1. This is an appeal against the judgment of the High Court of AndhraPradesh by which it reduced the amount of compensation awarded to theappellants by the Subordinate Judge, Vijayawada in respect of certain landsbelonging to them which were acquired by the State.
2. The lands in question are survey Nos. 281/2, 339/1 to 8 and 338/1 to 3which are situate at a short distance from the town of Vijayawada and liealongside the Vijayawada-Eluru Road. The Land Acquisition Officer had fixed Rs.3,500 per acre for the first two of these survey Nos. and Rs. 4,000 per acrefor the third survey number. The learned Subordinate Judge granted a uniformrata of Rs. 10,000 per acre for the lands comprised in all the survey numbers.There were some disputes with regard to the entitlement to the compensation forsurvey No. 339/1 to 3 and the Land Acquisition Officer, therefore, made areference to the Court for the apportionment of the compensation amount amongthe various claimants. Six of the appellants did not accept the award of theLand Acquisition Officer and made applications in writing to him within thetime allowed by law for referring the matter for determination of the court. Itis common ground that no reference was made by the Land Acquisition Officer inpursuance of these applications. When the matter came up before the Court itproceeded on the footing that the reference made to it by the Land AcquisitionOfficer was not merely limited to the apportionment of compensation but wasalso with respect to the amount of compensation. No objection was, however,raised on behalf of the State that in the absence of any reference upon theapplications of six of the appellants the Court was incompetent to deal withthat matter. When the matter went up before the High Court by way of an appealfrom the judgment of the Subordinate Judge, the Government pleader raised thequestion that in the absence of a reference on the question of quantum ofcompensation by the Land Acquisition Officer, the Court had no jurisdiction toconsider that matter at all. The High Court, though it ultimately reversed thefinding of the court as to the amount of compensation, unfortunately allowedthe plea to be raised before it but ultimately upon a consideration of certaindecisions, negatived it. We say unfortunately because this is not a kind ofplea which the State ought at all to have taken. Quite clearly applicationsobjecting to the rates at which compensation was allowed were taken in time bypersons interested in the lands which were under acquisition and it was nofault of theirs that a reference was not made by the Land Acquisition Officer.Indeed, whenever applications are made under s. 18 of the Land Acquisition Act,it is the duty of the Land Acquisition Officer to make a reference unless thereis a valid ground for rejecting the applications such as for instance that theapplications were barred by time. Where an officer of the State is remiss inthe performance of his duties in fairness the State ought not to take advantageof this fact. We are further of the opinion that the High Court, after the pleahad been raised, would have been well-advised to adjourn the matter forenabling the appellants before us, who were respondents in the High Court, totake appropriate steps for compelling the Land Acquisition Officer to make areference.
3. All the same since the point was permitted to be urged before it by theHigh Court and has been raised before us on behalf of the State it is necessaryto decide it. On behalf of the appellants it was contended before the HighCourt that by reason of the failure of the State to raise the plea before theSubordinate Judge as to the absence of a reference the State must be deemed tohave waived the point. The High Court accepted this argument upon the view thatthis was not a case of inherent lack of jurisdiction and that the defect in theprocedure was such as could be waived. In our opinion the view of the HighCourt is not correct. Section 12(1) of the Land Acquisition Act provides thatafter an award is filed in the Collector's office it shall, except as providedin the Act, be final and conclusive evidence as between the Collector and thepersons interested of the true area and value of the land and the apportionmentof the compensation among the persons interested. The only manner in which thefinality of the award can be called into question is by resort to theprovisions of s. 18 of the Land Acquisition Act, sub-section (1) of which readsthus :
Any person interested who has not accepted theaward may, by written application to the Collector, require that the matter bereferred by the Collector for the determination of the Court, whether hisobjection be to the measurement of the land, the amount of the compensation,the persons to whom it is payable, or the apportionment of the compensationamong the persons interested.'
4. The proviso to sub-s. (2) prescribes the time within which an applicationunder sub-s. (1) is to be made. Section 19 provides for the making of areference by the Collector and specifies the matters which are to be comprisedin that reference. Thus the matter goes to the court only upon a reference madeby the Collector. It is only after such a reference is made that the court isempowered to determine the objections made by a claimant to the award. Section21 restricts the scope of the proceedings before the court to consideration ofthe contentions of the persons affected by the objection. These provisions thusleave no doubt that the jurisdiction of the court arises solely on the basis ofa reference made to it. No doubt, the Land Acquisition Officer has made areference under s. 30 of the Land Acquisition Act but that reference was onlyin regard to the apportionment of the compensation amongst the variousclaimants. Such a reference would certainly not invest the court with thejurisdiction to consider a matter not directly connected with it. This isreally not a mere technicality for as pointed out by the Privy Council inNusserwanjee Pestonjee & Ors. v. Meer Mynoodeen Khan Wullud Meer SudroodeenKhan Bahadoor 6 M.I.A. 134 at 155 wherever jurisdiction is given by a statuteand such jurisdiction is only given upon certain specified terms containedtherein it is a universal principle that those terms should be complied with,in order to create and raise the jurisdiction, and if the are not complied withthe jurisdiction does not arise. This was, therefore, a case of lack ofinherent jurisdiction and the failure of the State to object to the proceedingsbefore the court on the ground of an absence of reference in so far as thedetermination of compensation was concerned cannot amount to waiver oracquiescence. Indeed, when there is an absence of inherent jurisdiction, thedefect cannot be waived nor can be cured by acquiescence.
5. In Alderson v. Palliser & Anr. (1901) 2 K.B. 833 the Court ofAppeal held that where the want of jurisdiction appears on the face of theproceedings, it cannot be waived. In Seth Badri Prasad & Ors. v. SethNagarmal and Ors. (1959) Supp. (1) S.C.R. 769 this Court has held that eventhe bar of illegality of a transaction though not pleaded in the courts belowcan be allowed to be pleaded in this Court if it appears on the face of thepleading in the case. The High Court has, however, based itself largely upon adecision of the Privy Council in Venkata Krishnayya Garu v. Secretary of StateA.I.R. 1939 P.C. 39; 60 M.L.J. 399. In that case there was in fact areference by the Collector to the court but that reference was made by theCollector not upon the application of the person legally entitled tocompensation but by a person whose claim to ownership of property had failedbefore the civil court but who was still a party to the land acquisitionproceedings. In our opinion that decision is distinguishable on the shortground that whereas here there is no reference at all by the Collector or theLand Acquisition Officer, in that case the Collector had made a referencethough in making it he had committed an error of law in that he acted upon theapplication of a person who had been found to have no interest in the land.Disagreeing with the High Court we, therefore, hold that the Court had nojurisdiction to determine the amount of compensation and thus go behind theorder of the Land Acquisition Officer.
6. Upon this short ground the appeal must be dismissed. We have, howeverheard Mr. Bhimasankaram on merits and in our opinion there are no substantialgrounds which would justify interference with the conclusions arrived by theHigh Court.
7. For determining the amount of compensation seven sale deeds were filed,Exs. A1 to A4, on behalf of the State and B1 to B3 on behalf of the appellants.A synopsis of the sale deeds has been made by the High Court in its judgmentand we can do no better than to reproduce it :
Sl. Exhibit Date Extent Amount Rate per Proximity
No. of land Rs. acre of the site
Acs. cts. Rs. acquired
1 A-1 15-2-46 0-40 1/2 1,750 4,240 Opposite to the
suit land and
2. A-2 25-8-46 0-65 1/2 2,500 3,800 Some distance
away from the
site of the
3. A-3 9-10-46 1-00 4,500 4,500 Very near the
4. A-4 9-10-46 1-00 4,500 4,500 Part of the
same site, and
5. B-1 14-10-46 0-70 7 14-10-46 0-70 7 ,000 10,000 5 furlongs away
from the suit
6. B-2 14-2-47 1-09 Just over 5 furlongs away
12,000 12,000 towards Bezwada.
7. B-3 24-1-46 0-36 1,850 5,000 It is a part and
parcel of the
same land that
is sought to be
8. Out of these sale deeds Exs. A1 and A2 were rejected by the High Court,A1 on the ground that it is several months earlier than the date ofnotification under s. 4 of the Act and Ex. A2 on the ground that the landcomprised in it is some distance away from the land under acquisition and isalso further away from Vijayawada than this land. The High Court similarlyrejected Ex. B-2 on the ground that the transaction was entered into fourmonths after the publication of the notification and on the further ground thatit is located in the direction of Vijayawada at a distance of five furlongsfrom the land acquired. It has apparently rejected also Ex. B3, though the landsold thereunder is a part and parcel of the same land which is sought to beacquired. The ground appears to be that the land sold thereunder is only 36cents in area. It has accepted Exs. A3 and A4, and on that basis awardedcompensation at the rate of Rs. 4,500 per acre for all these lands. In so faras Ex. B1 as concerned the High Court has taken the view that though it bearsthe date of October 14, 1946 the circumstances that it was actually registeredon February 13, 1947 and some of the stamp papers used were in the names ofpersons unconnected with the transaction shows that it has really beenanti-dated so as to make it appear to be earlier in point of time than thenotification.
9. In our opinion what the High Court has said about these three exhibits,B1, B2 and B3, seems to have considerable force. At any rate we do not thinkthat there are any substantial grounds upon which we can look at thesetransactions in a different way. If these documents go away, as also Exs. A1and A2, we are left with only Exs. A3 and A4. Some argument was advanced beforeus to the effect that the lands comprised in the transactions represented bythese documents have no direct access to the road and that, therefore, theycould not have fetched a good price. Bearing in mind the fact that these areall agricultural lands a rate of Rs. 4,500 per acre at which they were soldcannot prima facie be regarded as inadequate. As regards access, it issufficient to say that they are parts of the same field which about on theroad, though the portions sold do not themselves about on the road. Since thelands sold under these sale deeds were part and parcel of the same field whichabuts on the road those who purchased these lands would naturally obtain aright of way over the land unsold so as to have access to the road.
10. In the circumstances we hold that the appeal is without substance.Accordingly we dismiss it with costs.
11. Appeal dismissed.