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Bhutnath Chatterjee Vs. State of West Bengal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Appeal No. 654 of 1966
Judge
Reported in(1969)3SCC675
ActsLand Acquisition Act, 1 of 1894 - Section 4, 17(4), 18, 5-A, 6, 11, 23, 24
AppellantBhutnath Chatterjee
RespondentState of West Bengal and ors.
Excerpt:
.....subordinate court or tribunal, not appellate cannot correct merely an error of law and fact -the land acquisition act, 1894 (1 of 1894) successive notifications under section 4 — determination of compensation which notification to be taken into consideration principle laid down -- pursuant to those notifications steps were taken for compulsory acquisition of lands belonging to the appellant. the special land acquisition collector awarded to the appellant, for compulsory acquisition of his land, compensation determined on the basis of the market-value prevailing on january 12, 1955. at the instance of the appellant a reference was made to the district court under section 18 of the land acquisition act. under section 4 of the land acquisition act, the appropriate government may..........1955, the government of west bengal published in the government gazette a notification under the land acquisition act 1 of 1894 that:“whereas it appears to the governor that land in the district of burdwan is likely to be needed for a public purpose viz. for the development of industries in durgapur area, notice is hereby given to all whom it may concern that in exercise of the powers conferred by section 4 of the land acquisition act, 1 of 1894, the governor has authorised the officers and their subordinates for the time being engaged on this undertaking to enter upon and survey land and do all other acts required for the proper execution of their work as provided for or specified in the said section.”appended to the notification was the description of “a general.....
Judgment:

J.C. SHAH, J.

1. On January 12, 1955, the Government of West Bengal published in the Government Gazette a Notification under the Land Acquisition Act 1 of 1894 that:

“Whereas it appears to the Governor that land in the district of Burdwan is likely to be needed for a public purpose viz. for the development of industries in Durgapur area, notice is hereby given to all whom it may concern that in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1 of 1894, the Governor has authorised the officers and their subordinates for the time being engaged on this undertaking to enter upon and survey land and do all other acts required for the proper execution of their work as provided for or specified in the said section.”

Appended to the notification was the description of “a general route” to be followed for the survey of the lands likely to be needed for the purpose specified.

Another notification was published on November 12, 1956, that:

“Whereas it appears to the Governor that land is likely to be needed for a public purpose, … it is hereby notified that a piece of land measuring more or less 1860.92 acres and comprising cadastral plots as detailed … are likely to be needed for the aforesaid public purpose at the public expenses in the district of Burdwan.

This notification is made under the provisions of Section 4 of Act 1 of 1894, to all whom it may concern.”

In the notification it was recited that any “person interested in” the land “as are not waste or anable, who has any objection to the acquisition thereof may within thirty days after the date on which public notice of … this notification is given, file an objection in writing before the Collector of Burdwan”. The notification also recited that in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 17(4) of the Land Acquisition Act 1 of 1894 as amended by Act 38 of 1923 it was directed that the provisions of Section 5-A of the Act shall not apply to the waste or arable portions of the land. The notification was followed by a schedule of a large number of cadastral plots. One more notification under Section 4(1) of the Act was published on June 3, 1958, in respect of certain other lands which were not waste or arable lands.

2. Pursuant to those notifications steps were taken for compulsory acquisition of lands belonging to the appellant. The Special Land Acquisition Collector awarded to the appellant, for compulsory acquisition of his land, compensation determined on the basis of the market-value prevailing on January 12, 1955. At the instance of the appellant a reference was made to the District Court under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act. The District Judge upheld the contention raised by the appellant that compensation payable for the plots of land notified for acquisition ought to be determined on the basis of the market-value prevailing on November 12, 1956 and June 3, 1958.

3. The Government of West Bengal moved a petition against that order under Article 227 of the Constitution in the High Court of Calcutta. In the view of the High Court “there was no absolute rule that where there are successive notifications issued under Section 4 compensation must be determined” on the basis of the market-value prevailing on the date of the last notification. The High Court accordingly set aside the order of the District Judge, and directed that the reference be tried according to law and in the light of the findings recorded.

4. In our judgment, exercise by the High Court of its jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution in the circumstances of this case was not justified. The District Court held that compensation payable to the owners of land had to be determined on the basis of the market-value on the dates of the notifications, dated November 12, 1956 and June 3, 1958, and not on the basis of the notification dated January 12, 1955. To revise that decision jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 227 of the Constitution could not be exercised. Normally the High Court exercises jurisdiction under Article 227 of the Constitution to ensure that a subordinate court or tribunal does not transgress the limits of its jurisdiction. The jurisdiction with which the High Court is invested is not appellate: it cannot seek to correct what it regards as merely an error of law or fact.

5. Even taking the most liberal view of the power of the High Court, it cannot be said, without further investigation, that the decision of the District Court was liable to be set aside on the materials on the record. Under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, the appropriate Government may issue a notification that land is needed or is likely to be needed for a public purpose. When such a notification is issued officers of the Government generally or specially authorised in that behalf may enter upon and take measures necessary for survey of the land, and also for determining its suitability for the purpose for which it is likely to be needed. Section 5-A provides that any person interest to in any of the land notified under Section 4(1) as being needed or likely to be needed for a public purpose may object to the acquisition of the land or any land in the locality. The Collector must consider the objection after giving an opportunity to the party raising the objection, and after hearing all such objections, and after making such further inquiry as he thinks fit, he must submit the case for the decision of the appropriate Government together with the record of the proceedings held by him and a report containing his recommendations on the objections. “Except in those cases where by a notification issued under Section 17(4) the inquiry under Section 5-A is dispensed with, the opportunity to raise objection and the consideration of the objection by the Collector and the Government is obligatory. Under Section 6 the Government may, after considering the report of the Collector under Section 5-A and being satisfied that the land is needed for a public purpose, make a declaration and that declaration is conclusive evidence that the land is needed for a public purpose, and that the Government may thereafter acquire the land in the prescribed manner. After the notification under Section 6 is issued, the Government will appoint an Officer to take order for acquisition. That Officer after issuing a public notice and after inviting objections has to proceed to make an award under Section 11, setting out the true area of the land, the compensation which in his opinion should be allowed for the land; and the apportionment of the compensation among all the persons known or believed to be interested in the land. This award is of the nature of an offer on behalf of the Government to pay compensation for the land to be acquired. The owner of the land may, but is not bound to, accept the compensation so awarded. He may require the Collector to refer for determination by the District Court his objections as to the measurement of the land, the amount of compensation and the person to whom the compensation is to be paid. When such a reference is made, the District Court will deal with the matter on the evidence and will determine compensation payable to the claimant according to the principles prescribed in Sections 23 and 24. Under Section 23 compensation which is payable to the claimant is the market-value of the land at the date of the publication of the notification under Section 4(1) adjusted in the manner provided by clauses secondly to sixty in sub-section (1) of Section 23. The notification under Section 4(1) has therefore, a vital significance in determining the compensation.

6. In the present case the notification issued by the Government on January 12, 1955, set out a “general route for the survey of the lands” likely to be needed for a public purpose. We may assume for the purpose of this appeal that the lands within the “general route for the survey of the lands” which were notified as likely to be needed for a public purpose included the same lands in respect of which the subsequent notifications were issued. But there is no evidence that pursuant to those notifications any objections were invited or any inquiry was made by the Collector under Section 5-A of the Act and any report was submitted to the Government. There is also no evidence that by a notification under Section 17(4) of the Act an inquiry under Section 5-A was dispensed with. No attempt was also made to explain why it was thought necessary to issue the two later notifications under Section 4(1) Dated November 12, 1956 and June 3, 1958. The circumstances that an inquiry under Section 5-A after consideration of the objections raised by the claimants, and that the report of the Collector were not made, may reasonably justify the inference that the previous notification dated January 12, 1955 was not acted upon or was not intended to be acted upon. The learned Judges of the High Court assumed that in the absence of special circumstances when there are successive notifications under Section 4(1) in respect of the same land, the first notification will govern the assessment of the market-value under Section 23 of the Land Acquisition Act. But the question in each case is whether there was an intention to supersede the previous notification; and if the Government does not choose to explain the reasons which persuaded it to issue a second notification, the Court may be justified in inferring that it was intended to supersede the earlier notification by the later notification.

Determination of the question whether the first notification remained operative, therefore, depended upon proof of facts. The High Court could not entertain a petition under Article 227 of the Constitution against the order of the District Judge, and determine an important issue of fact on which the case of the appellant largely depended, on a presumption. Against the award of compensation by the District Court, an appeal lies to the High Court, and in that appeal the question would be fully considered in all its aspects on the evidence on the record. This was not a case in which the jurisdiction of the High Court under Article 227 of the Constitution could be invoked or exercised.

The order passed by the High Court is set aside. We direct that the District Court do proceed to determine the compensation payable to the appellant according to law. It will be open to the High Court, if an appeal is filed against the award, to consider the question whether the District Court was justified in computing the compensation payable to the appellant under Section 23 firstly, with reference to the date of the notification dated January 12, 1955, or the later notifications. The State will pay costs of the appellants in this Court. Costs in the High Court will be the costs in the proceedings before the District Court.


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