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Kajori Lal Agarwal Vs. Union of India (Uoi) and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided On
Judge
Reported in[1966]3SCR141
ActsWest Bengal Land (Requisition and Acquisition) Act, 1948 - Sections 7, 8, 8(1) and 8(2); Land Acquisition Act, 1894 - Sections 7(2), 8, 12(2), 18(2), 19 to 22, 25 to 28
AppellantKajori Lal Agarwal
RespondentUnion of India (Uoi) and ors.
Cases Referred(vide Kajori Lal Agarwal v. The Union of India
Excerpt:
.....direction to land acquisition officer to reconsider application for reference if made within time - reference rejected as time barred - appellant's petition against order of rejection before high court got rejected - special leave appeal before supreme court - supreme court observed section 8 (2) of west bengal act section 18 (2) of central act specifically prescribes limitation for making of reference applications - phrase 'in respect of any reference made to the court' does not mean that provisions are applicable after reference is made - phrase includes all cases where reference is intended or proposed or asked to be made and application in that behalf must be made within limitation prescribed by section 18 (2) of central act - apex court held, application for reference was time..........high court is right in holdingthat no period of limitation is prescribed by s. 8 of the act for making anapplication for reference. if we hold that s. 8 prescribes a period oflimitation, then the question as to whether the appellant moved respondent no.3 within a reasonable time, will not fall to be considered; and so, we mustfirst consider this question. 8. section 8 of the act reads thus :- 'reference to court. 8. (1) the collector shall inevery case - (a) where any person aggrieved byan award made under sub-section (2) of section 7 makes an application requiringthe matter to be referred to the court; or (b) where there is anydisagreement with regard to the compensation payable under sub-section (3) ofsection 7 between the collector and the person to whom possession of any land.....
Judgment:

Gajendragadkar, C. J.

1. The appellant Kajori Lal Agarwal was the owner-in-khas of 37.85 acres ofland in Mouza Shibnath Das J. L. No. 110 and Mouza Kholai Singh J. L. No. 112in Siliguri Town in the district of Darjeeling. The said lands were acquired bythe Union of India, and the State of West Bengal, respondents 1 & 2respectively, under the relevant provisions of the West Bengal Land(Requisition and Acquisition) Act, 1948 (No. 2 of 1948) (hereinafter called'the Act') for the Assam Rail Link Project. Respondent No. 3 is the LandAcquisition Officer, Darjeeling. In those proceedings, the appellant claimedcompensation at a flat rate of Rs. 100 per cottah amounting to Rs. 2,27,100. Healso put in a claim for Rs. 8,000 on account of the severance and othergrounds. Respondent No. 3 made an award under s. 7 of the Act on the 5thFebruary, 1951 directing the payment of Rs. 22,074 to the appellant in lieu ofhis lands at the rate of Rs. 600 per acre. After the award was pronounced, anotice was served on the appellant under s. 12(2) of the Land Acquisition Act,1894 (No. 1 of 1894) (hereinafter called 'the Central Act'). On the 21st March,1951, the appellant accepted the said amount as compensation money underprotest.

2. Thereafter, the appellant filed an application before respondent No. 3 onthe 2nd February, 1953 and claimed that a reference should be made by him tothe Court for decision of his claim for a larger amount of compensation unders. 8 of the Act. The appellant alleged in his application that having regard tothe market value of the land at the relevant time, the amount awarded to him byrespondent No. 3 was grossly inadequate. Respondent No. 3 rejected theappellant's application for reference on the ground that it was barred by time.

3. The appellant challenged the validity of this order by moving theCalcutta High Court in its revisional jurisdiction (Civil Revision Case No. 676of 1954). On the 16th June, 1955, a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Courtallowed the appellant's application and sent the case to respondent No. 3 witha direction that the appellant's application for reference should be dealt within accordance with law. In remitting the case to respondent No. 3, the HighCourt observed that though, in its opinion, no limitation had been prescribedfor making an application for reference, such an application must neverthelessbe made within a reasonable time. On that view, the High Court left it torespondent No. 3 to consider whether the appellant had moved for referencewithin a reasonable time (vide Kajori Lal Agarwal v. The Union of India &Ors.;)

4. After the appellant's application was thus remanded to respondent No. 3,he filed an affidavit on the 27th August, 1956 and explained in detail thereasons for the delay made by him in filing his application for reference. Onthe 10th September, 1956 respondent No. 3 rejected the appellant's applicationon the ground that he had neglected to move for reference within a reasonabletime.

5. This order was challenged by the appellant again by moving the CalcuttaHigh Court under Art. 227 of the Constitution read with s. 115 of the Code ofCivil Procedure (Civil Rule No. 3886 of 1956). On the 6th July, 1959, this casewas heard by a Division Bench of the said High Court and the application madeby the appellant was dismissed on the ground that the High Court saw no reasonto interfere with the order passed by respondent No. 3. It is against thisorder that the appellant has come to this Court by special leave.

6. On behalf of the appellant, Mr. Anoop Singh contends that the High Courtwas in error in not reversing the decision of respondent No. 3; and in supportof his argument, he has relied on the fact that on the 12th January, 1953, the CalcuttaHigh Court had ruled in the case of Birendra Nath Ray Sarkar & Another v.Union of India & Another : AIR1953Cal595 (Civil Rule No. 2940 of 1951) thatthere was no prescribed period of limitation for an application for referenceunder s. 8 of the Act, and it was only after the appellant knew about thisdecision that he was advised to make his present application for reference. Mr.Anoop Singh argues that this fact should have been taken into account by theCalcutta High Court and on that ground, the decision of respondent No. 3rejecting the appellant's application should have been reversed.

7. Before we deal with this argument, however, it is necessary to considerthe basic question as to whether the Calcutta High Court is right in holdingthat no period of limitation is prescribed by s. 8 of the Act for making anapplication for reference. If we hold that s. 8 prescribes a period oflimitation, then the question as to whether the appellant moved respondent No.3 within a reasonable time, will not fall to be considered; and so, we mustfirst consider this question.

8. Section 8 of the Act reads thus :-

'Reference to Court.

8. (1) The Collector shall inevery case -

(a) where any person aggrieved byan award made under sub-section (2) of section 7 makes an application requiringthe matter to be referred to the Court;

or

(b) where there is anydisagreement with regard to the compensation payable under sub-section (3) ofsection 7 between the Collector and the person to whom possession of any land isdelivered under section 6 refer the matter to the decision of the Court.

(2) The provisions of the LandAcquisition Act, 1894 (No. 1 of 1894), shall mutatis mutandis apply in respectof any reference made to the Court under sub-section (1)'.

9. We have already noticed that when the appellant moved the Calcutta Highcourt on an earlier occasion, the Calcutta High Court had ruled that nolimitation had been prescribed by s. 8, though it had added that an applicationhad nevertheless to be made within a reasonable time. Mr. Anoop Singh naturallysupports this decision.

10. It is plain that s. 8(2) makes the provisions of the Central Actapplicable mutatis mutandis in respect of any reference made to the Court undersub-s. (1). The Calcutta High Court has held that the effect of the provisionsprescribed by this sub-section is to make the relevant provisions of theCentral Act applicable to proceedings subsequent to the making of thereference. This view proceeds on the basis that when sub-s. (2) refers to anyreference made to the Court, it emphasises the fact that up to the making ofthe reference the provisions of the Central Act have no application. In otherwords, this provision does not permit the application of the relevantprovisions of the Central Act in relation to all proceedings which take placeprior to the making of the reference. When a reference has been made under s.8(1), a stage is reached for the application of the provisions of the CentralAct. This provision does not allow the application of the relevant provisionsof the Central Act at any stage prior to the making of the reference. Onecannot extend backwards the said provisions. That is how the matter has beensuccinctly put by the High Court in holding that the period of limitation prescribedby s. 18(2) of the Central Act cannot apply to an application for referencemade under s. 8(1) of the Act.

11. Section 18 of the Central Act reads thus :-

'18. (1) Any personinterested who has not accepted the award may, by written application to theCollector, require that the matter be referred by the Collector for thedetermination of the Court, whether his objection be to the measurement of theland, the amount of the compensation, the persons to whom it is payable, or theapportionment of the compensation among the persons interested.

(2) The application shall statethe grounds on which objection to the award is taken :

(a) if the person making it waspresent 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 sixweeks of the receipt of the notice from the Collector under section 12,sub-section (2), or within six months from the date of the Collector's award,whichever period shall first expire'.

12. There is no doubt that if the provisions of s. 18(2) can be said toapply to an application made for reference under s. 8 of the Act, the periodsof limitation prescribed by sub-s. (2) of s. 18 of the Central Act would beattracted; and if they apply, the appellant's application originally made torespondent No. 3 for reference is barred by time.

13. In our opinion, the High Court was in error in reading the clause'in respect of any reference made to the Court' in s. 8(2) of the Actas referring to cases where reference has already been made. In the context,what the clause means is that the provisions of the Central Act shall mutatismutandis apply in respect of any reference intended, proposed, or asked, to bemade, and not in respect of any reference already made. Having regard to thescheme of s. 8, considered in the light of the other provisions of the Act, itseems to us clear that the object of the Legislature in making the relevantprovisions of the Central Act applicable to reference was to take in all therelevant provisions of the Central Act which had reference to the making ofreference; and naturally, these provisions would begin with s. 18 of theCentral Act which is the first section in Part III of the Central Act dealingwith reference to Court and procedure thereon. It would, we think, beunreasonable to hold that until a reference in made, the said provisions do notapply and it is only after the reference is made that the said provisions beginto operate.

14. It is true that s. 8(1) of the Act uses the mandatory words 'theCollector shall refer the matter to the decision of the Court'; but thatdoes not mean that it necessarily excludes the application of the provision asto limitation. Section 18(1) of the Central Act, though somewhat differentlyworded, has in law the same effect. It provides that any person interested whohas not accepted the award may, by written application to the Collector,require that the matter be referred by the Collector for the determination ofthe Court. This provision also, in substance, is mandatory. If an applicationis made by a person entitled to make such application, the Collector has nooption in the matter; he has to refer it to the Court; but even this provisionis subject to the limitation prescribed by sub-section (2). The position withregard to the mandatory provision contained in s. 8(1) of the Act is exactlysimilar. Therefore, the fact that s. 8(1) uses the word 'shall' andimposes an obligation on the Collector to refer the matter of the decision ofthe Court, does not preclude the application of a provision for limitationprescribed in regard to the making of an application for reference.

15. On principle, it seems extremely unlikely that the Act which deals withacquisition and requisition of properties, could have intended to leave it tothe sweet-will of the parties to make an application for reference at any timethey like. The High Court no doubt realised the anomalies which would result inadopting such a construction; and so, while it upheld the appellant'scontention that there was no limitation prescribed for the making of anapplication for reference under s. 8 of the Act, it added the corollary thateven though no limitation is prescribed, the application must nevertheless bemade within a reasonable time. In our opinion, it is unnecessary to invoke sucha general consideration, because s. 8(2) of the Act, in terms, makes s. 18(2) ofthe Central Act applicable, and there is no occasion to consider whether aparticular application has been made within a reasonable time or not.

16. It is somewhat remarkable that if the view accepted by the Calcutta HighCourt about the construction of s. 8(2) of the Act is correct, even theamendment subsequently made by the Bengal Legislature would be ineffective. Itappears that presumably as a result of the decision of the Calcutta High Court,s. 8(2) of the Act has been amended by Act VIII of 1954. The amended provisionreads thus :-

'8. (2) The provisions of sub-section (2) ofsection 18 and of sections 19 to 22 and of sections 25 to 28 of the LandAcquisition Act, 1894, and the principles set out in sub-section (1) and inclause (a) of sub-section (2) of section 7 of this Act, shall, so far as theymay be applicable, apply in respect of any reference made to the Court undersub-section (1)'.

17. It would be noticed that this amended provision had taken the precautionof expressly referring to section 18(2) of the Central Act along with othersections as section which are applicable to the proceedings under theprovisions of the Act. Even so, the clause that these provisions will apply'in respect of any reference made to the Court under sub-section (1)'still occurs in the amended provision; and if it is held that the words'any reference made to the Court' speak about the proceedings thatfollow the making of the reference, then the same difficulty may arise as tothe application of s. 18(2) of the Central Act to an application made forreference under s. 8(1) of the Act. This amended provision lends support to theview that the clause 'in respect of any reference made to the Court'does not mean that the provisions have to apply after such a reference is made,but that it includes all cases where reference is intended, or proposed, orasked, to be made; and that means that if a party wants to make an applicationfor reference, he is no doubt entitled to require the Collector to make such areference, but his application in that behalf must be made within thelimitation prescribed by s. 18(2) of the Central Act. In our opinion, in regardto the application of s. 18(2) of the Central Act in respect of applicationsmade for reference under s. 8(1) of the Act, no amendment was really necessary;but, of course, the Legislature thought it necessary to make the amendment inview of the decision of the Calcutta High Court on the application made by theappellant on the earlier occasion to that High Court.

18. Since we hold that the application originally made by the appellant torespondent No. 3 under s. 8(1) of the Act on the 2nd February, 1953 forreference, was barred by time, it is not necessary to consider the appellant'splea whether it was made within a reasonable time. Section 8(2) of the Act readwith s. 18(2) of the Central Act specifically prescribes limitation for themaking of such applications; and there is no doubt that having regard to thesaid provisions, the appellant's application is barred by time.

19. The result is, the appeal fails, and the order passed by the High Courtis confirmed, though on different grounds. There would be no order as to costs.

20. Appeal dismissed.


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