description and. area so as to be identifiable is needed for a public purpose or for a company. What was a mere proposal under Section 4 becomes the subject-matter of a definite proceeding for acquisition under the Act. Hence a defect in the notification under Section 4 is not fatal to the validity of the proceedings, particularly when the acquisition is for a company and the purpose has to be investigation under Section 5A or Section 40 necessarily after the notification under Section 4.' Further that Court itself has ruled that even if there is a defect in the notice under Section 4 it is not fatal to the validity of the proceedings. This disposes of Ground (i).
4. Ground (ii) -- It is within the competency of Government to order that in any particular case coming under Sub-section (1) of Section 17 the provisions of Section 5A enabling objections to the proposed acquisition shall not apply. That of course is not questioned. But the argument in some of these cases is that the Government should send out the notice under Section 4 and afterwards issue the direction of the non-applicability of Section 5A. Even if it is supposed that the law provides for such a sequence, it is difficult to see what prejudice it causes if there is simultaneous notice and direction under Section 17(4). The point to note is that there is no such sequence provided in Section 17 (4). All that it says is that the Government having made such a direction, a declaration shall follow without objections under Section 5A. Certainly the declaration shall be and has necessarily to be after the publication of the notification under Section 4. But the direction may come either simultaneously with the notification under Section 4 or sometime in between the notification and the declaration. So this ground is without any force.
5. Ground (in) -- It is often urged in such cases that the particulars given in the declaration are inefficient. On the general principle of making things as easy as possible for the citizen it is beyond doubt that the fuller the particulars given, the better for everybody concerned. But where it is a question of declaring an acquisition proceedings invalid under the law, Courts have to see not whether the maximum possible particulars have been given, but whether the minimum requirements of a mandatory provision of law has been complied with. These are contained in the statute and also in the rulings of the Supreme Court, the latest being AIR 1960 SC 1203 (supra). Section 6(2) runs:
'A declaration shall be published in the official gazette and shall state the district and other territorial division in which the land is situate, the purpose for which it is needed, its approximate area, and when a plan shall have been made of the land, the place where such plan may be inspected.'
The point to note is that the Section in terms does not require the plot numbers to be given. We are not concerned with ascertaining whether this was because many regions in our country had not been surveyed or mapped in 1894 or because the legislature assumed that the party interested would come to know or would be in a position to know that his land was being acquired. Be that as it may, a particularly valuable help indicated in the Section is the map which would have the plot numbers and show clearly by enclosure or shading, the area required.
6. Case law is unanimous that the particu -lars should be clear and sufficient to enable an owner of the land to know with reasonable eSort whether or not and how much of his property is being covered by the declaration. Thus, we have three elements -- the general description of the area, the plot numbers, and the map. If all of thein are given and if the map itself is printed along with the declaration it would be nearly ideal and no owner of property can have the least grievance or difficulty. On the other hand, the law requires only ,that some or more of these as would help in the ascertainment of the identity of the land be declared. To quote the Supreme Court in the case already cited, which follows the earlier cases in State of Bombay v. Bhanji Munji, (S) AIR 1955 SC 41 and Lilawatibai v. State of Bombay, (S) AIR 1957 SC 521 -
'Under Section 6 a firm declaration has to be made by Government that land with proper description of area so as to be identifiable is needed for a public purpose or a company.'
Thus we have two tests that may have the effect; the minimum requirements of Section 6, plus the giving of particulars sufficient to make the land identifiable. Obviously, the citizen should not be put in a position that would call upon him to make extra-ordinary efforts and research to identify the land; that would be unreasonably harsh. On the other hand, to make things so easy that anybody who just runs along can identify the land is certainly desirable : but that may not be insisted upon as a requirement of law without which a Court should declare the acquisition itself invalid. The desirable quantum of the particulars would always lie somewhere midway; how much should be sufficient to enable identification will vary with the circumstances of each case. What may be sufficient in a village with mostly agricultural or open lands, may be insufficient in a closely congested town with microscopic holdings.
7. There have been some rulings of this High Court in regard to the failure on the part of the Government to give the plot numbers in the declarations. Two of them have been 'short-noted'; the short notes are clear enough. For instance, in the case Vishwanath Prasad v. State, 1961 Jab LJ (S.N.) 273 the property was described by district, tehsil and village but only the area as biswas was mentioned. It was noted -
'No other information has been given of the property intended to be acquired. From the description given In the notification it is impossible to know which 4 biswas of land is proposed to be acquired. The notification is invalid.'
Similarly, in the case reported in Anand Kumar v. State, 1962 Jab LJ (S. N.) 12 it was held -
'The notification must contain sufficient description of the land to be acquired and must indicate as precisely as possible in the circumstances the land sought to be acquired. A general statement as to the area of the land and as to the settlement number of the tehsil and the district where it is situate gives no indication whatsoever of the specific land proposed. A notification which is so vague, ambiguous and uncertain as to make it impossible for and one to identify the laud cannot be said to be a valid notification under Section 6.'
In the earlier case, 1961 Jab LJ 124 (AIR 1961 Madh Pra 140) (supra), the Court expected that the particularisation in the declaration should be fuller than it had actually been given. It was only logical because in the special circumstances of the case the Court found that particulars of plot numbers should be given even in the notification under Section 4.
8. The principle that runs through all thesedecisions is that something more than the name ofthe village and the area should be given as otherwise identification of the land would be impossi- ble. This of course is in full accord with the principle already laid down by the Supreme Court and inherent in the very nature of a description. Thereis one significant particular which has not been discussed in these rulings. May be, there was no occasion for it; at any rate, it was not canvassed.This is the mention in the declarations we are concerned with in all these three cases, that there wasa map and it was available for inspection in thecollectorate. Such maps contain plot numbers andgive a clear indication by enclosure or shading theareas that are sought to be acquired. The perti-nent question before us is whether or not theexistence of the map and its availability for inspection in the manner mentioned in Section 6 it-self is not one more particular curing the vagueness which has been the object of criticism in theserulings. The key to these decisions is that 'noother information has been given' or 'only thearea is given and no other indication is found inthe notification'. The principle followed in theserulings is no doubt correct and binding on us being in fact what the Supreme Court itself has held.But in the application of the principle to thesethree cases we have a particular which was eithernot found in the older Divisional Bench cases orwas not brought to the notice of the Court. Itwould, therefore, be proper to find that the instantcases are distinguishable from those covered bythese Divisional Bench rulings, by the existence ofa map of the kind referred to in the Section itself.
9. As already noted in the beginning of the discussion it would certainly be advisable for the Government to give as many particulars as possible so that even a person who runs along might identir fy provided of course he is capable of locating the plot numbers, and of reading a map. But it is another thing to say that unless all the possibly particulars are given the Court would hold the declaration invalid and as such quash the proceedings. For that one has to see whether the particulars given are sufficient for a normal person with a reasonable eSort in the circumstances of the case to identify the lands. We would, therefore, hold that none of the declarations in the three cases is invalid for vagueness and non-identifiability of the land.
10. Ground (iv) -- This ground has already been dealt with separately in the judgment in Misc. Petition No, 50 of 1960. It has been repeated in the Misc. Petition No. 31 of 1961. It is obvious that when the notice under Section 9 is signed by somebody other than the Collector, this Court should be satisfied that he was properly empowered to exercise the powers of the Collector under the Land Acquisition Act. In these two cases the officer is a Deputy Collector working in the collectorate concerned and described as the Senior Deputy Collector. It is urged in Misc. Petition No. 31 of 1961 that the Land Revenue Code does not recognize an office of a Senior Deputy Collector. For the purposes of the Code there is no such office; but we fail to see what difference it makes to the present question.
Here we have only to see whether there is in each collectorate an officer (Deputy Collector) described as the Senior Deputy Collector, and recognisable as such; and secondly, whether the notification referred to by the State -- the existence of which is not questioned -- does empower the officer described as the Senior Deputy Collector to exercise the powers of the Collector. On the factual position that emerges it is clear that these officers were the Senior Deputy Collectors at the relevant periods and at that time the notification empowering the Senior Deputy Collectors was still in force.
11. The result is that the petitions Nos. 31 of 1961 and 63 of 1961 are dismissed. Hearing fee of Rs. 50/- (fifty) in each case payable by the petitioners to the opposite party Government. The balance of the security deposit, if any, may he allowed to be withdrawn by the petitioners.
12. Misc. Petition No. 50 of 1960 has been already dismissed by a separate judgment emphasizing the points especially raised there. A copy of this judgment should be kept on that record ia view of discussion in this judgment regarding the declaration under Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act.
P.R. Sharma, J.
13. I agree.