M.R. Sharma, J.
1. This petition has been filed by the Atam Nagar Co-operative House Building Society Ltd., Ludhiana, (hereinafter referred to as the Society). The Improvement Trust, Ludhiana, adopted two schemes for the urban development. Some persons approached. it for allotment of plots and the Chairman of the Trust gave them an assurance that if they formed a co-operative society their request would be favourably considered. Pursuant to that assurance, the petitioner-society had come into existence on Oct. 24, 1964. On the application of the society, the land purchased by this Society was exempted from the operation of the provisions of the scheme. This is apparent from the following letter written on 13-7-1969 by the Executive officer, Town Improvement Trust, Ludhiana,. to its Land Acquisition Officer:
'You are informed that the Trust vide its Resolution No. 23 which was passed unanimously on 2-7-1969 has agreed to exempt the land purchased by the Atam Nagar Co-op. House Building Society in Model Town Extension (V. Gill Nos. 1 and 2) details of which are indicated therein. A copy of the resolution is enclosed herewith.'
2. On 5-11-1964 the Chairman of the Trust wrote to the Society that 200 residential plots shall be allotted to it, as soon as the possession of the land was taken. On 19-8-1966 the Chairman asked the Society to deposit a sum of Rupees 5,71,050.00 as the price of 90 plots allotted to it which was also done. Later on at the instance of some of the land-owners whose land was sought to be acquired, scheme No. 2 was quashed by this Court on the ground that a period of more than 3 years had intervened between the time when the Trust issued the earlier notification regarding its intention to acquire the land and the second notification relating to the actual acquisition. On the basis of the judgment the Trust scrapped scheme No. 1 also in which the petitioner-society had been promised the allotment of plots.
3. When a new scheme of the same type was adopted the Trust declined to honour its earlier commitments and to offer residential plots to the petitioner-society. The request made by the latter that the land purchased by it should be exempted from the operation of the scheme was also turned down. The 'society has come up in the instant petition against the action of the Trust.
4. There are really two points to be determined in this petition. Firstly, whether the Trust em be directed to abide by its earlier commitments to allot residential plots to the petitioner-society or not, and secondly, whether the Trust can be directed to grant an exemption in favour of the land purchased by the petitioner-society even when the earlier scheme has been scrapped and another one has been adopted in its place.
5. It is not disputed that the Society was formed on the assurance given by the Chairman of the Trust to some persons to. the effect that in case they formed a co-operative society their request for allotment of plots would be favour-ably considered. Pursuant to that assurance, those persons along with some others did form the petitioner-Society. As many as 90 residential plots were in fact allotted to the Society pursuant to the assurance given by the Chairman. The amount advanced by the Society for the allotment of the additional plots continues to be lying with the Trust even though on an earlier occasion the Chairman had addressed a letter to the Society that it should withdraw the said amount. Now, if the Chairman had not given an assurance that the plots would be allotted if the applicants for plots form a co-operative society, they would perhaps have not acted on that assurance and would have made alternative arrangements for getting residential plots. By acting on the assurance given by the Chairman, they had materially changed their position to their advantage and in the circumstances the Trust would be estopped from going back on the solemn assurance given by it earlier.
6. Mr. Narang, the learned counsel for the respondent-Trust, has submitted that the assurance had been given in respect of Scheme No. 1 which was scrapped by the Trust because of the judgment rendered by this Court which related to scheme No. 2 and after the adoption of the new scheme the members of the Society could not be accommodated because there was a large number of applicants who were clamouring for getting plots. According to him, the assurance given by the Trust lapsed with the abandonment of the earlier scheme.
7. We are not impressed with the sub-mission made by Mr. Narang. This Court intervened and quashed the scheme because the Trust itself had caused undue delay in executing the same inasmuch as it allowed a period of three years to elapse between the two notifications. In other words, the Trust has put forth a defence which if allowed would enable it to take benefit out of its own negligence. Even otherwise, the present scheme is almost a replica of the earlier scheme and has been adopted in order to overcome the technical objections brought to surface by a judgment of this Court. The land under the new schme continues to vest in the Trust as it did before. The precise argument on behalf of the Trust is that because of negligent working of the provisions of the Town and Improvement Trust Act, it could not allot the land to the petitioner-Society under the first scheme and even though the land continues to vest in it and it is competent to allot the plots under the new scheme, it should not be compelled to do so. If this argument is allowed to prevail, this Court would have to give a complete go-by to the well-known maxim of law that 'equity feeds the grant of estoppel' which we see no reason to do. Whenever land is available for allotment as residential plots in an urban area, there is generally a large number of applicants claiming the plots but in a situation like this, the Trust cannot be allowed to ignore the claim of the earlier applicants in whose favour rights have come into existence on account of the operation of the principle of estoppel.
8. For the aforementioned reasons, we allow this petition and direct the respondent-Trust to allot the plots to the petitioner-Society in accordance with the earlier undertaking given by its Chairman.
9. So far as the question of exemption is concerned, we might add that as noticed earlier the Trust had previously granted an exemption in favour of the land purchased by the members of the Society and because of the change of the scheme on account of technical reasons mentioned above, it does not look proper that the Trust should take a different decision now. In any event, the exemption has to be granted by the State Government and not by the Trust. In the circumstances, it would not be proper for us to issue any positive direction to the Trust regarding the grant of exemption. We, however, direct that the Trust should forward the case of the petitioner-Society to the State Government and it shall be open to the latter to decide whether the land purchased by the petitioner-Society should be exempted from the operation of the provisions of the scheme or not the petition stands disposed of accordingly with no order as to costs.
10. Order accordingly.