S.S. Sandhawalia, C.J.
1. A supposed conflict of precedent had necessitated the admission of this Letters Patent appeal for hearing before the Full Bench. However, it is now the un-rebutted stand of the appellant-State of Haryana that the matter stands concluded in their favour both by a Full Bench judgment of this Court as also its approval by the final Court.
2. In view of the above the briefest reference to the facts suffices. The respondent-landowners aggrieved by the compensation awarded to them by the Collector in acquisition proceedings preferred applications under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act seeking a reference to the Court for enhancement of the compensation. After notice to the Government, the references were duly made to the Court. However, before the Additional District Judge, a preliminary objection was strenuously raised on behalf of the appellant-State that these references were incompetent as the conditions prescribed by Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act were not fulfilled. The specific ground taken was that the references were sought after the prescribed period of limitation and that the claimants having accepted the compensation without protest were disentitled to seek a reference to the Court. The preliminary objection was overruled by the learned Additional District Judge and compensation was enhanced by him.
3. The State of Haryana then preferred regular first appeals against the said judgment. Therein the only question raised was that the references were incompetent for specific reasons which had been urged before the learned Additional District Judge. The learned single Judge noticed that the solitary issue that arose for decision was whether it was open to a Court to which a reference is made under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act to go behind it and investigate whether the same was properly made. Both on principle and following a number of authorities including the Division Bench judgment of this Court in Hari Krishan Khosla v. State of Pepsu, AIR 1958 Punj 490 (by which he held himself to be bound) the learned single Judge held that the Court had no power to go behind the reference made to it by the Collector under Section 18 and dismissed all the appeals.
4. Despite service, no appearance has been put in on behalf of the respondents. Mr. Nehra, learned Addl. Advocate General appearing on behalf of the appellant rightly contends that the counsel for the parties before the learned single Judge were sorely remiss in not bringing to his notice the Full Bench judgment of this Court reported in Swatantra Land & Finance Pvt. Ltd. v. State of Haryana, AIR 1975 Punj & Har 52, wherein Hari Krishan Khosla's case (supra) was expressly overruled. This apart, it is further pointed out that the controversy has now been set at rest by the recent judgment of their Lordships in Mohammed Hasnuddin v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1979 SC 404 wherein it has been observed as follows:--
'........ Even if a reference is wrongly made by the Collector the Court will still have to determine the validity of the reference because the very jurisdiction of the Court to hear a reference depends on a proper reference being made under Section 18, and if the reference is not proper, there is no jurisdiction in the Court to hear the reference. It follows that it is the duty of the Court to see that the statutory conditions laid down in Section 18 have been complied with, and it is not debarred from satisfying itself that the reference which it is called upon to hear is a valid reference. It is only a valid reference which gives jurisdiction to the Court and, therefore, the Court has to ask itself the question whether it has jurisdiction to entertain the reference.
Equally it calls for pointed notice that in the aforesaid case their Lordships have expressly approved the Full Bench judgment in Swatantra Land & Finance Pvt. Ltd.' s case and in categoric terms held that the contrary decisions thereto do not lay down good law and have been in terms overruled. It has not been disputed before us that in the present case, the references were claimed beyond the prescribed period of time and further that the respondent-landowners were estopped from presenting the same for the reason of having accepted the compensation without protest. That being so, this appeal has necessarily to be allowed, the order of the learned single Judge is set aside and the references made by the respondent-landowners are dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.
5. Appeal allowed.