1. These are 18 appeals (Regular First Appeals Nos. 139 to 156 of 1951) under Section 3, U. P. Town Improvement (Appeals) Act of 1920 as extended to Delhi.
2. An area of land in the limits of the village of Khampur Raya has been acquired by the Delhi Improvement Trust in connection with a scheme for the widening of a road called Road No. 34. The preliminary notification under Section 36, U. P. Town Improvement Act as extended to Delhi was issued on 27-12-1941, and thus although the awards of the Collector regarding the amounts to be paid to the various owners of portions of the land were not delivered until 1948, the market-price had to be calculated in accordance with the provisions of the Act as it was in December 1941.
The Collector held that the laud was agricultural land of the class called 'Rosli' and valued it only at Rs. 120/- per 'bigha' which amounts approximately to -/1/3 per square yard. His awards in favour of the 18 separate land-owners were thus based on this figure. The 18 land-owners then made references under Section 18, Land Acquisition Act read with Sections 56 to 58, Delhi Improvement Act to the Tribunal which enhanced the rate of compensation in each case to Rs. 2/8/- per square. yard. Thus the present appeals have been filed by the Government on behalf of the Improvement Trust against the awards of the Tribunal. One of the land-owners Ram Dass, has also filed cross-objections claiming an additional sum of Rs. 32,000/- as compensation under Section 48A of the Act.
3. In all the appeals the preliminary objection has been raised that none of them can be entertained because the necessary certificate from the Chairman of the Tribunal has not been properly given. The provisions of Section 3, Town Improvement (Appeals) Act of 1920 are as follows:
'3(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the United Provinces Town Improvement Act, 1919, and subject to the provisions of Sub-section (2), an appeal shall lie to the High Court in any of the following cases, namely:(a) Where the decision is that of the President of the Tribunal sitting alone in pursuance of Clause (b) of Section 64 of the said Act;
(b) where the decision is that of the Tribunal, and
(i) The President of the Tribunal grants a certificate that the case is a fit one for appeal, or
(ii) the High Court grants special leave to appeal:Provided that the High Court shall not grant any special leave unless the President has refused to grant a certificate under Sub-clause (i) and the amount in dispute is not less than Rs. 5,000/-.
(2) An appeal under Clause (b) of Sub-section (1) shall only lie on one or more of the following grounds, namely:
(i) the decision being contrary to law or to some usage having the force of law;
(ii) the decision having failed to determine some material issue of law or usage having the force of law;
(iii) a substantial error or defect in the procedure provided by the said Act which may possibly have produced error or defect in the decision of the case upon the merits.'
The certificates in the present appeals are all in the form in which they have always hitherto been supplied, namely the particulars of the case are first stated and then follows the sentence:
'On the application of the Union of India respondent in the suit above cited, I do hereby certify that the case is a fit one for appeal.'
Under this appears the signature of the President of the Tribunal.
4. The contention of the learned counsel for the respondents in all the cases is that this is not a proper certificate as it does not show that the President applied his mind to the case at all and moreover the certificate ought to show on which of three grounds mentioned in Sub-section (2) the case was considered by him to be a fit one for appeal.
5. It does not seem to me that on the bare words of the section there is any defect in the certificate as it stands. Although the original applications on which the certificates in these cases were granted have not been filed along with the appeals, it must be presumed, and in fact has been shown in these cases, that there was an application in which the grounds on which the certificates of fitness were sought were substantially the same as those which have now been filed as the grounds of appeal.
The section itself does not require that before issuing a certificate the President has to issue notice to the opposite party, nor does it provide that he has to give in writing his reasons for granting a certificate. 'Prima facie' it would appear that the President granted the certificates in the present cases after duly considering the grounds set forth in the applications, which are now the grounds of appeal, and I cannot see what more the law requires than this.
6. The learned counsel for the respondents however, relied on two decisions of the Allahabad Court dealing with the same Act, which in turn purported to be based on certain decisions of the Privy Council. The first of the Allahabad cases is -- 'Secretary of State v. Zahid Husain', AIR 1936 All 460 (A), decided by Harries and Rachhpal Singh JJ. In that case the Government wished to appeal against an award of the Allahabad Tribunal.
The Government Pleader, however, instead of applying in so many words for a certificate from the President of the Tribunal that the case was a fit one for appeal to the High Court, filed an application in which no grounds were set out praying that sanction should be granted to go up in appeal to the High Court.
The President of the Tribunal apparently asked the Government Pleader, on what grounds the application was based and the Government Pleader, after mentioning a certain amendment to the Act, said that there were many legal points which he did not wish to disclose at that time and which he had noted in his written arguments which however, were not then available. In spite or these unsatisfactory features surrounding the application President of the Tribunal passed the order:
'Sanction to go up in appeal is granted as prayed.'
The learned Judges in these circumstances held that it was not sufficient compliance with the provisions of Section 3, Town Improvement (Appeals) Act on the grounds that there was a difference between merely granting leave to appeal and certifying that the case was a fit one for appeal, and that in the absence of any grounds on which the application was based there was nothing to show that the President had applied his mind to the question whether the case was a fit one for appeal. In coming to this conclusion two decisions of the Privy Council which I shall discussed later were referred to.
7. The second case is -- 'United Provinces Government v. Azhar Ali', AIR 1945 All 187 (FB) (B), which is a derision by three Judges Mulla, Yorke and Bennett JJ. Here again the Government wished to appeal against an award by the Cawnpore Tribunal and an application was filed by the Government Pleader which this time did contain some grounds, but again, instead of praying that a certificate be granted that the case was a fit one for appeal, prayed for leave to appeal. The order of the President On this application read:
'There is clearly at least one substantial point of law of issue, and I, therefore, allow leave to appeal.'
After considering the earlier decision of the Division Bench and the same two Privy Council cases the Full Bench held that this was not a sufficient compliance with Section 3 of the Act and dismissed the appeal on this ground alone.
8. The first of the Privy Council cases is -- 'Banarsi Parshad v. Kashi Krishna Narain', 28 Ind App 11 (PC) (C). In this case it was discovered during the hearing of the appeal by their Lordships of the Privy Council that the value of the subject-matter of the appeal was considerably less than Rs. 10,000/-.The certificate of the High Court under which the appeal had been filed before the Privy Council was simply to the effect that 'as regards the nature of the case it fulfils the requirements of Section 596 of Act 14 of 1882,' whereas in fact it clearly did not, and although under Sections 595 and 600 an appeal of the value less than Rs. 10,000/-.
The certified by the High Court as fit for appeal to the Privy Council, their Lordships doubted whether the learned Judges of the High Court would have granted a certificate under those sections if they had been called on to do so', and they therefore dismissed the appeal.
9. There is also another case in the same volume -- 'Radha Krishn Das v. Rai Krishn Chand', 28 Ind App 182 (PC) (D). Here again a certificate had been granted under Section 596. Civil. P. C., although the valuation of the suit was less than Rs. 10,000/-, and no reasons were given for holding that although it did not comply with Section 598 it was still a fit case for appeal to the Privy Council. It was held that the appeal was admitted without jurisdiction and as there was no ground for granting special leave it was dismissed.
10. Finally there is a case -- 'RadhakrishnaAiyar v. Swaminatha Aiyar', AIR 1921 PC 25 (E). The following passage occurs in the judgment of their Lordships which was delivered by Lord Buck-master:
'The conditions that regulate the granting of certificates for leave to appeal have been clearly stated in the cases referred to by counsel for the respondent, -- 'Banarsi Parshad v. Kashi Krishna Narain (C)', and 'Radha Krishn Das v. Rai Krishn Chand (D)'. It is not necessary to examine them again for the principle which they establish is plain and cannot be questioned.
That principle is thus as an initial condition to appeal to His Majesty in Council it is essential that the petitioners shall satisfy the Court that the subject-matter of the suit is Rs. 10,000/-, and in addition that in certain cases there should be added some substantial question of law. This does not cover the whole grounds of appeal, because it it plain that there may be certain cases in which it is impossible to define in money value the exact character of the dispute; there are questions, as for example, those relating to religious rites and ceremonies, to caste and family rights, or such matters as the reduction of the capital of companies as well as questions of wide public importance in which the subject-matter in dispute cannot be reduced into actual terms of money.
Sub-section (c) of Section 109, Civil P. C. contemplates that such a state of things exists, and Rule 3 of Order 45 regulates the procedure. It is there provided that the petition for appeal should state the grounds of appeal and pray for a certificate that either as regards amount or value and nature the case fulfils the requirements of Section 110, or that it is otherwise, i.e., under Section 109(c) a fit case for appeal to His Majesty in Council.
When any certificate is granted under that Order, it is in their Lordships' opinion of the utmost importance that the certificate should show clearly upon which ground it is based, and they regret to find that the certificate, in this case is at least ambiguous. It ran in these terms:
'It is hereby certified that as regards the value of the subject-matter and the nature of the question involved, the case fulfils the requirements of Sections 109 and 110, Civil P. C., and that the case is a fit one for appeal to His Majesty in Council.'There is no indication in the certificate of what nature the question is that it is thought was involved in the hearing of this appeal, nor is there anything to show that the discretion conferred by Section 109(c) was invoked or was exercised. Their Lordships think it should be brought to the attention of the Indian Courts that these certificates are of great consequence, that they seriously affect the rights of litigant parties and that they ought to be given in such a form that it is impossible to mistake their meaning upon their face.'
11. The basis of these three decisions of the Privy Council is quite clear and there is no possible reason for questioning its wisdom. Under the relevant provisions of law a certificate for leave to appeal to Privy Council could be granted by a High Court, in three sets of circumstances -- (1) if the amount involved exceeded Rs. 10,000/- and the decree of the High Court had reversed that of the lower Court, when the granting of the certificate was a matter of right, (2) if the amount involved exceeded Rs. 10,000/- and although the High Court had affirmed the order of the lower Court, in the opinion of the latter a substantial question of law was involved, and (3) when the amount involved was less than Rs. 10,000/- but in view of the nature of the point involved the High Court certified that it was a fit case for appeal to the Privy Council.
There cannot possibly be any quarrel with the proposition that in these circumstances the judges of the High Court in granting a certificate, should make it quite clear in the certificate was (sic) being granted, and it is to be noted that under the provisions of Order 45, C. P. C., the granting of certificate was only to take place after both parties had been heard, and, at any rate in this Court, it has always been the practice to write orders in such matters giving reasons either for granting or for refusing a certificate.
12. The matter, is however, very different as regards Section 3, Town Improvement (Appeals) Act of 1920 which simply requires a certificate from the President of the Tribunal that a particular case is a fit one for appeal to the High Court. In the two Allahabad cases it appears to me although the learned Judges may have been technically right in taking the view that there is a difference between applying for and being granted leave to appeal and applying for and being granted a certificate that a particular case is a fit one for appeal, the difference is more apparent than real and with the utmost respect I am of the opinion that too technical a view was taken of the matter at least m the second of the cases cited, the decision of the Full Bench, in which grounds had been included in the application filed before the President of the Tribunal and the latter had found that there was at any rate one substantial point of Jaw involved in the appeal.
The decision in the other case appears to be reasonable, since it is plain from the judgment that the Government Pleader had acted in a very strange manner in not including the grounds on which the Government wished to appeal to the High Court in his application, and m then showing considerable reluctance to divulge what those grounds were when asked to do so by the President of the Tribunal. As regards the decision of the Full Bench, however, I am of the opinion that the learned Judges erred if, as the tenor of the judgment appears to indicate, they thought that the decisions of the Privy Council implied that the President of the Tribunal in granting a certificate of fitness had to give pany indication in the certificate of his reasons for doing so.
In my opinion all that the Privy Council held was that when a certificate could be granted under different sets of circumstances, the certificate was not a proper one unless it indicated under which provision of law, the certificate was being granted. Thus in my opinion it is a sufficient compliance with the provisions of Section 3 of the present Act if after considering an application from a party desirous of appealing to the High Court, the President simply grants a certificate that the case' is a fit one for appeal. Since these provisions have been complied with in the present cases I am of the opinion that there is no bar to our deciding the appeals on the merits.
13. The land in the present cases is apparently situated in an area to which even by 1936 the habitation of Delhi city had begun to extend. Technically, however, the land was still agricultural as it had not been otherwise developed and it was shown as part of a revenue estate in December 1941, the relevant date for determining its market value. This has to be determined in accordance with the provisions of para 10 of the Schedule to the U. P. Town Improvement Act which amends Section 3, Land Acquisition Act as follows:
'The market-value of the land shall be the market-value according to the use to which the land was put at the date with reference to which the market-value is to be determined under that clause.'
The Collector therefore treated the land as agricultural land of low class and valued it only at Rs. 120/- per 'bigha'. The consideration which led the Tribunal to increase the award in respect of the land from -/1/3 to Rs. 2-8-0 per square yard were as follows. Buildings had already gone to spring up in this vicinity long before the notification and in the year 1939 a plot of land in this area was, sold for Rs. 2/8/- per square yard, admittedly for the purpose of building a house.
Another sale of land in this vicinity took place not long after the notification, in 1942, also at Rs. 2/8/- per square yard. Sales also took place in 1944 at Rs. 2/- per square yard and in 1946 at the rate of Rs. 3/- per square yard. It has also been pointed out that the same Collector himself, in another award relating to land in this area acquired under the same notification, valued it at Rs. 1/4/- per square yard.
14. The provision in the Schedule to the Act has been differently interpreted. The Allahabad High Court in -- 'Secy, of State v. Mukhan Das', AIR 1928 All 147 (FB) (F), has taken a very strict view and has held that the use to which the land was being put on the material date is the sole criterion for determining its value which may be nil. This view had, however, not been accepted by this Court and the Lahore High Court, and the Privy Council in -- 'Kailash Chandra v. Secy. of State, AIR, 1940 PC 132 (G), has rejected the view of the Allahabad Court that if land is not being put to any productive use at all on the relevant date, it may be acquired for nothing.
In other words their Lordships of the Privy Council have really accepted the proposition that the land must have a basic value to whatever use it is temporarily being put, and in my 'opinion the value of agricultural laud, whether it is still under cultivation or not, can only be satisfactorily determined on the basis of sales of similar lands in the neighbour-hood. To put the matter differently, although land is still classed as agricultural, if within a reasonable period from the relevant date there have been no sales of land at the ordinary prices of agricultural land, and land is in fact only being purchase in that neighbourhood for development, the market value of the so-called agricultural land in that area must become the value for which such land is being sold.
As I have pointed out in one of the judgments which I wrote when I was President of the Delhi Improvement Trust Tribunal, the words, 'market-value' where they appear for the second time in the relevant provision in the Schedule cease to have any meaning if all that is meant is that the value is simply to be calculated according the use to which the land is being put, or in other words according to the income which is actually being derived from it.
If that were so the calculation would be an elementary one capable of being carried out by any officer, and there would be little or no point in constituting a Tribunal under the Act for the purpose of hearing references against the awards of Collectors, or in allowing appeals to the High Court under the Appeals Act.
15. The very constitution of Tribunals under the Act appears to be an indication that the matter is not as simple as it was apparently considered to be by the Allahabad High Court. The Tribunal set up under the Act at Delhi includes the District Judge and two assessors who are selected from time to time and who are persons of some local status, and as was once observed by Monroe, J., in First Appeal No. 197 of 1942 (Puni) (H), presumably selected because of their knowledge of local conditions and land values.
It does not seem to me that it can possibly have been the intention of the legislature to constitute a Tribunal of this kind solely for the purpose of seeing whether the Collector had correctly calculated the value of the land under acquisition on the basis of the actual income which was being derived from it on the relevant date.
Obviously the members of the Tribunal are expected to apply their knowledge and experience to the consideration of the evidence produced before them, and it is their duty to ascertain the market-value of the land. In my opinion they can hardly be said to exceed their function if they decide that even agricultural land of poor quality, which at the relevant time is not being put to any use at all, still possesses a basic value based on sales of similar lands in the neighbourhood at or about the relevant time.
16. Such being the case I do not think that we ought in appeal to vary the valuation which the Tribunal has put on the lands in these cases, The scope of an appeal is limited by the provisions of Sub-section (2) of Section 3 of the Appeals Act, and unless we were to hold that on entirely wrong system of valuation had been adopted by the Tribunal and that the method adopted by the Collector was correct, I do not think it is possible to vary the figure of Rs. 2/8/- per square yard arrived at by the Tribunal, which is based on salesin the neighbourhood both before and after the relevant date, there being no reason for supposing that the value of the land had changed in the meantime.
17. There remain the cross-objections of Ram Dass etc., who apparently own a comparatively large area out of the land acquired in these cases, and who are claiming an additional sum of Rs. 32,000/- under Section 48-A of the Act. This section provides that if within a period of two years from the date of the publication of the declaration under Section 6 in respect of any land the Collector has not made an award under Section 11 with respect to such land, the owner of the land shall, unless he has been to a material extent responsible for the delay, be entitled to receive' compensation for the damage suffered by him in consequence of the delay.
In this connection it is to be noted that the declaration under Section 6 is something different from the notification which fixes the relevant date for the determination of the market-value. The awards in these cases were delivered in October 1948 and the notification under Section 6, Land Acquisition Act was issued early in 1946, i.e., more than four years after the preliminary notification of the scheme. Section 48-A becomes applicable by reason of the fact that the award was delayed by about 8 months after the two years mentioned in this section.
18. It seems that the land-owners as a whole put forward claims under Section 48-A in their pleadings in the reference, and an issue on the point was framed by the Tribunal which, however, considered that it would be a sufficient compensation in the circumstances if the land-owners were allowed interest at 6 per cent, per annum from the date of possession, i.e., 6-8-1946, until the date of payment.
Only Ram Dass etc., out of the 18 claimants has pursued the matter as far as filing cross-objections in the appeals on this point. It does not seem that any evidence worth the name was led by any of the claimants to prove the extent of any damages suffered by him through the delay, and even in the cross-objections of Ram Dass, etc., I can find no particulars of any kind on which their claim to receive an extra sum of Rs. 32,000/-is based.
It seems, however, from the argument of their learned counsel that the claim is based not so much on the delay between the notification under Section 6 and the date of the awards, which is only a few months beyond the two years allowed by Section 48-A, but on the delay between the preliminary notification of the scheme in December 1941 and the award in October 1948. The argument appears to be that if the scheme had been carried through with reasonable promptitude after December 1941 and the land-owners had then been given their compensation, they could have invested the money at great profit in the meantime in view of the substantial rise in property values which has taken place.
19. It seems to me that this claim must be rejected on two grounds. In the first place the section itself only provides for compensation for damage sustained as the result of a delay between the notification under Section 6, Land Acquisition Act and the date of the award, and therefore the' Court cannot possibly take into account the delay between the date of the preliminary notification of the scheme and the date of the award.
In the second place the grounds of the claim are wholly hypothetical and insubstantial, and it is obviously quite impossible for any Court to calculate what damages the claimants may have suffered on the lines suggested by their learned counsel. In the circumstances I do not consider that Ram Dass etc., are entitled to any more than they have been allowed by the Tribunal on this account.
20. The result is that I would dismiss the appeals with costs except in the case of Ram Dass etc., in which both the appeal and the cross-objections should be dismissed with an order that the parties should bear their own costs.
21. I agree.