1. The petitioners in this writ challenge the validity of certain provisions of 'Punjab Act X of 1961 (Punjab Development of Damaged Areas Act, 1951)'.
2. The facts briefly are these. In order to deal with certain areas of the town of Amritsar which had been badly damaged during the riots of 1917, the Punjab Government prepared a scheme in 1949 under Section 28 of the Punjab Town Improvement Act. This scheme covered the areas known as Bazar Pashamwala and Katra Jaimal Singh and notices were issued inviting objections which were filed in due course. In 1950 the Punjab Government issued the Punjab Development of Damaged Areas Ordinance and this was succeeded by the Act in question, namely Punjab Act X of 1951, the provisions of which were almost exactly the same as the provisions of the previous Ordinance. In the meantime the Amritsar Improvement Trust had notified another scheme in 1951. This scheme superseded the previous scheme and was in fact nothing more than a modification in some respects of the original scheme issued in 1949. Objections to the newscheme were filed and the final scheme as sanctioned was notified on 30-11-1951.
The petitioners are four persons who own property in tne areas covered by the scheme and their mam objection is twofold. In the first place, they contend that the provisions of Act X of 1951 offend against Article 31 of the Constitution inasmuch as they do not provide for the payment of adequate com-pensation for property compulsorily acquired under the Act. In the second place, it is urged that the scheme as prepared and notified was not in accordance with law as the procedure laid down. by tne Act was not followed.
3. I shall first consider the question whether the Act is 'ultra vires' the Constitution. Mr. Grover has contended that the Act offends against the provisions of Article 31 of the Constitution because (a) the Trust is authorised to execute the scheme before assessing compensation and this involves the demolition of the structures standing upon it before compensation in respect of their has been assessed, (b) no time limit for giving the award has been fixed by the Act and the Trust may delay the matter unreasonably and (c) the provision in Section 13 whereby the cost of demolition and removal of the material is to be deducted from the market value of the property is bad inasmuch as it compels the subject to accept much less than just compensation as contemplated by Article 31. He also contended that the Act is against the provisions of Article 14 of the Constitution.
4. There is no force whatsoever in the last mentioned point as there is nothing in the Act which involves the denial of equality or equal protection of laws to any individual. The mere fact that the property of certain individuals can be compulsorilv acquired does not mean that these persons are not being given equal protection before the law. The Constitution contemplates compulsory acquisition of property and therefore the mere compulsory acquisition of property cannot be held to connote unequal treatment and thus offend the provisions of Article 14.
5. With regard to the provisions of Article 31, the Constitution lays down that whenever any property is compulsorily acquired compensation must be paid to the owner. 'Compensation' has been interpreted as 'just compensation' although the word 'just' is not mentioned in Article 31(2). Mr. Graver has, however, cited a number of decided cases to support his argument that the compensation means 'just compensation'. 'Kameshwar Singh v. State of Bihar', AIR 1951 Pat 91 (SB) (A), -- 'Suryapal Singh v. U. P. Govt.', AIR 1951 All 674 (FB) (B), -- 'West Bengal Settlement Kanungo Co-operative Credit Society v. Mrs. Bella', AIR 1951 Cal 111 (C) and -- 'State of Bihar v. Sir Kameshwar Singh', AIR 1952 SC 252 (D). Mr. Grover argues that it was laid down in these cases that compensation means the market value of the property and not an anna less. I cannot, however, read any such meaning into the manner in which compensation has been interpreted in these cases. All that the learned Judges have laid down is that compensation should not be illusory. It should be just and proper and it should represent an equivalent of the market value. But the equivalent does not mean the exact figure of the market value.
It must also be remembered that in those cases the learned Judges were not considering a case of the type which is before us now. 'Act 10 of 1951' was intended to deal with property which had been damaged during the riots. Such pro-perty can either be repaired or rebuilt. It is admitted that the property in question with theexception of one snop is so badly damaged that it will have to be entirely rebuilt. Pnotographsof some of the properties were produced beofre us and we find that in some cases only bare walls were stand.ng and everything else had been completely destroyed. In such cases a person who goes to buy trie property will have to take account of the cost which he will incur in demolishing the structure and in removing the material before- he can put it to any use.
Therefore to say that in assessing the compen-sation wnich must be paid in compulsorily acquir-ing damaged property no deduction should be made for removing the material would be saying that the owners should be paid more than the market value. For a case of this type the market value is tne price of the land plus the price of the material minus the cost of removing it. The cases cited therefore have really very little bearing on the case before us except in so far as they lay down that compensation means just compensation and not some figure which represents merely illusory compensation. It is clear therefore that where the Act lays down in Section 13 that the cost of demolition and removal may be deducted from the market value as deter-imined under Section 12, the provisions of Article 31 of the Constitution are in no way contravened.
6. A reference to the Act shows that under Section 11 the collector is required to determine the area of the land and its market value. The market value includes the market value of (i) the laud, (ii) all material standing on them and (iii) any sources of income derived from the land. From the market value so determined, the cost of removal and demolition is to be deducted and the balance represents the minimum compensation which is to be paid to the owner. In most cases he will be paid a larger sum for if any profits accrue from the development of the scheme these profits are also to go to the owner under the provisions of Section 13. There is therefore nothing in the Act which deprives the owner of just compensation for the property compulsorily acquired by the Trust. The Act lays down a method for calculating compensation as provided by Article 31(2) and I am of opinion that there is nothing in the provisions of the Act which in any way contravenes Article 31.
7. The fact that no time limit for giving enaward is mentioned does not make the Act 'ultravires'. It is obviously intended that the awardshall be made within a reasonable time and ifthe Collector or the authority concerned delaysthe making of the award, the aggrieved personhas a remedy by way of applying for a writof 'mandamus'. No time limit is fixed, for thetime within which an award may be made willdepend on particular facts of the case and it issufficient to say that the Act contemplates theaward being made within a reasonable time.
8. As to the last objection with regard to the scheme being executed at once, all that has been said is that the Act does not contemplate the execution of the scheme before the preliminaries with regard to the determination of the compensation have been completed. Section 12(1) merely says :
'On possession of the land comprised in anysanctioned scheme being delivered to the Trust,it shall proceed to execute the scheme.'
There is nothing in this section to say that theexecution of the scheme must come be-fore the award or computation of compensation, indeed, under section 11 the compensation has to be computed by tne Collector before the demolition of the buildings takes piace and before the scheme is put into effect.
9. There is therefore nothing in the Act which contravenes Article 31 or Article 14 of the Consti-tution.
10. Mr. Grover also argued that the procedure adopted in tins case was not in accordance with law because the original scheme prepared in 1949 had been superseded by the fmai scheme notified on 30-11-(sic) and there was nothing in the Act which authorised the supersession of a previous scheme. He argued that a scheme could be abandoned but it could not be superseded. I find that there was no irregularity of procedure or any illegality in issuing the final scheme. A scheme was prepared in 1949 under Section 28 of the Punjab Town Improvement Act. This scheme was never notified as a sanctioned scheme. Another scheme was adopted in 1951 & objections were invited. Objections were entertained & considered and then the scheme received the final sanction of Government and was notified on 30-11-1951. There was therefore nothing irregular and there was only one sanctioned scheme and there is no question of any supersession of any previous scheme which had already been sanctioned.
There is nothing in the Town Improvement Act or Act 10 of 1951 which would dcoar the supersession of a previous scheme by a new scheme. The important point is that objections were invited. They were submitted by the petitioners and they were considered before the linal scheme was sanctioned. That the petitioners were not heard in person in support of their objection is scarcely a matter which makes the notification of the scheme in any way illegal. The subject does not possess the right to be personally heard on every occasion.
11. Mr. Grover also mentioned in passing that the provisions of the Act were so wide that even area which had not been actually damaged could be acquired and in respect of it compensation paid under the provisions of this Act. it will be sufficient for me to say here that we are not considering the hypothetical case of abuse of power under this Act by any authority. The case before us relates to property which has actually been damaged and severely damaged. This property can Only be used if it is completely demolished and rebuilt, and the Amntsar Improvement Trust has not been shown to be abusing the powers conferred upon it by this Act. It has not been shown that the petitioners have received or will receive compensation which falls far short of the market price of their land, and it seems to me that the method of assessing compensation is intended to guarantee that the owner shall receive at least what is generally known as the market price of his property, for in a case of this type the market price takes account of the cost which the purchaser will incur in demolishing and removing the debris or damaged structures standing on the land.
This petition must therefore fail and I would dismiss it with costs.
12. I agree.