R.S. Jha, J.
1. This order shall govern the disposal of W.P. No. 13957/2008 and W.P. No. 3304/2009 as the relief sought by the petitioners in both these petitions are identical.
2. The petitioners, who are all resident of Village Siddhikhurd, Tehsil Singroli, District Sidhi, have challenged the notifications dated 8-8-2006 issued under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'); 10-8-2007 issued under Section 6 of the Act; and 23-6-2008 issued under Section 17(1)(3) of the Act.
3. The case of the petitioners, before this Court, is that the respondent authorities, with a view to set up the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project, have issued the aforesaid notifications wherein, apart from the land of other villages, 427.08 hectares of land of Village Siddhikhurd is sought to be acquired including about 25 acres of land belonging to the petitioners.
4. It is submitted by the learned Counsel for the petitioners that the impugned notifications are contrary to law and deserve to be quashed as the notification under Section 4 of the Act dated 8-8-2006 does not specify the locality in which the land is situated as is required by law and as has been laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Narendrajit Singh v. The State of U.P. and Ors. : 2SCR254 , The Collector (Distt. Magistrate), Allahabad and Anr. v. Raja Ram Jaiswal : 3SCR995 , Madhya Pradesh Housing Board v. Mohd. Shaft and Ors. : 1SCR657 , and Ramchandra Keshav Adke (Dead) by Lrs. v. Govind Joti Chavare and Ors. : 3SCR839 . It is further submitted that in view of the vagueness of the notifications issued under Section 4 of the Act, none of the petitioners had any knowledge about the acquisition proceedings or the proceedings taken up under Section 5-A of the Act, as a result of which the acquisition proceedings proceeded without giving any opportunity of hearing to the petitioners. It is further submitted that the notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act are contrary to law inasmuch as the notifications mention that the acquisition of land is sought for the public purpose of setting up the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project whereas the acquisition was in fact sought to be made for and on behalf of respondent No. 6 Company and, therefore, it was mandatory upon the respondents to mention in the notifications that the acquisition was for a company and for this proposition the learned Counsel for the petitioner has relied upon the judgments of the Supreme Court in the case of Shyam Behari and Ors. v. The State of Madhya Pradesh and Ors. : 6SCR636 , Chaitram Verma and Ors. v. Land Acquisition Officer, Raipur and Ors. : AIR1994MP74 , and Devinder Singh and Ors. v. State of Punjab and Ors. 2007 AIR SCW 6692. The petitioners have also assailed the acquisition proceedings on the ground that the respondent authorities, by ignoring the National Policy and the State Policy for giving an appropriate rehabilitation package to oustees of the said project, have only agreed to make available the benefits under the 1992 rehabilitation package whereas the respondent Company is bound to give benefit as per the 2007 rehabilitation package and in such circumstances it is submitted that in the alternative if this Court be inclined to uphold the impugned notifications, the respondent Company be directed to give benefit to the persons whose land is acquired as per the 2007 rehabilitation package or a better package and not in accordance with the 1992 rehabilitation package/policy.
5. It is also submitted by the learned Counsel for the petitioners that the notification under Section 17(1)(3) of the Act deserves to be quashed as proceedings under Section 5-A of the Act had already been taken up by the respondents and subsequent thereto Section 9 proceedings were also taken up and completed and, therefore, the notification under Section 17 of the Act deserves to be quashed. It is also contended by the learned Counsel for the petitioners that the respondents have failed to comply and follow the procedure prescribed by Rules 3, 4 and 6 of the Land Acquisition Company Rules, 1963 which are mandatory in nature and, therefore, the entire acquisition proceedings deserve to be quashed as has been held by the Supreme Court in the case of Devinder Singh and Ors. (supra). It is also contended by the learned Counsel for the petitioners that as the land sought to be acquired by the impugned notifications was for the company, the respondent authorities were bound to comply with Part VII of the Act but the respondent authorities have failed to do so and, therefore, the impugned acquisition proceedings taken up pursuant to the notification deserves to be quashed.
6. The respondent State has filed a return and submitted that the contention of the petitioners in respect of the impugned notifications are misconceived inasmuch as the notification under Section 4 of the Act, did give adequate indication as to the locality of the land sought to be acquired; that due opportunity of hearing and raising objections as required by Section 5-A of the Act were given to the concerned and affected persons including the petitioners; that the notification under Section 6 of the Act does not suffer from any infirmity or illegality; that the challenge to the notification under Section 17 of the Act is misconceived as the State has not given effect to or implemented the said notification; that the petitioners deserve to be dismissed as final award in the acquisition proceedings have already been passed by the Acquisition Officer on 19-12-2008; and that the oustees shall be given benefit as per the prevailing rehabilitation package.
7. The learned Senior Counsel for respondent Nos. 4 and 5 while reiterating the stand of the respondent State has further submitted that respondent No. 6 Sasan Power Limited is in fact a Government owned subsidiary company of the Power Financial Corporation Limited which is a Government of India undertaking under Section 3(cc) of the Act and, therefore, the contention of the petitioners regarding strict compliance of Part VII of the Act are misplaced and misconceived.
8. The respondents have, apart from the above, raised preliminary objections as to the maintainability of the petitions on the ground of delay and laches and stated that the petitioners, who had full knowledge about the notification issued under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act and the proceedings taken up by the respondents chose to file these petitions after the hearing in the present case was concluded and the case was closed for passing of the award and, therefore, the petitions are delayed and deserve to be dismissed. The respondents have relied upon the judgments of the Supreme Court rendered in the case of Pt. Girdharan Prasad Missir and Anr. v. State of Bihar and Anr. (1980) 2 SCC 83, Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay v. Industrial Development Investment Co. Pvt. Ltd. and Ors. : AIR1997SC482 , C. Padma and Ors. v. Dy. Secretary to the Govt. of T.N. and Ors. : (1997)2SCC627 , Tej Kaur and Ors. v. State of Punjab and Ors. : 2SCR707 , Swaika Properties (P) Ltd. and Anr. v. State of Rajasthan and Ors. : AIR2008SC1494 , State of Mysore and Ors. v. V.K. Kangan and Ors. : 1SCR369 , Municipal Council, Ahmednagar and Anr. v. Shah Hyder Beig and Ors. : AIR2000SC671 , Rambharose and Ors. v. State of M.P. and Ors. 2002 (3) MPLJ 378, The Ramjas Foundation and Ors. v. Union of India and Ors. : AIR1993SC852 , Aflatoon and Ors. v. Lt. Governor of Delhi and Ors. : 1SCR802 , Delhi Administration v. Gurdip Singh Uban and Ors. : AIR1999SC3822 , State of T.N. and Ors. v. L. Krishnan and Ors. : (1996)1SCC250 , U.P. Jal Nigam and Anr. v. Jaswant Singh and Anr. : (2007)IILLJ17SC , Virender Chaudhary v. Bharat Petroleum Corporation and Ors. : (2009)1SCC297 , Babu Barkya Thakur v. State of Bombay : 1SCR128 , and Praubha Nema and Ors. v. State of M.P. and Ors. : AIR2003SC3140 , in support of the aforesaid submissions. The learned Senior Counsel for respondent Nos. 4 and 5 has also specifically stated that they have come up with a rehabilitation settlement package which has been elaborated by them in Paras 25 to 28 of the return that is much more beneficial than the rehabilitation package of 2007 and they are going to implement the same in letter and spirit. In the alternative it is also stated that they undertake to extend the benefit of the 2007 rehabilitation package instead of 2002 rehabilitation package, if the petitioners opt for the 2007 rehabilitation package instead of the rehabilitation package prepared by the respondent Company.
9. The respondents have also relied upon the judgments in the case of Executive Engineer, M.P. Housing Board and Ors. v. Shri Kant Mishra and Ors. : 2009(1)MPHT162 and Gomti Bai Tamrakar and Ors. v. State of M.P. and Ors. 2008 (4) MPLJ 536 to contend that notification under Section 4 of the Act is valid and has placed reliance on the judgments in the case of Christian Fellowship (Hospital), Rajnandgaon, Durg v. State of M.P. and Ors. 1973 JLJ 163, Hajari v. The State of M.P. Bhopal and Ors. : AIR1976MP76 , Shyam Nandan Prasad and Ors. v. State of Bihar and Ors. : (1993)4SCC255 , Madhusudan Chhotelal Patel and Anr. v. Special Land Acquisition Officer and Ors. : AIR1980SC318 , State of West Bengal and Ors. v. P.N. Talukdar and Ors. : AIR1965SC646 , Larsen and Toubro Ltd. v. State of Gujarat and Ors. : 2SCR339 , and Rajendra Singh v. State of M.P. and Ors. : AIR1996SC2736 , to contend that the procedure of the Company Rules as followed by the respondents is in accordance with law. The respondents have also relied upon the judgments of the Supreme Court in the case of State of Maharashtra v. Digambar : AIR1995SC1991 and Prestige Lights Ltd. v. State Bank of India : (2007)8SCC449 , to contend that the petitioners have suppressed material facts regarding their participation in the Section 5-A inquiry proceedings pursuant to the notification issued under Section 4 of the Act and that they have deliberately stated that there is no delay in filing the petitions and have also wrongly stated that they came to know about the acquisition proceedings only when the Section 6 notification was issued though they have participated in the Section 5-A proceedings and in such circumstances the petitions deserve to be dismissed.
10. I have heard the learned Counsel appearing for the parties at length and have also perused the record produced by the respondent State. From a perusal of the documents and the averments in the petitions as well as the record it is clear that the Government of India, Ministry of Power took a decision to increase the existing power generating capacity in the country by one lakh M.W. and for this purpose in the first phase took up establishment of 5 Ultra Mega Power Projects in the country having a generating capacity of 4000 MW each and one of the Ultra Mega Power Project was sought to be set up at Sasan, District Sidhi in Madhya Pradesh. Apparently the initial survey, site identification and selection was done by the Government of India. On 16-1 -2006 the Government of India, Ministry of Power informed the Power Finance Corporation that the President of India has conveyed his approval for formation of Five SPV (Shell Company) for the purposes of undertaking and setting up of the Ultra Mega Power Project and also stated that the Companies would be incorporated as 100% subsidiary of Power Finance Corporation and would be a Limited Company under the Companies Act, 1956 with a total share capital of Rs. 5 lac each. One of the company so set up was the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project Limited which has been impleaded as respondent No. 6.
11. On 3-2-2006 the Secretary, Ministry of Power, Government of India, requested the State Government to accelerate the process of acquisition of land and also requested for initiating land acquisition proceedings by issuance of notification under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act, for which part payment would be made by respondent No. 6. The respondent No. 6 and its offices filed applications seeking acquisition of 3500 hectares of land for setting up the Ultra Mega Power Project at Siddhikhurd on 8-3-2006, 27-3-2006, 3-4-2006 and 12-4-2006 as is evident from the letter dated 21-4-2006 issued by the Director, Power Finance Corporation which is available in the record produced by the respondent State. Pursuant thereto, Collector Sidhi took up steps to identify the lands that had been initially selected by the Government of India and also made certain queries from Power Finance Corporation regarding the status of the Company and other related issues. In response the Power Finance Corporation Ltd., by its letter dated 28-3-2006, informed the Collector that Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project Limited, respondent No. 6, is a wholly owned subsidiary company of the Power Finance Corporation, a Government of India Undertaking and it had equity holding only of the Government of India and also informed the Collector that Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project Limited was in fact set up to initiate the acquisition proceedings and at present is working on behalf of the developers which would later on be selected through tariff bidding process who would employ 2000- 3000 persons when the project would become operational. In furtherance of the aforesaid the Government of M.P. sought a report from the Collector Sidhi in respect of the applications filed by respondent No. 6 Company.
12. A proposal pursuant to the aforesaid applications was forwarded by the Collector, District Sidhi on 15-4-2006 stating therein that proceedings and inquiry pursuant to Sections 38-A to 44 of the Land Acquisition Company Rules, 1963, were being undertaken. In Para 16 of this report, a copy of which has been filed by the State as Annexure R-5, it was stated that the total land proposed to be acquired for this project was 1389.70 hectares out of which 917.03 hectares was private land while 427.67 hectares was Government land. It was also stated that 586.51 hectares of land of Village Siddhikhurd with which the present petitions are concerned was proposed to be acquired which included 396.58 hectares of private land. The report submitted by the Collector also indicates that the total estimated cost of the land would be Rs. 91,21,98,768.00 out of which Rs. 58,16,58,294.00 would be the estimated compensation required to be paid for private land and Rs. 33,05,40,474.00 the amount of compensation required to be paid in respect of Government land. The report also stated that looking to the large number of private land owners involved it would not be possible to undertake individual negotiation and in this respect the committee constituted under Rule 3 was requested to take an appropriate decision. The terms and conditions under which the land would be given to the Company was also proposed by the Collector in his report dated 15-4-2006.
13. The report submitted by the Collector on 15-4-2006 was approved by the Committee constituted under Rule 3 of the Land Acquisition Company Rules, 1963 on 26-4-2006. Thereafter a notification under Section 4 of the Act was published on 8-8-2006 proposing to acquire 427.08 hectares of land of Village Siddhikhurd, 43.56 hectares of land of Village Jhanjitola, 294.09 hectare of land of Village Harhava, 76.27 hectare of land of Village Tivera, 119.42 hectare of land of Village Siddhikala in Tehsil Singrouli District Sidhi for the purposes of electricity generation and township development. The empowered officer was specified as the Chief Executive Officer Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project for public hearing of the objections under Section 5-A of the Act.
14. From a perusal of the record, it is apparent that petitioner Nos. 4 and 5 Krishnaram and Man Prasad participated in the Section 5-A proceedings by filing objections and that combined objections raised by the villagers of the concerned village were heard by the concerned authority. It is also apparent that the villagers raised objections regarding the rehabilitation package to be given to them by the Company. After hearing all the objections which took place on 23-9-2006 a notification under Section 6 of the Act was published on 6-8-2007 giving details of 382.16 hectares of land of Village Siddhikhurd which was sought to be acquired for the public purpose of electricity generation and township construction. From the record it is also apparent that prior to Section 6 notification, after obtaining consent of the State Government, an agreement was entered into with respondent No. 6 on 12-7-2007 and was published in the Gazette on 20-7-2007, copy of which has been filed by the petitioners as Annexure P-3. Notices to all the petitioners under Section 9 of the Act were issued on 11-7-2008 for hearing of their objections on 7-8-2008. Order sheets that establish the presence of the petitioners during these proceedings have been filed by the respondent State as Annexure R-14. The proceedings were closed after hearing the petitioners for passing of the award on 7-8-2008. Draft award was published on 15-12-2008 and the final award was passed on 19-12-2008.
15. It is also apparent from the record that the aforesaid Ultra Mega Power Project is sought to be set up on 3289 acres of land in the aforementioned five villages and that an assured supply of 1500 MW out of the total production would be made to the State of M.P. It has also been brought on record that all the acquisition proceedings including the passing of the award are completed and only the 11 petitioners who own about 25 acres of land have filed the present petitions assailing the notifications while acquisition proceedings in respect of the remaining land have gone through and have not been assailed.
16. The respondent/State has also filed a data to indicate that pursuant to the award passed by the Land Acquisition Officer, a total amount of Rs. 28,83,12,944.00 have already been disbursed byway of compensation out of a total sum of Rs. 40,16,99,244.00 and about 1129 cheques out of a total 1512 cheques have been handed over to the claimants. It is also pointed out that the total award of compensation in respect of Village Siddhikhurd is of Rs. 29,97,32,041.00 out of which Rs. 23,03,43,249.00 have already been disbursed and paid to the claimants. It is informed by the learned Counsel for the petitioners that though the cheques towards payment of compensation in accordance with the award passed by the Acquisition Officer have also been prepared and were handed over to the petitioners, they have not accepted the same and it is further stated that the petitioners have also not challenged the award dated 19-12-2008 passed by the Land Acquisition Officer in accordance with law.
17. From the aforesaid undisputed facts and circumstances, it is clear that the land acquisition proceedings have been taken up pursuant to and because of the decision of the Government of India to increase the electricity generation in the country by one lakh M.W.'s and in furtherance there of the Ultra Mega Power Project is being set up at Sasan through the respondent No. 6 Company which is a fully owned subsidiary of the Power Finance Corporation, a Government of India Undertaking and is having 100% equity holding by the Government of India; that the initial site selection and procedure, etc. were chalked out of several meetings held between the Secretary, Ministry of Power, Government of India, the Chief Secretary, Principal Secretaries and other Officers of the State of M.P., that the petitioners were aware of the land acquisition proceedings which were initiated by issuance of notification under Section 4 of the Act on 8-8-2006; that they were aware of the hearing on objections conducted by the authorities under Section 5-A of the Act and some of them also filed objections and participated in the proceedings; that they were also aware of the fact that the acquisition was for a Company as is evident from the proceedings of the public hearing which are available in the record produced by the respondent/State and the fact that they had full knowledge about the agreement executed by the company which was published on 20-7-2007 a copy of which has been filed by the petitioners themselves; that the petitioners were also aware of the Section 6 notification dated 6-8-2007 as they had themselves participated in the inquiry held under Section 5-A on the objections; that the respondent No. 6, which was a 100% subsidiary of the Power Finance Corporation, a Government of India Undertaking and for whom the acquisition proceedings, on the insistence of the Ministry of Power, Government of India, were taken up was taken over by a Private Company by a process of bidding, after the issuance of the notification under Section 6 of the Act and, therefore, the non-mentioning of the name of the selected developer in the Section 6 notification was not possible at that time; that the petitioners were duly noticed when proceedings under Section 9 of the Act were taken up by the authorities and participated in the same by appearing before the Land Acquisition Officer when the case was closed after hearing them for passing of the award, in spite of which they filed the petitions before this Court only on 17-11-2008 after a lapse of about two years from the date of the Section 4 notification and 15 months after the date of issuance of the Section 6 notification. It is also clear that the petitioners participated in the proceedings before the Land Acquisition Officer and filed the petitions only after the case was closed for passing of the final award in their presence on 16-11-2008, just a month before the passing of the final award. It is also apparent that after passing of the award possession of bulk of the land, after paying compensation to the villagers of Village Siddhikhurd, has been taken over and that the petitioners have refused to accept the compensation and are continuing in possession of 25 acres of land out of a total of 3289 acres of land only in view of the interim orders passed by this Court.
18. In the light of the aforesaid facts, it is necessary to decide the objection regarding delay and laches and on that ground, the maintainability of the petitions, as a preliminary issue.
19. In the case at Delhi Administration (supra), the Supreme Court while dismissing the petition on the ground of delay and laches has held that owners or persons interested who have not filed objections under Section 5-A of the Act cannot be allowed to contend that the Section 4 notification is bad; that the Section 5-A inquiry was bad or; that the consequent Section 6 declaration must be struck down in the following terms in Para 7:
7. In connection with owners or persons interested who have not filed objections under Section 5-A, in principle, it must be accepted that they had no objection to Section 4 notification operating in respect of their property. On the other hand, in respect of those who filed objections they might have locus standi to contend that Section 5-A inquiry was not conducted properly, we, therefore, agree in principle with the view of the three Judge Bench in Abhey Ram's case : 3SCR931 that those who have not filed objections under Section 5-A, could not be allowed to contend that the Section 5-A inquiry was bad and that consequently Section 6 declaration must be struck down and that then the Section 4 notification would lapse. If, therefore, no objections were filed by the respondents, logically the Section 6 declaration must be deemed to be in force so far as they are concerned.
20. Similar view has been taken by the Supreme Court in the case of State of T.N. (supra), in Para 40 wherein delayed challenged to notification under Section 4 has also been repelled in the following terms:
40. There is yet another and a very strong factor militating against the writ petitions. Not only did they fail to file objections in the enquiries held under Section 5-A, they also failed to act soon after the declarations under Section 6 were made. As stated above, the declarations under Section 6 were made in the year 1978 and the present writ petitions were filed only sometime in the year 1982-83 when the awards were about to be passed. It has been pointed out in Aflatoon (supra), that laches of this nature are fatal. Having held that the public purpose specified in the notification concerned therein is not vague, Mathew, J. made the following observations:
Assuming for the moment that the public purpose was not sufficiently specified in the notification, did the appellants make a grievance of it at the appropriate time? If the appellants had really been prejudiced by the non specification of the public purpose for which the plots in which they were interested were needed, they should have taken steps to have the notification quashed on that ground within a reasonable time. They did not move in the matter even after the declaration under Section 6 was published in 1966. They approached the High Court with their writ petitions only in 1970 when the notices under Section 9 were issued to them.
*** *** ***Nor do we think that the petitioners in the writ petitions should be allowed to raise this plea in view of their conduct in not challenging the validity of the notification even after the publication of the declaration under Section 6 in 1966. Of the two writ petitions, one is filed by one of the appellants. There was apparently no reason why the writ petitioners should have waited till 1972 to come to this Court for challenging the validity of the notification issued in 1959 on the ground that the particulars of the public purpose were not specified. A valid notification under Section 4 is a sine qua non for initiation of proceedings for acquisition of property. To have sat on the fence and allowed the Government to complete the acquisition proceedings on the basis that the notification under Section 4 and the declaration under Section 6 were valid and then to attack the notification on grounds which were available to them at the time when the notification was published would be putting a premium on dilatory tactics. The writ petitions are liable to be dismissed on the ground of laches and delay on the part of the petitioners See : Trilokchand Motichand v. H.B. Munshi (1969) J SCC 110; and Rabindrnnath Bose v. Union of India : 2SCR697 .
From the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the Government, it is clear that the Government have allotted a large portion of the land after the acquisition proceedings were finalized to co-operative housing societies. To quash the notification at this stage would disturb the rights of third parties who arc not before the Court.
21. In the case of State of Mysore (supra), in Para 16, it has been held that delayed challenge to a notification under Section 4 after participating in Section 5-A proceedings were not permissible after unreasonable lapse of time, in the following terms:
16. The notification under Section 4 was published on 13-4-1967. Objections were filed by the respondent under Section 5-A of the Act. The Deputy Commissioner submitted his report to the Government. The Government overruled the objections. The notification under Section 6 was published in the gazette on 19-10-1968. The writ petition challenging the validity of the notifications was filed some time in July or August, 1969. We do not think that the respondent was entitled to challenge the validity of the notification under Section 4 of the Act as the writ petition challenging the notification was filed after an unreasonable lapse of time. If public notice as required by Section 4 of the Act was not given and that would perse vitiate the notification under Section 4, the appellant should have challenged its validity within a reasonable time of the publication of the notification. The respondent knew of the notification and filed objection under Section 5-A of the Act. In these circumstances, we see no reason to accept the submission of Counsel. We also see no substance in the argument of the Counsel that the report drawn up under Section 5-A(2) was not sent to the Government within the time prescribed and therefore the proceedings were invalid. We have directed a fresh inquiry by the Deputy Commissioner (Collector) under Section 5-A and, therefore, the Deputy Commissioner will in any event have to send a fresh report to the Government.
22. The same view has been taken by the Supreme Court in the case of Municipal Council, Ahmednagar (supra), and in the case of The Ramjas Foundation (supra), in Para 14 in the following terms:
14. It is an admitted fact that notification under Section 4 of the Act was issued as early as 1959 and all the notifications under Section 6 of the Act in relation to the land of the appellants in Sadhurakhurd were issued in 1968 and 1969. The challenge to the acquisition proceedings was mainly based on the ground that in the notification dated 13-11-1959 issued under Section 4 of the Act the lands of wakf property were excluded and the lands of the appellants being also used for educational and charitable purposes the same were also liable to be excluded. At a later stage a ground was also taken that if wakf property in the aforesaid notification under Section 4 of the Act meant only wakf properties of the Mohammedans, then such notification was discriminatory and/violative under Article 14 of the Constitution as there was no reasonable ground to discriminate such properties of Hindus or non-Muslims also meant for charitable purposes. So far as the notifications under Section 6 of the Act are concerned the same were attacked on the ground that no opportunity of personal hearing was given to hear the objections filed under Section 5-A of the Act. Thus, it is abundantly clear that the challenge was in respect of notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act alone and though in the prayer Clause relief has been sought to quash the notification under Sections 9 and 10 of the Act also which were issued in 1972 but no ground whatsoever has been pleaded in the writ petition nor raised before us as to how the notification under Sections 9 and 10 had any concern for explaining the delay in respect of the challenge to notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act. It is worthwhile to note that according to the appellants own showing the notices under Sections 9 and 10 issued to the appellants in 1972 were in respect of the land being Khasra No. 1040/353, which related to 12 bighas and 8 biswas only. The challenge on the other hand in the writ petition is in respect of notifications under Sections 4 and 6 covering the entire land measuring about 730 bighas situate in Village Sadhurakhurd. We find no justification at all in explaining the delay on the ground that no award has been passed nor the appellants have been dispossessed so far. This cannot be an explanation for not challenging the notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act and in the present case the appellants had themselves sought stay from this Court as early as 15-11-1978 for not making and declaring the award and not to dispossesses the appellants. Thus, we find no justification at all for the delay in not challenging the notification issued under Section 4 on 13-11-1959 till 1973. Even notifications under Section 6 of the Act were issued in 1968 and 1969 but not challenged till 1973. As already mentioned above in Aflatoon's case : 1SCR802 (supra), a Constitution Bench of this Court has clearly held that even after the declaration under Section 6 of the Act published in 1966, the appellants had approached with their writ petitions in 1970, when the notices under Section 9 were issued to them the writ petitions were liable to be dismissed on the grounds of laches and delay. Mr. Tarkunde, learned Senior Counsel made strenuous effort to distinguish the aforesaid case on the ground that in the aforesaid case the Court was influenced with the facts that the petitioners had sat on the fence and allowed the Government to complete (emphasis added) the acquisition proceedings. Much emphasis has been laid on the word 'to complete' the acquisition proceedings. We find no force in this submission as the facts narrated in the above case clearly show that the petitioners in those cases had filed writ petitions in the High Court in 1970 and in the Supreme Court in 1972 after the issuance of notices under Sections 4, 6 and 9 of the Act. The use of the word 'complete' was not of much significance and the main reasoning of the case was that grounds to attack the notification under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act were available at the time of publication of such notifications. In the facts and circumstances of the case before us the appellants were also sitting on the fence and did not take any steps of challenging the notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act till 1973 though the grounds now sought to be urged were available to the appellants as soon as such notifications were issued. Thus, viewing the matter from any angle we are clearly of the view that the writ petition was also liable to be dismissed on the ground of laches and delay on the part of the appellants apart from other grounds already dealt by us. In the face of the aforesaid view taken by us, it is not necessary at all to go on other questions raised in the case. We decline to express any opinion on any questions of law raised in the appeal.
23. In the case of Aflatoon and Ors. (supra), a Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has held that a petition filed by the persons after publication of the Section 6 notification on issuance of notices under Section 9 of the Act, are liable to be dismissed, except in exceptional circumstances, on the ground of delay and laches. Similar view has also been taken by the Supreme Court in the case of Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay (supra).
24. In the case of larsen and Toubro Ltd. (supra), the Supreme Court has held in Para 21 as follows:
21. This Court has repeatedly held that writ petition challenging the notification issued under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act is liable to be dismissed on the ground of delay and laches if challenge is not made within a reasonable time. This Court has said that the petitioner cannot sit on the fence and allow the State to complete the acquisition proceedings on the basis that notification under Section 4 and the declaration under Section 6 were valid and then to attack the notifications on the grounds which were available to him at the time when these were published as otherwise it would be putting a premium on dilatory tactics. Writ Petition SCA 5149 of 1989 is thus barred by laches as well.
25. In the case of Swaika Properties (P) Ltd. (supra), taking into consideration the earlier judgments on the question of delay and laches, the Supreme Court has held as under in Paras 16 to 19:
16. This Court has repeatedly held that a writ petition challenging the notification for acquisition of land, if filed after the possession having been taken, is not maintainable. In Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay v. Industrial Development Investment Co. (P) Ltd., where K. Ramaswamy, J. speaking for a Bench consisting of His Lordship and S.B. Majmudar, J., held:
29. It is thus well settled law that when there is inordinate delay in filing the writ petition and when all steps taken in the acquisition proceedings have become final, the Court should be loath to quash the notifications. The High Court has, no doubt, discretionary powers under Article 226 of the Constitution to quash the notification under Section 4(1) and declaration under Section 6. But, it should be exercised taking all relevant factors into pragmatic consideration. When the award was passed and possession was taken, the Court should not have exercised its power to quash the award which is a material factor to be taken into consideration before exercising the power under Article 226. The fact that no third party rightly were crated in the case is hardly a ground for interference. The Division Bench of the High Court was not right in interfering with the discretion exercised by the learned Single Judge dismissing the writ petition on the ground of laches.
In the concurring judgment, S.B. Majmudar, J. held as under:
(Industrial Development Investment case, SCC pp. 522-23, Para 35)
35. ...Such a belated writ petition, therefore, was rightly rejected by the learned Single Judge on the ground of gross delay and laches. The respondent-writ petitioners can be said to have waived their objections to the acquisition on the ground of extinction of public purpose by their own inaction, lethargy and indolent conduct. The Division Bench of the High Court had taken the view that because of their inaction no vested rights of third parties are created. That finding is obviously incorrect for the simple reason that because of the indolent conduct of the writ petitioners land got acquired, award was passed, compensation was handed over to various claimants including the landlord. Reference applications came to be filed for larger compensation by claimants including writ petitioners themselves. The acquired land got vested in the State Government and the Municipal Corporation free from all encumbrances as enjoined by Section 16 of the Land Acquisition Act. Thus, right to get more compensation got vested in diverse claimants by passing of the award, as well as vested right was created in favour of the Bombay Municipal Corporation by virtue of the vesting of the land in the State Government for being handed over to the Corporation. All these events could not be wished away by observing that no third-party rights were created by them. The writ petition came to be filed after all these events taken place. Such a writ petition was clearly stillborn due to gross delay and laches.
17. Similarly, in State of Rajasthan v. D.R. Laxmi : (1996)6SCC445 , following the decision of this Court in Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay, it was held: (D.R. Laxmi case, SCC p. 452, para 9)
9. ...When the award was passed and possession was taken, the Court should not have exercised its power to quash the award which is a material factor to be taken into consideration before exercising the power under Article 226. The fact that no third party rights were created in the case, is hardly a ground for interference. The Division Bench of the High Court was not right in interfering with the discretion exercised by the learned Single Judge dismissing the writ petition on the ground of laches.
18. To the similar effect is the judgment of this Court in Municipal Council, Ahmednagar v. Shah Hyder Beig : AIR2000SC671 , wherein this Court, following the decision of this Court in C. Padma v. Dy. Secy, to the Govt. of T.N. : (1997)2SCC627 held: (Shah Hyder case, SCC p. 55, Para 17)
17. In any event, after the award is passed no writ petition can be filed challenging the acquisition notice or against any proceeding thereunder. This has been the consistent view taken by this Court and fn one of the recent cases. (C. Padma v. Dy. Secy, to the Govt. of T.N.)....
19. In the present case also, the writ petition having been filed after taking over the possession and the award having become final, the same deserves to be dismissed on the ground of delay and laches. Accordingly, the orders of the learned Single Judge and that of the Division Bench are affirmed to the extent of dismissal of the writ petition and the special appeal without going into the merits thereof. This appeal also deserves to be dismissed without going into the merits of the case and is dismissed as such. No costs.
26. In the instant case as stated above, the petitioners were aware of the notification under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act and that is how some of them have filed objections under Section 5-A of the Act before the Competent Authority and the villagers also participated in the public hearing on the objections. It is also clear from the record that they were aware of the fact that the acquisition was for a Company and the fact that the company had executed an agreement as required by law on 12-7-2007 which was published on 20-7-2007, therefore, during the hearing under Section 5-A of the Act, they sought implementation of the 2007 rehabilitation package and also insisted on giving employment to one member of the family whose land was acquired. In fact, none of the objections raised by them in the petitions were raised before the authorities at any point of time. As the petitioners' had participated in the Section 5-A proceedings, they were also aware of issuance of notices under Section 6 of the Act. In addition, the respondent authorities issued individual notices to all the petitioners and Ors. when proceedings under Section 9 of the Act were taken up and the petitioners pursuant to the aforesaid notices, participated in the proceedings under Section 9 of the Act and were present before the Land Acquisition Officer when the matter was closed for passing of the award 'on 7-8-2008, but they did not raise any objections and chose to wait till all these proceedings were over before approaching this Court by assailing the notification under Sections 4 and 6 dated 8-8-2006 and 6-8-2007 respectively by filing the present petitions on 17-11-2008 and 20-3-2009. It is also apparent from a perusal of the record that the final award granting compensation has been passed by the authorities on 19-12-2008 and that most of the compensation in respect of the land of Village Siddhikhurd, except that of the petitioners and some others, has already been disbursed and possession of the land has been taken over. It is also apparent that out of a total of 3289 acres of land of thousands of land owners, which has been acquired, petitions have been filed only by the 11 petitioners who hold about 25 acres of land while the rest have accepted the same. It is also apparent that the petitioners though aware of passing of the final award have not challenged the same in accordance with law. In such circumstances, in view of the law laid down by the Supreme Court, I am of the considered opinion that the petitions filed by the petitioners suffer from delay and laches and deserves to be dismissed on this count alone.
27. In view of the aforesaid finding the petitions are dismissed on the ground of delay and laches. However, without prejudice to the aforesaid conclusion certain other issues raised by the petitioners are also being addressed for the sake of completeness. The petitioners have challenged the notification under Section 4 of the Act on the ground that a specific and particular locality as required by the provisions of law, has not been stated or specified in the notification and, therefore, the notification being ab initio void, deserves to be quashed.
28. From a perusal of the notification it is apparent that the notification mentions the names of the villages, the Tehsil and the District. In the case of Christian Fellowship (Hospital) (supra), which was a case referred to a Third Judge of this Court on a different of opinion having arisen between two Judges of the Division Bench, the majority held that mention of a village was sufficient indication of the locality and in such cases it could not be stated that the notification under Section 4 as vague in the following terms in Paras 4 to 8:
4. Nevertheless, question still remains whether it is the duty of the Government to specify the locality where the land is situate as stated in Iftikhar Ahmed's case. That it is so, is apparent from the plain meaning of the section as also the underlined portions from the decision of Their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Vishnu Prasad's case. That brings met to a consideration of the questions referred. The first and third questions are simply two different ways of expressing the same problem, viz., the meaning of the word 'locality' occurring in Section 4 (1) of the Act. In framing the questions referred, the learned Judges have assumed that a village is not a 'locality' within the meaning of the section. But I beg to differ with them. The word 'locality' has not been defined in the Act. The general rule of construction is that, where the words in a statute are plain, their literal and simple meaning is to be adopted unless the context requires otherwise. Now, the word 'locality' has an indefinite meaning, but its indefiniteness has certain well recognized limits. In human law, neither the world nor the greater portion of it is spoken of as a locality [See : Words and Phrases, West Publishing Co., Permanent Edition, Vol. 25-A pp. 176 to 179]. The legal leaning of the word as given in Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition, Vol. 1, p. 1158 is 'Limitation to a country, district or place-Blackstone'. So also, in Black's Law Dictionary, 4th Edition, p. 1088, that meaning is given as 'In a definite region, in any part of space, geographical position'. In common parlanced, the word 'locality' means 'neighbourhood, vicinity and environment'. In its ordinary dictionary meaning, the word 'locality' denotes 'place, position, district'.
5. Of its different shades of meaning, the word 'locality' in Section 4(1) of the Act must be interpreted in its narrower sense, having regard to the context in which it appears. It relates to a definite area, the whereabouts of which are capable of being ascertained and known.
6. That the mention of a village as 'locality' in a notification under Section 4(1) is a sufficient compliance of the requirements of the section, has consistently been the view of the authorities charged with the duty of administering it. The statutory form of a notification under that section, as prescribed in Form I bears this out. So also, in FGH Anderson's Manual of Land Acquisition, which is a work of some importance, the learned compiler states:
The notification under Section 4 may describe the locality in which land is likely to be needed in the most general terms, but if it is described by enumeration of villages (settlement numbers), the list of villages (Settlement No. S.) should be complete in order that difficulty may not arise.
*** *** ***Under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act the Collector has to give public notice of the substance of the notification published in the Gazette, at convenient places in the locality in which the land is situate. Attention is also invited to Para 3(ii) of the G.R. No. LAQ 2555 G, dated 10th January, 1956. Individual notices are not specifically prescribed in the Act but they are issued as a matter of practice and in order to ensure that all (concerned) individuals are informed.
While a departmental instruction cannot override the true meaning or construction underlying a statutory provision, but an executive instruction can be accepted as an admissible aid to its proper interpretation, if it has prevailed from a long time without any challenge and without being modified by Courts of law See: Baleshwar Bagarti v. Bhagirathi Dass ILR 35 Cal. 701, Kanhaiyalal v. Municipal Committee Mungeli 1960 JLJ 337, and The State of Mysore v. M.K Ballery AIR 1965 SC 863. In Bellary's case, Their Lordships of the Supreme Court used a Government circular for construing a Service Rule framed under the Constitution.
7. This construction of mine is in no way affected by Instruction No. 9 issued by the State Government, laying down the manner in which the Government has to be moved for issuing a notification under Section 4(1). It reads:
Instruction No. 9: On receipt of an application made under Paragraph 2 the Deputy Commissioner shall (if the land is to be taken up permanently) forward it, together with the sketch and estimate referred to in Paragraph 4 and with a draft notification in Form I for applications under Section 4 to the Secretary to Government (Revenue Department). In forwarding the draft notification, the Deputy Commissioner shall add to the details supplied by the application any further particulars which he may deem necessary for the better identification of the land.
In all cases, except when land is required for a Railway Company it must be stated whether budget provision exists and, if not, how the cost of acquisition can be met.
The portion underlined requiring the Deputy Commissioner to forward such further particulars as he may deem necessary for the better identification of the land, is only for the purpose of enabling the Government to be satisfied as regards the existence of a public purpose. The requirements of Instruction No. 9 do not envisage that the Government in issuing the notification under Section 4(1), ought to change the statutory form of a notification as prescribed under the Act.
8. I think, the decision in Iftikhar Ahmed's case (supra), insofar as it deals with this aspect, is still good law. In that case, Shrivastava, J., speaking for the Court, had observed:
It is true that at the stage when a notification under Section 4 of the Act is issued, the Government is not in a position to say definitely which particular piece of land is proposed to be taken. A survey to determine the land most suitable for the purpose and to fix its boundaries has to be undertaken. All the same, the locality, in which the land to be acquired is, has to be given. The 'locality' should be reasonably a small one to show the whereabouts of the land.
If the locality is a reasonably small one, like that of a village, the naming of such village as a 'locality' is a sufficient compliance of Section 4(1). But this does not necessarily imply that the naming of a city like Bhopal, would amount to a specification of a locality within the meaning of the section. It all, therefore, depends on the nature of the locality where the land is situate in each particular case. The answer to the first question, therefore, must be that village is 'locality' within the meaning of Section 4(1) of the Act, having regard to the smallness of the area involved. The naming of a village as a locality in a notification issued under that section, therefore, does not render it invalid in any manner.
The same view has been taken by a Full Bench of this Court in the case of Hajari (supra), in Paras 13 and 14 which reads as under:
13. One of the objects of the notification made under Section 4(1) is to notify the inhabitants of the locality that they are likely to be affected by the proposed acquisition so that they may file objections, if any. This being one of the objects, the word 'locality' must be construed to mean an area which is sufficiently small and compact so that naming it amounts to a notice to all inhabitants of that area. Since the locality is required to be named for identifying the area covesred by it, it should be the smallest area which has acquired a name by which it is known already at the time of notification. Ordinarily, villages in India are quite small so that naming of a village as locality would be sufficient. However, in recent times some villages have grown considerably so that the area within a big village may have been divided to create smaller units therein such as Tolas or Mohallas. In a given case, it may be possible to show that naming the village alone does not amount to naming the locality in view of the largeness of the village and in that context a smaller area such as a Tola or Mohalla within the village has to be treated as locality. That, however, would be a question of fact in each case.
14. The result is that ordinarily naming the village would amount to specifying the locality unless it is shown in a particular case that the village specified is much too large to be treated as a locality, there being smaller units within that village and having a name, which can be more appropriately called a locality. This would, therefore, be a question of fact in each case and where a village is specified in the notification under Section 4(1), it would be presumed to be a valid unless the person challenging the validity shows that in fact the village named does not amount to specifying the locality on the facts and in the circumstances of that case. We are, therefore, in agreement with the conclusion reached on this point by A.P. Sen, J., in Christian Fellowship (Hospital), Rajnandgaon v. State of M.P. 1975 MPLJ 18. We would, however, add thereto what has been said herein by us. We find that substantially the same view has also been taken in Nagar Mahapalika, Varanasi v. Durga Shankar : AIR1975All99 .
In view of the law laid down in the aforesaid judgments, it is clear that mentioning of the village in which the land is situated is sufficient indication of the locality as required by Section 4 of the Act and, therefore, the contention of the petitioners in respect of the notification under Section 4 of the Act also deserves to be rejected.
29. As far as the contention of the learned Counsel for the petitioner regarding the Section 6 notification is concerned, it is clear from a perusal of the record that the petitioners from the very beginning were well aware of the fact that the acquisition proceedings were being taken up for the purposes of setting up the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project through the respondent No. 6 Company and as required by Part VII of the Act an agreement had also been executed which was published on 20-7-2007 and that their only concern from the very beginning was implementation of the rehabilitation package and employment to one member of the family by the respondent No. 6, as is apparent from the objections raised by them during the public hearing of the objections under Section 5-A of the Act held on 23-9-2006. It is also apparent from a perusal of the record that the entire process was undertaken and initiated in view of and in furtherance of the decision of the Govt. of India to increase the power generating capacity in the country by one lakh MW and to set up an Ultra Mega Power Project at Singrouli through the respondent No. 6, the Sasan Power Ltd., as a 100% subsidiary of the Power Finance Corporation an undertaking having 100% equity holding by the Govt. of India. From the report of the Collector and the information submitted by the Power Finance Corporation on 28-3-2006 it is also clear that the respondent authorities had been informed by the Government of India that ultimately Sasan Power Limited would be taken over by the developer who would thereafter implement the entire project and, therefore, initially though the proceedings were initiated at the behest of the Government of India through the Power Finance Corporation and the respondent No. 6 Company, subsequently the respondent No. 6 was taken over by the process of bidding by a developer on 7-8-2007 after the publication of the Section 6 notification, as is evident from Annexure P-10, which has been filed by the petitioners alongwith the petition and for the aforesaid reasons the respondent authorities from the very beginning, took up proceedings in accordance with Sections 38, 40 and 41 of Part VII of the Act, entered into an agreement with respondent No. 6 Company after obtaining consent and duly published the agreement as required by the provisions of law. It is also evident that out of a total of more than 1000 persons effected by the acquisition proceedings and a total of 3289 acres of land acquired, only the 11 petitioners have filed the present petitions who are in possession of about 25 acres of land and, therefore, as far as the public at large including the petitioners is concerned, it was well aware of the fact that the proceedings for acquisition had been undertaken by the respondents for the purpose of establishing the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project on the behest of a Company and they also took up objections being fully aware of this fact and, therefore, it cannot be said that any prejudice was caused to the petitioners on account of the fact that Sections 4 and 6 notification did not specifically mention that the acquisition was being undertaken for a named Company but stated that it was for a public purpose of Electricity Generation and its residential colony.
30. In somewhat similar circumstances, the Supreme Court in the case of P.N. Talukdar (supra), after duly considering the decision of the Constitution Bench rendered in the case of Shyam Behari (supra), has held that a notification that has been duly interpreted by the pubic to understand its true import does not call for any interference by the Court. At this stage, it is also pertinent to note that in view of the provisions of Section 165(1) of the Electricity Act, 2003, setting up a Power Generating Unit amounts to an undertaking 'work' that is useful to the public under Section 40(1)(b) and 41(5) of the Act.
31. In the case of Praubha Nema (supra), it has been held that where the activities sought to be undertaken was apparently in furtherance of public purpose and where the public had the knowledge about the activity sought to be undertaken as well as the fact that the proceedings for acquisition were being taken up for the purposes of private company, vagueness in the notification could not render it void or contrary to law specifically when no prejudice was caused upon the petitioners, in the following terms in Paras 33 to 38:
33. We are of the view that none of the factors pointed out by the learned Counsel for the appellants make any dent on the orientation towards public purpose nor do they establish that the acquisition was resorted to by the Government to achieve oblique ends. The speed at which the proposal was pursued should be appreciated rather than condemning it, though the over-zealousness on the part of authorities concerned to short-circuit the procedure has turned out to be counter-productive. True, the tardy progress of acquisition would have sent wrong signals to the prospective investors, as contended by the learned Advocate General. However, due attention should have been given to the legal formalities such as holding of enquiry, specification of public purpose in clear terms and giving sufficient indication of State meeting the cost of acquisition wholly or in part. At the same time, we cannot read malafides in between the lines; in fact, no personal malice or ulterior motives have been attributed to the Chief Minister or to any other official. The material placed before us do not lead to the necessary or even reasonable conclusion that the Government machinery identified itself with the private interests of the company, forsaking public interest. Public purpose does not cease to be so merely because the acquisition facilities the setting up of industry by a private enterprise and benefits it to that extent. Nor the existence or otherwise of public purpose be judged by the lead and initiative taken by the entrepreneurs desirous of setting up the industry and the measure of co-ordination between them and various State agencies. The fact that despite the unwillingness expressed by AKI Ltd., to go ahead with the project, the Government is still interested in acquisition is yet another pointer that the acquisition was motivated by public purpose.
Whether notifications should be struck down on the ground of vagueness of public purpose.
34. The vagueness of notified public purpose is the next ground of attack against the notifications issued under Sections 4(1) and 6. According to the learned Counsel for the appellant, the expression 'establishment of diamond park' is vague and unintelligible and, therefore, deprives the landholders and the general public of the valuable right to object to the acquisition on relevant grounds. It is further contended that the elaboration of the public purpose in the notice of enquiry issued under Section 5-A by the Land Acquisition Officer does not cure the vital defect in the Notification under Section 4(1) which is an essential pre-requisite for all further action under the Act. Hence, it is contended that the Notification under Section 4 together with the subsequent proceedings become null and void. The sheet-anchor of this argument rests on the decision of this Court in Madhya Pradesh Housing Board v. Md. Shaft : 1SCR657 . There, the public purpose was described as 'residential' without even giving definite indication of the exact location of the lands sought to be acquired. What is more, in the declaration under Section 6(1), the public purpose was stated differently as 'housing scheme of Housing Board'. This Court, inter alia, held that the impugned Notification was vitiated on account of being vague. The Court observed:
Apart from the defect in the impugned notification, as noticed above, we find that even the 'public purpose' which has been mentioned in the Schedule to the notification as 'residential' is hopelessly vague and conveys no idea about the purpose of acquisition rendering the notification as invalid in law. There is no indication as to what type of residential accommodation was proposed or for whom or any other details. The State cannot acquire the land of a citizen for building some residence for another, unless the same is in 'public interest' or for the benefit of the 'public' or an identifiable section thereof. In the absence of the details about the alleged 'public purpose' for which the land was sought to be acquired, no one could comprehend as to why the land was being acquired and, therefore, was prevented from taking any further steps in the matter.
The Court relied on the observation in Munshi Singh v. Union of India : 1SCR973 , to the effect that the public purpose 'needs to be particularised' to satisfy the requirements of law. 35. We do not think that the ratio of the decision in M.P. Housing Board's case, would come to the rescue of the appellants. Though the State Government could have discreetly avoided to use sophisticated industrial jargon, we do not think that the specified public purpose is so vague and indefinite that the public will not be in a position to understand its nature and purpose. That such terminology has gained currency is evident from the fact that the same expression was used in the Industrial Policy document. It may not be out of place to mention that in the recent times, the terminology such as Industrial Park, Information Technology Park is widely in circulation. Moreover, against the column 'authorised officer finder Section 4(2)' (close to the column 'public purpose'), the designation of Manager, District Industries Centre, Indore is specified. This, is a pointer to the fact that the land was being acquired for industrial purpose. We are, therefore, of the view that in the instant case, the alleged vagueness is not of such a degree as to defy sense and understanding.
36. In Aflatoon v. Lt. Governor of Delhi : 1SCR802 , the public purpose mentioned in the Notification under Section 4 was 'planned development of Delhi'. The challenge on the ground of vagueness of the Notification was repelled on several grounds. The approach of the Court and the crucial consideration to be kept in view in dealing with this question was highlighted by Mathew, J., speaking for the Constitution Bench in the following words:.According to the Section (Section 4), therefore, it is only necessary to state in the Notification that the land is needed for a public purpose. The wording of Section 5-A would make it further clear that all that is necessary to be specified in a notification under Section 4 is that the land is needed for a public purpose. Onevreason for specification of the particular public purpose in the notification is to enable the person whose land is sought to be acquired to file objection under Section 5-A. Unless a person is told about the specific purpose of the acquisition, it may not be possible for him to file a meaningful objection against the acquisition under Section 5-A....
We think that the question whether the purpose specified in a notification under Section 4 is sufficient to enable an objection to be filed under Section 5-A would depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case.
Absence of prejudice was highlighted in Paragraph 10 thus:
That apart, the appellants did not contend before the High Court that as the particulars of the public purpose were not specified in the notification issued under Section 4, they were prejudiced in that they could not effectively exercise their right under Section 5-A.
37. On the facts of the case, it is not possible to draw the conclusion that the appellants have suffered any prejudice or handicap on account of the alleged vagueness in the description of public purpose. First of all, the appellants did not, in the pleadings before the High Court, point out as to how the alleged ambiguity of vagueness had resulted in prejudice in the sense that they could not effectively object to the acquisition. On the other hand, the appellants filed detailed objections before the Land Acquisition Officer covering each and every aspect. The objections and representations filed from time to time would unequivocally indicate that they were fully aware of the exact purpose of acquisition. Raising the bogey of vagueness in public purpose is evidently a result of afterthought. Moreover, by virtue of what is stated in the notices issued by the Land Acquisition Officer under Section 5-A of the Act, no one could possibly have any doubt about the exact purpose of acquisition. True, it is not open to the Land Acquisition Officer to alter to expand the scope of public purpose as it is within the exclusive domain of the Government. But the Land Acquisition Officer by elaborating and making explicit what is really implicit in the Notification under Section 4(1), had only dispelled the possible doubts in this regard so that no one will be handicapped in filing objections. It is in that light the step taken by the Land Acquisition Officer has to be viewed. We cannot countenance the contention that in doing so, the Land Acquisition Officer out-stepped his jurisdiction.
38. When no prejudice has been demonstrated nor could be reasonably inferred, it would be unjust and inappropriate to strike down the Notification under Section 4(1) on the basis of a nebulous plea, in exercise of writ jurisdiction under Article 226. Even assuming that there is some ambiguity in particularsing the public purpose and the possibility of doubt cannot be ruled out the Constitutional Courts in exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 or 136 should not, as a matter of course, deal a lethal blow to the entire proceedings based on the theoretical or hypothetical grievance of the petitioner. It would be sound exercise of discretion to intervene when a real and substantial grievance is made out, the non-redressal of which would cause prejudice and injustice to the aggrieved party. Vagueness of the public purpose, especially, in a matter like this where it is possible to take two views, is not something which affects the jurisdiction and it would, therefore, be proper to bear in mind the considerations of prejudice and injustice.
32. In the instant case also the Section 4 notification clearly mentioned the Chief Executive Officer, Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project as the authority before whom objections were to be filed giving sufficient indication that the acquisition was for a Company. That apart, the petitioners were also well aware of the exact purpose of acquisition as well as of the fact that the acquisition was for a Company, namely, respondent No. 6 and, therefore, no prejudice was caused or has been demonstrated to have been caused to the petitioners. It is also established by the respondents that the requirements of Part VII of the Act and the procedure prescribed therein has been meticulously followed. In view of the aforesaid facts and the law laid down by the Supreme Court in the aforesaid judgments, the challenge to the Section 6 notifications also fails and is hereby rejected. From a perusal of the aforesaid it is also clear that the judgments relied upon by the petitioners do not render any assistance to them in view of the facts of the present case. It is pertinent to note that in view of the undertaking given by the respondents regarding payment of compensation at market rate and rehabilitation, which shall be subsequently dealt with in detail, the objections regarding non-compliance of the Rules of 1963 are also rejected as misconceived.
33. As far as challenge to Section 17 notification is concerned, in view of the categorical statement made by the learned Dy. Advocate General appearing for the State that the respondent authorities did not implement or enforce the said notification, the issue has become academic and has not been pressed by the learned Counsel for the petitioners.
34. It is contended by the learned Counsel for the petitioner that the respondent authorities and company is required to implement the 2007 rehabilitation package which provides for giving job to one individual from each family whose land is acquired apart from giving other benefits, but the respondent Company has only agreed to implement the 2002 rehabilitation package which is less beneficial to the petitioners and other persons whose land is acquired for the purpose of establishing the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project.
35. In response it is submitted by the learned Senior Counsel for the respondent N6s. 4, 5, and 6 that they undertake to implement the 2007 rehabilitation package if the petitioners insist or they would implemented the more beneficial package formulated by them which has been elucidated by them in Paras 25 to 28 of the return in the following terms:
25. That it is submitted that while finalizing the rehabilitation and resettlement package the Sasan Power Limited has held several consultations and meeting with district authorities, local villagers and expert organizers like Tata Energy and Research Institute whose Chairman Dr. Pachauri was awarded the Nobel Prize. Subsequently, Sasan Power Limited and Collector Singrauli have come up with a novel rehabilitation and resettlement package for displaced families. The package addresses both the immediate issues likely to be faced by displaced families and their long term sustenance and income security and provides several additional benefits over the Madhya Pradesh Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2002 and National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007.
26. Sasan Power Limited is developing an Rehabilitation and Resettlement village complete with all basic facilities like school, health care centre, market place, religious places, roads, drinking water, sanitation and electrification, etc. Residential plots of 5400 sq. feet size within the Rehabilitation and Resettlement village will be provided to displaced families free of cost. To minimize inconvenience, houses will be constructed with all basic amenities such as toiled, kitchen, verandah, smokeless chulha, etc.
The principal features of SPL's R & R package are as follows:
(i) All major sons/unmarried daughters/brothers considered as separate family units for compensation purposes (in NRRP 2007, all person residing in same house considered as one family).
(ii) Land compensation is given as per current market rate instead of rate as on Section 4 notification dated (in NRRP 2007, land compensation at rate as on Section 4 notification date).
(iii) A large 5400 sq. ft; plot and a fully constructed house for each family (in NRRP 2007, smaller 2691 sq.ft. plot & house for only BPL families) or money in lieu of the same at the option of the affected family.
(iv) Free medical checkup facilities in the R & R colony health center (No such provision in NRRP 2007).
(v) Free education in R & R colony school (No such provision in NRRP 2007).
(vi) Education stipend to school going children (No such provision in NRRP 2007).
(vii) Scholarships to meritorious students for higher education (No such provision in NRRP 2007).
(viii) Pension of Rs. 1,000 per month to each old people (60 years and older)(in NRRP 2007, pension of Rs. 500 per month).
(ix) Reservation of shops in township for affected families.
(x) Rehabilitation, Transportation & Sustenance allowance as per MP R & R Policy as per current rates.
(xi) Priority in jabs and training far skills up-gradation.
27. That, total expenditure Sasan Power Limited Rehabilitation and Resettlement Package is estimated to be about Rs. 131 crores compared to Rs. 46 crores under NRRP 2007. SPL's R & R package offers almost three times the compensation offered under NRRP 2007.
28. That it is submitted that the benefits which are being offered by the answering respondents under the rehabilitation and resettlement package are more advantageous than that of the Madhya Pradesh Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2002 and National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2007. For the facility of reference the benefits which are sought to be conferred by the answering respondents and by the Madhya Pradesh Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy, 2002 and the National Rehabilitation and (Resettlement Policy, 2007 are reproduced in the form of a chart:
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Particulars SPL Offer National Policy(Rs.Cr.) 2007 (Rs. Cr.)-------------------------------------------------------------------------Extra compensation for 10.83 -Land-------------------------------------------------------------------------R&R; colony construction 14.49 14.49*Cost-------------------------------------------------------------------------Transport Assistance 0.31 2.58-------------------------------------------------------------------------R&R; Allowance 87.42 23.99-------------------------------------------------------------------------Education stipend 7.23 --------------------------------------------------------------------------Pension 11.12 5.33-------------------------------------------------------------------------Total compensation 131.39 (say 131) 46.39 (say 46)-------------------------------------------------------------------------(*) for comparison, assumed to be same as SPL offer, though under NRRP 2007, houses to be provided only to BPL families.
36. In view of the undertaking given by the learned Senior Counsel appearing for respondent Nos. 4 to 6 and the facts on record, I am of the considered opinion that those parts of the 2007 rehabilitation package and those parts of the rehabilitation package prepared by the respondent Company that are most beneficial to the persons whose land is acquired must be implemented and complied with by respondent Nos. 4 to 6 Company and the State. It is submitted by the learned Senior Counsel appearing for respondent Nos. 4 to 6 on instructions that the respondent Company shall provide employment to one member of the family on the basis of their skill and eligibility and in case no member of the family possesses the skill or knowledge required for the job, the Company would make available the required training which is necessary for the job concerned and shall thereafter employ the persons in the Company. It is also apparent from the package proposed by respondent Nos. 4 to 6 that the Company has provided a more advantageous benefit by giving a 5400 sq. ft. plot with a constructed house thereon to each oustees and has also undertaken to pay compensation to an oustee on the basis of the current market rate and not on the basis of the price of the land as on the date of publication of the Section 4 notification. There are other Clauses also of the rehabilitation package proposed by the Company which are more advantageous than the corresponding Clauses in the 2007 rehabilitation package. At the same time there are certain other Clauses of the 2007 rehabilitation package which are more advantageous.
37. In the circumstances, we directed that the Collector, Singrouli shall examine the 2007 Rehabilitation Package and the Rehabilitation Package prepared by the respondent Nos. 4 to 6 and shall thereafter carve, Out the best possible rehabilitation package therefrom by selecting the Clauses that are more beneficial to the persons whose land is acquired and supervise and ensure its implementation. It is also made clear that the Collector shall calculate and ensure that apart from the award passed in the acquisition proceedings and in accordance with the undertaking given by the respondent Nos. 4 and 6, the persons concerned shall be paid compensation at the current market rate over and above and apart from the compensation awarded in the acquisition proceedings. The amount so calculated shall be paid and disbursed to the concerned persons within three months from today. It is also made clear that if by way of any judgment of this Court or decision of the State a more beneficial policy is directed to be implemented, the same shall be adopted and implemented by the respondents over and above and apart from the aforesaid observation made by this Court. It is also directed that the respondent Company shall comply with all the requirements in respect of pollution control and environmental protection including water conservation and compensatory forestation etc. prior to undertaking implementation of the project. The aforesaid steps as directed should be undertaken expeditiously by the authorities of the State as well as the Company before starting the project.
38. In the result, while the petitions as far as it relates to the challenge to the land acquisition proceedings are dismissed on the ground of delay and laches, it is disposed of with the observation as aforesaid in respect of the rehabilitation of the persons whose land has been acquired on account of the implementation of the Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project and the directions relating to the environment aspects. In the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case there shall be no order as to the costs.
A copy of this order be retained in the connected petition W.P. No. 3304/2009.