1. The Union of India impugns the award of the Land Acquisition Collector, Amritsar (Mr. Chander Kant, P.C.S.) dt. June 15, 1983 (Annexure P. 1) whereby he has awarded under clause Fourthly of S. 23 of the Land Acquisition Act (for short, the Act), a sum of Rs. 6,54,637.50 to the owners of poultry farm having 2500 hens on account of their loss of earnings. The relevant facts are as follows:--
The union of India acquired 1401.70 acres of land in village Kathania, near Amritsar, in pursuance of a notification published under S. 4 of the Act on 11-7-1977. It included the land of the respondents, i.e., Kuldip Singh and Jaspal Singh, who were running a poultry farm in a part thereof. The Collector gave separate awards for the land and buildings acquired and the present impugned award only relates to the poultry farm. For pronouncing this delayed award, the reason mentioned by the Collector herein is that he had not received the report of the Assistant Poultry Development Officer, Gurdaspur and that of the Director of Animal Husbandry, Punjab, Chandigarh by the time he had announced the award for the land and the building. As per the report of these authorities poultry farmer can earn a net income of about Rs. 1.38 P. per hen per month. They also opined that normally a hen starts laying egg after six months of its age and lays for about a year thereafter. On the basis of this data, the Collector concluded that in the instant case, the hens of the respondent-claimants would have normally laid eggs for a period of nine months subsequent to the date of taking over the possession of the poultry farm in question and on that basis he worked out a total income of Rs. 31,050/- to the claimants for these nine moths. Then for multiplying this amount to Rs. 6,54,637.50 the Collector adopted the following reasoning:--
'The claimants have resettled at village Kamaske which is falling within 5 Kms from the International border between India and Pakistan located at a distance of 35 Kms from Amritsar city. It is not feasible for them to re-establish their poultry business at this place due to various concrete reasons such as lack of public communication/ conveyance, fear of shifting/ vacating the area during war etc. and they were compelled to abandon the business for ever.
In this case the interested persons started side business of poultry farm on their own land which has been acquired and compensation be awarded in lieu of losses of earnings in lump sum which they would have earned during the remaining period of their life, i.e., 40 years (tentative length of life 70 years less present age of 30 years).'
According to him, they would have earned an amount of Rs. 5,38,200/- during the remaining part of their life. Adding solatium to this amount at the rate of 15%, he fixed the total compensation payable to them at Rs. 6,54,637.50.
2. The challenge to this award is on the ground that the same is wholly arbitrary and against all canons of assessment of compensation under the Land Acquisition Act. I find this stand to be wholly justified.
3. It deserves to be highlighted here that neither in response to the notice under S. 9 of the Act the respondent-claimants put forth any material before the Collector disclosing their income or the loss they were likely to suffer nor have they even filed a reply to the present petition. The reason is obvious. They find it impossible to sustain the reasoning and the award made in their favour by the Land Acquisition Collector. Learned counsel for the claimants has very fairly shown to me a copy of the claim application (which appear to be duly signed by the claimants) filed by them under S. 9 of the Act before the Collector and the same is placed on record as Annexure P. 2. (Since it is in Gurmukhi script, the office would get it translated). All that is mentioned in this application was that since they were not in a position to get any proper of suitable land nearabout the city of Amritsar, it would be difficult for them to run their poultry farm after the land thereunder was taken possession of by the acquiring authority. They further pointed out that in case the said farm had not been acquired they would have raised the number of hens to ten thousand and would have thus continued to earn profits throughout their lives, i.e., the average life span of a human being. As noticed earlier, no evidence of any sort was put forth before the Collector in support of the imaginary claim made in this application.
4. Taking their case at its best, the Collector could award them compensation for their loss of earnings for a period which they would have normally and reasonably taken to re-establish themselves, or to set up a poultry farm at a different place or the place where they claimed to have shifted. This duration to my mind could not be more than 6 to 9 months. In the light of that all that could reasonably be offered to the claimants by ways of compensation for their loss of earnings was the net profit which they would have earned during that period. This profit, as already indicated, has been assessed at Rs. 31,050/- in the light of the report of the Assistant Poultry Development Officer, Gurdaspur and the Deputy Director Poultry Production-cum-Marketing, Punjab. It is beyond dispute that one of the known methods for offering or assessing the compensation payable to a claimant as a result of the acquisition of his property is the opinion or the assessment done by experts. The Collector was well justified in taking into account the report of these officers in determining the amount of compensation. But the way he has multiplied the amount of compensation payable in the light of normal span of the claimant's life (forty year) appears to be preposterous and palpably unjustified. Why could not they set up or restart a poultry farm nearabout Amritsar within a reasonable time is not explained by the Collector. Anyway, it is not for me to find out the reasons--the authorities concerned may--as to what made the Collector to pass such an inflated award which cannot be supported by any accepted canon or principle of law under the Act. To me it appears to be a case of legalised plunder. As a matter of fact even the learned counsel for the claimants is not in position to point out any logic or process of reasoning which can support the award. As has been pointed out above, even the claimants themselves have not come forward to raise any plea by way of defence to the present petition or to support the impugned award. They obviously feel satisfied having pocketed a fat amount of compensation which was not at all due to them. In order to lend some credibility to his award the Collector has made a reference to an earlier judgment of this Court in R.F.A. No. 779 of 1975 (State of Punjab v. Mrs. Staya Gupta) decided on Nov. 9, 1979 which has no relevance to the facts of this case. In that case the appeal of the State Government against the award of the District Court allowing compensation to a poultry farmer after taking into account the unexpired period of lease of the land on which the said farm was being run was dismissed. The plea of the farmer that she had already paid the entire lease money of that land in advance, was accepted. While making a reference to this judgment the Collector very conveniently ignored the following note of warning struck by the learned Judge who decided that case:--
'I am not laying down as a matter of law that loss of earnings can be claimed for the unexpired period of lease or for such long period during which the claimants would have remained in possession of the land on which the business was set up and simply say that it will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case proved therein, the period during which either the business could be reasonably carried on or it will be reasonable for the Court to award compensation for loss of earnings in a reasonable manner. Therefore, nothing said in this judgment, which proceeds on the peculiar facts of this case, would be taken to be any expression of opinion as a matter of law to be followed in other cases.................. Therefore, no hard and fast rule is being laid in this case as to for what period a claimant can claim compensation for loss of earnings which will depend on the facts and circumstances of each case.'
I am thus satisfied that a reference to this judgment by the Collector was only with a view to provide a cover to his award which is otherwise completely unjustified. Furthermore the learned counsel for the Union of India tells me that the Collector made the payment of this huge amount of compensation to the respondent post-haste out of the amounts which were lying with him for payment to other claimants, According to him the Union of India had not as yet made the amount of this award available to him for payment to the respondents. All this, to my mind, should have aroused the suspicion of the State Government to probe into the conduct of this Collector. According to the learned counsel for the parties this Collector in all probability has by now retired from service. Even if that is correct, then, to my mind, retirement by itself does not furnish any defence to one's criminality if it is otherwise established. Well it is for the State Government to look into this matter. The net result is that the award as such cannot legally be sustained from any angle.
5. At the same time it cannot be disputed that the Collector was duty bound to offer some compensation to the claimants on account of their loss of earnings under clause fourthly of S. 23 of the Act as it envisages that any damage or loss of earnings that can be foreseen has to be assessed and compensated for. This loss to the claimants, to my mind, could not in any case be more than Rs. 31050/- i.e., their nine moths income from the farm, as already indicated above. Of course, solatium at the rate of 30% too was payable to them in the light of Act No. 68 of 1984 which came into force with effect from April 30, 1982.
6. Thus while setting aside the impugned award dt. June 15, 1983, I allow Rs. 31050/- plus solatium as specified in Act No. 68 of 1984 by way of compensation to the respondent-claimants on account of their loss of earnings from the poultry farm as discussed above. Since the entire amount as awarded by the Collector has already been paid to them, they are directed to refund the excess amount, i.e., after deducting the compensation amount allowed by me out of the amount already paid to them within a period of three months from today. In case of their failure to comply with this direction the petitioners-Union of India would be well entitled to recover this amount with interest at the rate of 12% per annum up to the date of actual payment in addition to any other remedy that may be available to the petitioners. The respondents are also made liable to pay Rs. 500/- by way of costs to the petitioners Union of India.
7. Further I direct that a copy of this judgment be sent to the Chief Secretary to the State Government for such necessary action as the Government may care to take.
8. Petition allowed.