1. These fifteen Regular First Appeals (Nos. 451 to 453, 455 to 460 and 468 to 473 of 1968) may be disposed of by a single judgment as the questions at issue are common. Certain land belonging to the various respondents was acquired by the Government of Punjab (now Haryana) pursuant to a notification dated 5-9-1961, issued under S. 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act. By his award dated 29-6-1962, the Land Acquisition Collector awarded compensation at the rate of Rs. 700 per acre for Chahi land, Rs. 490 per acre for Narmot, Chaknote and Maga land, Rs. 245 per acre for Banjar Qadim, Rs. 122 for Gair Mumkin. The claimants received the compensation awarded to them on 23-9-1967 and, according to the Government, it was received without any protest. Thereafter, on 10-10-1967, they filed applications seeking references to the Court under S. 18 of the Land Acquisition Act. After notice to the Government, references were duly made to the Court. Before the learned Additional District Judge, a preliminary objection was raised on behalf of the Government that the references were incompetent as the conditions prescribed by S. 18 of the Land Acquisition Act were not fulfilled. It was said, firstly, that the references were sought after the prescribed period of limitation and, secondly that the claimants having accepted the compensation without protest, were not entitled to seek references to the Court. The preliminary objection was overruled by the learned Additional District Judge. Compensation was enhanced to Rs. 1,200 per acre for Chahi, Narmot, Chaknot and Magda lands and to Rs. 900 per acre for Banjar Qadim and Gair Mumkin lands. The State of Haryana has preferred these appeals. No question is raised that the compensation awarded by the learned Additional District Judge is excessive. The only question raised is that the references were incompetent for the same reasons that were urged before the learned Additional District Judge.
2. The question for consideration is, whether it is open to a Court to whom a reference is made under S. 18 of the Land Acquisition Act to go behind the reference and investigate whether the reference was properly made. Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act may be usefully extracted here. It is as follows:-
'18 (1) Any person interested who has not accepted the award may, by written application to the Collector require that the matter be referred by the Collector for the determination of the Court, whether his objection be to the measurement of the land, the amount of the compensation, the person to whom it is payable or the apportionment of the compensation among the persons interested.
(2) The application shall state the grounds on which objection to the award is taken:
(a) If the person making it was present or represented before the Collector at the time when he made his award, within six weeks from the date of the Collector's award;
(b) in other cases, within six weeks of the receipt of the notice from the Collector under S. 12, sub-section (2), or within six months from the date of the Collector's award, whichever period shall first expire.'
In Punjab and Haryana, the Land Acquisition Act was amended by Punjab Act No. 2 of 1954 by which a third sub-section was added to S. 18 and it is as follows:--
'(3) Any order made by the Collector on an application under this section shall be subject to revision by the High Court as if the collector were a court subordinate to the High Court within the meaning of S. 115 of the Civil P. C., 1908.'
Section 19 prescribes the particulars which the Collector is required to state for the information of the Court. It is as follows:--
'19 (1) in making the reference, the Collector shall state, for the information of the Court, shall state, for the information of the Court, in writing under his hand,--
(a) the situation and extent of the land, with particulars of any trees, buildings or standing crops thereon;
(b) the names of the persons whom he has reason to think interested in such land;
(c) the amount awarded for damages and paid or tendered under Ss. 5 and 17, or either of them, and the amount of compensation awarded under S. 11, and,
(d) if the objection be to the amount of the compensation, the grounds on which the amount of compensation was determined.
(2) To the said statement shall attached a schedule giving the particulars of the notices served upon, and of the statements in writing made or delivered by, the parties interested respectively.' Thereafter S. 20 requires the Court to issue notice to the applicant, the Collector and all persons interested in the petition, except such of them as have consented without prejudice to receive payment of the compensation awarded. Section 21 restricts the scope of the enquiry in the proceeding pursuant to the reference under S. 18 to a consideration of the interests of the persons affected by the objection. Section 22 prescribes that the proceeding shall be in open Court. Section 23 prescribes the matters to be considered by the Court in determining the compensation. Section 24 prescribes the matters which the Court shall not take into consideration in determining the compensation. Section 25 prescribes the maximum and the minimum limits to the amounts which may be awarded as compensation. Section 26 provides for the form of the award which may be made by the Court.
3. A security of S. 20 to 26 of the Land Acquisition Act which prescribe the powers and duties of the Court upon a reference made to it under s. 18 of the Land Acquisition Act shows that the powers and duties are to be exercised for the sole purpose of determining the proper amount of compensation to be awarded. There is nothing in any of these provisions giving even the slightest indication that the Court is entitled to go behind the reference and adjudicate upon the question whether the reference was properly made to the Court. The circumstance that the Government may be without any remedy if the Collector makes an improper reference to the Court cannot clothe the Court, once a reference is made to it to constitute itself into a Court of appeal or Court of revision against the reference as well. It may be that, right or wrong, the Legislature wanted a reference to be final and did not want the Court to which the reference is made under S. 18, to embark into an enquiry about the validity of the reference. Perhaps the Legislature though that such needless and fruitless enquiry would not advance the cause of justice or the object of the various provisions enacted with a view to secure a just compensation to those who are deprived of their land. In Punjab, the Legislature has expressly provided a remedy by way of revision to the High Court against an order made by the Collector under S. 18 of the Land Acquisition Act. Whatever may be said elsewhere, so far as the State of Punjab and Haryana are concerned, it is difficult, in view of the express remedy provided by S. 18(3) to hold that the Court, to whom a reference is made under S. 18 has the jurisdiction to go into the question of the validity of the reference.
4. The submission on behalf of the Government appears to be that the Court to which a reference is made must necessarily be considered to be clothed with the power to determine whether the matter that has come before it, 'is in the proper form and in accordance with the requirements of a particular statute.' The submission of the appellant is supported by the following decisions: Mahadev Krishna v. Mamlatdar of Alibag. AIR 1944 Bom 200, Narayanappa v. Revenue Divisional officer, AIR 1955 Mad 23. Special Deputy Collector v. Kodandaramacharlu, AIR 1965 Andh Pra 25 and Gangavva v. Udachappa, AIR 1964 Mys 107(FB).
5. In Mahadeo Krishna v. Mamlatdar of Alibag, AIR 1944 Bom 200, Beaumont C. J. and Rajadhyaksha J. Held:--
'It seems to me that the court is bound to satisfy itself that the reference made by the Collector complies with the specified conditions, so as to give the Court jurisdiction to hear the reference. It is not a question of the Court sitting in appeal or revision on the decision of the Collector; it is, a question of the Court satisfying itself that the reference made under the Act is one which it is required to hear. If the reference does not comply with the terms of the Act, then the Court cannot entertain it. I have myself some difficulty in seeing on what principle the Court is to be bewared from satisfying itself that the reference, which it is called upon to hear, is a valid reference.'
With great respect to the Hon'ble Judges, it is one thing to say that the Court has jurisdiction only if a reference is made to it but it is quite a different thing to say that the Court has jurisdiction only if it finds that the reference was made legally. It may be that in a proper case, the Court can say that the reference is not one which it is competent to hear. For example, if instead of asking the Court to determine the question of compensation, the Collector purports to refer to the Court a question whether the acquisition was for a public purpose, the Court is bound to say that the reference is incompetent. But, where the Collector refers a question which the Court is competent to hear, I fail to see how the court is competent to go behind the reference to find out whether the reference was validly made.
6. It is needless to refer to the decisions in Narayanappa v. Revenue Divisional Officer, AIR 1955 Mad 23, Special Deputy Collector v. Kodandaramacharlu, AIR 1965 Andh Pra 25 and Gangavva v. Udachappa, AIR 1964 Mys 107(FB), all of which proceeded on the same reasoning as that given by Beaumont C. J. and Rajadhyaksha, J.
7. The contrary view was taken by Bishan Narain and A. N. Grover, JJ. in Hari Krishan Khosla v. State of Pepsu, AIR 1958 Punj 490, Kuppuswamy Iyer J. in Sri Venkateswara Swami v. Sub-Collector, AIR 1943 Mad 327, Krishnan and Sharma, JJ. in Kaliyanchand Devi Lal v. Kanchan Bai, AIR 1963 Madh Pra 220 and By M. C. Desai, C. J., B. Dayal and B. N. Takru, J. in State of U. P. V. Abdul Karim, AIR 1963 All 556(FB). I have already said enough to indicate my concurrence with the views expressed in these decisions. Indeed, sitting singly, I am bound by the decision in Hari Krishan Khosla v. State of Pepsu.
8. In the result, all the 15 appeals are dismissed with costs.
9. Appeals dismissed.