1. This appeal arises out of a reference made under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act') which was registered as Misc. Case No, 16 of 1968 in the court of the Sub-Judge. Cuttack and is directed against the reversing decision of the learned single Judge passed in First Appeal No. 160 of 1968 (Pat) reducing the amount of compensation determined by the Sub-Judge.
2. By notification under Section 4(1) of the Act dated 22-5-1968. 16.355 acres of lands in one block were acquired for the public purpose of construction of police building in mouza Tulasipur. Out of this 16 acres and odd 2.185 acres appertaining to Plot No. 122 (0.286) of khata No. 280 and Plot No. 224 (0.156), Plot No. 228 (1.563) and Plot No. 228/1399 (0.180) of 'khata No. 224 belonged to the appellant. The last Plot No, 228/1399 is a fractional plot having a total area of 0.190 acre. Declaration under Section 9(3) of the Act was served on the appellant who filed his claim on 12-9-1965. The Collector passed his award under Section 11 of the Act on 1-3-1967 and took possession on 15-9-1967.
3. The Collector awarded compensation for the land at the rate of Rupees 7,500/- per acre. Rs. 97.50 towards value of the tree standing on the acquired land as against higher claims, and solatium at the rate of 15 per cent, of the total amount of compensation determined for land and tree as aforesaid. Thus, in aggregate, the sum awarded was Rupees 18,957.75 paise.
4. The appellant did not accept this award and required the Collector to refer the matter to the Sub-Judge, Cut-tack under Section 18 of the Act for determination of the amount of compensation. Reference was accordingly made. The appellant adduced both oral and documentary evidence while the respondent led no evidence. The Sub-Judge determined the compensation as follows:--
Compensation for lands actually acquired and for 0.010 acre of land which had become useless on account of acquisition, in all for 2.195 acres, at the rate of Rs. 1,000/- per gunth which came to Rs. 54,875/- which was converted to a round figure of Rs. 55,000/-. Compensation for mango tree was determined at Rs. 700/-. He also granted 15% solatium on the aggregate amount of compensation of Rs. 55,700/-.
5. The learned single Judge reduced the rate of compensation for land to Rs. 900/- per gunth as a result of which the amount of compensation for land came down to Rs. 49,387.50. He also restored the valuation of the tree made by the Collector at Rs. 97.50. Thus the aggregate amount of compensation for the lands and the tree was reduced to Rupees 49,485/-. Further, he granted interest at the rate of six per cent per annum on the sum in excess awarded by the court over the amount awarded by the Collector from the date on which the Collector deposited his award amount till the date of payment of such excess into court.
6. The learned single Judge reduced the compensation determined by the Sub-Judge by a sum of Rs. 6,215/-holding that (a) in Ext. 1 the learned Sub-Judge fixed the valuation of land at Rs. 1,000/- per gunth but on appeal the High Court reduced the value of land from Rs. 1,000/- to Rs. 900/- per gunth, (b) that Kisam of land in Ext. 1 and the present land being same i.e., Sarad mere statement of P. Ws. 1 and 2 that claimant's lands are more fertile cannot raise the valuation from Rs. 900/- to Rs. 1,000/-and that (c) it is only when mango tree is cut into fire-wood that it would sell at Rs. 3/- per maund as deposed to by P. W. 1 but as heavy amount is necessary to cut and split the mango tree into firewood, the Collector's valuation of the tree must be held to be meet and proper.
7. In this appeal the appellant challenges the decision of the learned single Judge on the ground that there was no legal justification for reducing the rate of compensation for the land from Rupees 1,000/- to Rs. 900/- per gunth and for restoring the Collector's valuation of the tree.
8. The appellant examined two witnesses including himself, exhibited the judgment (Ext. 1) of the court in another reference case (Misc. Case No. 18 of 1968) (Pat) in respect of another piece of land which had also been acquired for the same public purpose of construction of police building at Tulasipur under the same notification under Section 4(1) of the Act and the Khatian of the mouza in which the acquired land lies. As already stated, the Collector did not adduce any evidence nor furnished any data on which he based the compensation at the rate of Rs. 7,500/- per acre, that is to say, at the rate of Rs. 300/- per gunth.
9. As to the adequacy of compensation for the land the learned Sub-Judge determined it at Rs. 1,000/- per gunth taking into consideration not only the compensation determined under Ext. 1 but also other factors like the location of the acquired land, its proximity to the road, facility of electricity and water pipe connection, its potentiality as house site, existence of 4 to 6 huts on the land at the time of acquisition and the unchallenged testimony of P. W. 2 that his lands, the determination of market value of which was the subject-matter in Ext. l, were of inferior quality and less fertile than the acquired lands of the appellant. The process of determination of market value from the very nature of things has to be by inference and rational guesswork. Ext. 1 being the judicial determination of market value of similar land, in the neighbourhood of the acquired land, which had also been compulsorily acquired, furnishes a good guide in determining the market price of the acquired land in question. It is an admissible and relevant piece of evidence. At one time, there was some difference of opinion on the question of relevancy and admissibility of such judgments, but such difference has now been settled by the Supreme Court in the case of Khaja Fizuddin v. State of Andhra Pradesh, (1963 SC (Notes) 177 page 101) in the following words:--
'............ For ascertaining the market rate the court can rely upon such transactions which would afford a guide to fix the price. Price paid for a land acquired within a reasonable time from the date and acquisition of the land in question would certainly be the best piece of evidence. .................. If a sale deed of aland comparable in time and quality with the land acquired can be of evidential value, equally clearly the awards of a court of comparable dates in respect of such lands will also be valuable assistance in assessing the market value, for by the award the court fixes the market value of such a land having regard to the same principles which should guide a court in fixing the value of the land acquired. If at all. such an award would be better evidence, as it would have the merit of an objective ascertainment of the market value on the basis of relevant evidence. The Privy Council in I G. S, N. Co.'s case, (1909) ILR 36 Cal 967 (PC) gave its approval to the reliance placed by the High Court on earlier awards in ascertaining compensation payable to the land acquired. It is also true that just sales of comparable lands, the awards to be of any use must also relate to comparable lands. That is to say that the awards should be in respect of lands similarly situated as the land acquired and in respect of a period in or about the same time as of the notification issued in respect of land acquired. ............'
This principle, in identical language, has been followed by this Court in the case of Maffuni Chandra Dwivedi v. State of Orissa, (1968) 34 Cut LT 847. The valuation in Ext. 1. though relevant, will, however, not bind the appellant, because though it is a decision of a similar dispute between the respondent and another claimant with reference to evidence there led, the present appellant was not a party to it. Therefore, though the appellant can take advantage of the determination of compensation made there, he cannot be debarred from leading superior evidence of market value and of other factors pertinent to the question of valuation to claim a higher rate of valuation than the one determined in Ext. 1,
Perusal of Ext. 1 indicates that factors like existence of huts, existence of facility of electricity and water pipes and nearness of road having a bearing on the potentiality of the land as a house site, of which evidence has been led in the instant case, have not been considered in that case, presumably because no evidence on those lines was led. Thus the evidential basis of valuation in Ext. 1 was of a different and of weaker kind than in present case. In Ext. 1 evidence was adduced that Sarad lands were selling at the rate of Rs. 1,500/- to Rs. 2,000/- in 1958. Thus, in view of P. W. 2's evidence that the appellant's acquired lands are of better quality and more fertile than his own, which has not been challenged in cross-examination, and when there is no reasonable ground to discard the same, the rate of valuation in the instant case will necessarily become higher. But how much higher would be a matter of inference and rational guess having regard to all other factors and circumstances which evidence has disclosed as aforesaid. The Sub-Judge has determined the market value at Rs. 1,000/- per gunth in the perspective of the aforesaid evidence, factors and circumstances and we do not find any error in it which appears to be the outcome of reasonable inference and rational guess work. The learned single Judge appears to have been greatly influenced by the assumption that this Court reduced the value of the land in Ext. 1 from Rs. 1,000/-to Rs. 900/-. This assumption is a patent error of record. In fact, the rate was never fixed in Ext. 1 at Rs. 1,000/-. It was originally fixed at Rs. 900/- per gunth which was maintained in High Court. Interference was called for only to correct an arithmetical error in computation by the Sub-Judge.
In our opinion the learned single Judge was not justified in reducing the market price from Rs. 1,000/- to Rs. 900/-solely on the basis of Ext. 1 ignoring completely the unchallenged testimony of P. W. 2. absence of any rebutting evidence on behalf of the Collector and the evidence regarding availability of various facilities like electricity and water pipe connection to the acquired land. We, therefore, uphold the decision of the Sub-Judge and set aside the decision of the learned single Judge.
10. As regards value of the trees the learned Sub-Judge determined it at Rs. 700/- on the basis of evidence on record which is to the effect that 'in 1968 wood was selling at the rate of Rs. 3/- per maund' and that 'about 400 maunds of wood would come out from the mango tree standing on the acquired land. This information was elicited from P. W. 1 in cross-examination. So calculating on this basis the value of total quantity of wood would be Rs. 1,200/-. The learned Sub-Judge in fixing the value of the tree at Rs. 700/- apparently has taken into account the heavy expenses to be incurred in felling the tree and cutting it into firewood. The Collector has led no evidence at all to indicate the basis of his valuation. So as between the valuation of the Sub-Judge for which there is some basis and the valuation of the Collector which lacks a basis, the former is naturally to be chosen. There is, therefore, no rational basis for the learned single Judge to revert back to the valuation of the Collector for the tree and discard the valuation determined by the Sub-Judge on the basis of evidence on record. We, accordingly set aside the decision of the learned single Judge on this point and restore that of the learned Sub-Judge. As held by the learned single Judge the claimant is also entitled to interest on the amount of compensation awarded by the court in excess over that of the Collector, from the date on which the Collector took possession of the land till the date of payment of such excess amount into the court.
11. In result, therefore, this appeal succeeds and is allowed. The decision of the learned single Judge is set aside and that of the Sub-Judge is restored. The appellant will be entitled to his costs throughout.