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Misri Devi Vs. the Collector of Delhi and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Writ Appeal Nos. 202, 203, 204, 320, 369 and 393 of 1967
Judge
Reported inILR1977Delhi411; 1977RLR264
ActsRequisition and Acquisition of Immoveable Property Act, 1952 - Sections 3
AppellantMisri Devi
RespondentThe Collector of Delhi and anr.
Advocates: Ravinder Sethi,; C.L. Itorora,; R.K. Makhija,;
Cases Referred(R. v. National Insurance Commissioners
Excerpt:
requisitioning & acquisition of immovable property act (1952) - section 3--notice under--requirement of--notice specifying that the property requisitioned was required for accommodating government officers but not mentioning that the said public purpose is the purpose of the union--whether valid and legal.; in the instant case, it was contended on behalf of the petitioner that though it is true that the premises have been requisitioned for accommodating government officers, it is no where said in the notice that this purpose is the purpose of the union. it was said that unless it is shown that the public purpose is the purpose of the union, requisitioning must be held to be illegal:; (repelling the said contention), that there is no warrant for the view that the notice must state.....avadh behari rohatgi, j.(1) these are six writ petitions. all of them involve one point namely, the governments power of requisitioning under the requisitioning and acquisition of immovable property act of 1952 (the act). this judgment will govern them all.(2) in 1966 shri b. n. tandon, collector delhi issued notices under section 3 of the act in respect of four houses in delhi. one house was a i/a, situated in model town. the second one was at lucknow road. the third one was 28/8, shakti nagar. anthe fourth one was also in shakti nagar and numbered 1 1 /10.(3) the notices issued by the collector under section 3 of the act in all these cases were very much identical. in the notice the collector said : 'inexercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of section 3 and by section 4 of.....
Judgment:

Avadh Behari Rohatgi, J.

(1) These are six writ petitions. All of them involve one point namely, the Governments power of requisitioning under the Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act of 1952 (the Act). This judgment will govern them all.

(2) In 1966 Shri B. N. Tandon, Collector Delhi issued notices under Section 3 of the Act in respect of four houses in Delhi. One house was A I/a, situated in Model Town. The second one was at Lucknow Road. The third one was 28/8, Shakti Nagar. Anthe fourth one was also in Shakti Nagar and numbered 1 1 /10.

(3) The notices issued by the Collector under Section 3 of the Act in all these cases were very much identical. In the notice the Collector said :

'INexercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (2) of Section 3 and by Section 4 of the said Act, I, B. N. Tandon, Collector, Delhi being a competent authority under the said Act having been satisfied tht it is necessary and expedient so to do. I do hereby requisition the said property for accommodating Government Officers and I hereby order the said ..............................to surrender or deliver possession thereof to the Tehsildar, Delhi within thirty days of the service of the notice.'

(4) The owners filed objections. The Collector heard the owners.He dismissied the objections holding that the premises in question were surplus to the requirements of the owners. In his order he stated clearly that the premises were required for accommodating Government officers/offices of Delhi Administration. In Civil Writ No. 369/67 the Collector in his affidavit in-opposition has amplified the public purpose for which he requisitioned .these premises. In paragraph 10 he said :

'THEproperty had been acquired for the public purpose i.e. accommodating the officers/offices of Delhi Administration. There is an acute shortage of accommodation with the administration and there are about 64 officers on the waiting list. The requisitional property is actually required for the use of government officers and is to be allotted to the sub-Judges/Magistrates of Delhi Administration.'

(5) After the Collector had dismissed the objections, owners preferred appeals to the Lt. Governor under Section 10(3) of the Act. In the appeals owners asked for stay of the operation of the order of the Collector. The Lt. Governor declined to stay. Thereupon the owners filed these writ petitions under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India. This Court granted stay of dispossession at the request of the owners. Now these writ petitions have come up for final hearing.

(6) C.WS. 202, 203 and 204 of 1967 relate to house No. Al/l, Model Town. Delhi. One writ is by the owner. The other two writs are by the tenants of the same house. The remaining three writ petitions relate to houses of Lucknow Road (C. W. 320/67), Shakti Nagar (C. W. 369/67) and Shakti Nagar (C. W. 393/67).

(7) In all the cases the order of the Collector is being attacked on one principal ground. It is that the premises have not been requisitioned in conformity with Section 3 of the Act. At this stage it is necessary to read Section 3. That section says :

'3.Power of requisition immovable property :-(1) Where the competent authority is of opinion that any property is needed or likely to be needed for any public purpose, being a purpose of the Union, and that the property should be requisitioned, the competent authority- (a) Shall call upon the owner or any other person who may be in possession of the property by notice in writing (specifying therein the purpose of the requisition) to show cause, within fifteen days of the date of the service of such notice on him, why the property should not be requisitioned; and (b) may, by order, direct that neither the owner of the property nor any other person shall, without permission of the competent authority, dispose of, or structurally alter, the property or let it out to a tenant until the expiry of such period, not exceeding two months, as may be specified in the order.

(2) If, after considering the cause, if any, shown by any person interested in the property or in possession thereof, the competent authority is satisfied that it is necessary or expedient so to do, it may, by ordei in writing, requisition the property and may make such further orders as appear to it to be necessary or expedient in connection with the requisitioning : Provided that no property or part thereof-

(A)which is bona fide used by the owner thereof as the residence of himself or his family, or (b) which is exclusively used either for religions worship by the public or as a school, hospital, public library or an orphanage or for the purpose of accommodation of persons connected with the management of such place or worship or such school, hospital, library or orphanage, shall be requisitioned : Provided further that where the requisitioned property consists of premises which are being used as a residence by a tenant for not less than two month immediately preceding the date of the service of notice under sub-section (1), the competent authority shall provide such tenant with alternative accommodation which, in its opinion, is suitable.

(8) Counsel argued that though it is true that the premises have been requisitioned for accommodating government officers/offices, it is no where said in the notice that this purpose is the purpose of the Union. It was said that unless it is shown that the public purpose is the purpose of the Union requisitioning must be held to be illegal. Counsel heavily relied on a Division Bench ruling of this Court (S. K. Kapoor and Haedayal Hardy, J.J.) in Seth Munna Lal v. Union of India, 1970 72 PLR 61, (Delhi Section) (1) in support of their submission. It is this argument and this authority which needs to be examined in these writ petitions.

(9) Undoubtedly the premises in dispute were requisitioned by the Collector 'for accommodating government officers'. The Collector clearly said so in his notice. He did not give any further particulars. In his order which he passed on the objections of the owners he said that the purpose of requisitioning is to accommodate officers/offices of Delhi Administration. In his affidavit-in-opposition the Collector further amplified it and said that there was a waiting list of officers, namely, sub Judges and Magistrates of Delhi Administration who were in need of accommodation and it was necessary to requisition the premises for accommodating them. With all these particulars and amplication can it be said that the notice of the Collector under Section 3 of the Act is invalid because it is not 'specifying therein the purpose of the requisition' and that the premises were not requisitioned for a ''public purpose being a purpose of the Union'.

(10) It is true that the Division Bench ruling in Seth Munna Lal's. case (supra) lends some support to the contention of the counsel. What happened in that case was that the Collector of Delhi acting as the Competent Authority under the Act issued a notice in exercise of the powers conferred on him by sub-section (1) of section 3 calling upon Seth Munna Lal, petitioner, to show cause why the property 26. Ferozeshah Road be not requisitioned. In the notice it was inter alias stated that 'the property described in the Schedule hereto annexed is needed for a public purpose viz. accommodating government officers/ offices being a purpose of the Union'. The words 'Delhi Administration' did not occur in the notice. But in the order which the collector passed he had said that the premises were being requisitioned for 'accommodating the government offices/officers of Delhi Administration'. The Court held that the requisition was not for the purpose of the Union. S. K. Kapur. J, speaking for the Court said :

'POSSIBLYaccommodating the Government Offices/Officers of Delhi Administration may have been the purpose of the Union having regard to the political set up of Delhi. I cannot, however, take notice of the addition in the order as the words 'Delhi Administration did not occur in the notice.' (page 63) In that case the property was required for housing the Central'

Bureau of Investigation. In the course of his judgment, S. K. Kapur, J. said :

'INthe affidavit Shri Tandon says that the premises were requisitioned for accommodating Government Officers/ Offices which is a purpose of the Union. That brings out clearly what was operating in the mind of the competent authority and shows that according to him accommodating Government Officer or Office would in all cases be a purpose of the Union.'

'ITappears to me that at the time of issue of notice the competent authority was not clear in its mind as to the purpose for which the property was likely to be used and vague expression 'Government Officers/Offices' was stated in the notice as well as in the order in view of the impediment caused by section 5 which limits the use of the property requisitioned to the purpose stated in the notice, as otherwise I see no reason why the notice and the order did not say that the property was required either for the Central Bureau of Investigation or for a Central Government Office. In my opinion, thereforee, the respondents have failed to show that the requisition was made in conformity with the provisions of said Act.'

(11) Seth Munna Lal's case (supra) was approvingly referred to in by another Division Bench (Hardayal Hardy and Jagjit Singh, JJ.) in Sarup Singh v. Union of India and another. 1970 (2) Delhi 464. The point there was, whether maintaining and running public school by Municipal Corporation of Delhi was a public purpose, being a purpose of the Union. The Court held that it was a public purpose as well as a purpose of the Union as the Parliament has plenary powers of legislation for the Union territories with regard to any subject, including Education and Local Government.

(12) In 1972 another Division Bench (S. Rangarajan and Rajindar Sachar JJ.) however, took a different view in Ballabh Das Aggarwal v. Lt. Governor of Delhi and another, 1972(1) Delhi 506. There the public purpose, namely, accommodating Government Officers/ Offices was held to be a purpose of the Union. Munna Lal's (supra) was referred to, but this Division Bench was unable to hold that accommodating Government Officers/Offices was not a public purpose or a purpose of the Union. In that case the Collector had issued a notice to the petitioner that the property was needed for a public purpose, namely for accommodating Government Officers/Offices, for the purpose of the Union. The Court held that the decision in the case of Seth Munna Lal (supra) was based on different facts. The requisitioning of the premises was held to be for the purpose of the Union Government. The writ petition was accordingly dismissed. The truth is that this Division Bench refused to follow Seth Munna Lal's case (supra).

(13) The counsel said that the decision of this Court in the case of Ballabh Dass Aggarwal (supra) was in appeal before the Supreme Court and thereforee. I should adjourn the hearing of the case till the decision of the Supreme Court. Counsel suggested that there was a conflict between the two Division Bench rulings of this Court, namely the case of Seth Munna Lal and the case of Ballabh Dass Aggarwal (supra) and that it would be proper if the decision of the Supreme Court is awaited. I did not agree. I asked the counsel to argue the cases.

(14) There is one important decision of the Supreme Court on the point. It is State of Bombay v. Bhanji Munji and another, : [1955]1SCR777 . That was a case of requisitioning under the Bombay Lane Requisition Act (Act 33 of 1948 as amended by Bombay Act 39 of 1950). In that Act the power of requisitioning is contained in Sectior 5. That section reads :

'5.Requisition of land. (1) If in the opinion of the State Government it is necessary or expedient so to do, that State Government may by order in writing requisition any land ................................................'

for the purpose of the State or any other public purpose :

(15) In State of Bombay v. Bhanji Munji (supra) the facts were that the housing situation in Bombay was acute, largely due to the influx of refugees. A race of proprietors in the shape of rapacious landlords who thrived on the misery of those who could find no decent roof over their heads sprang into being. All these necessitated the Government to take drastic steps. The Government introduced a class of beneficiaries. The first informant of such 'suppressed vacancies' or 'nominal occupation' was giving priority in respect accommodation, if the informant was genuinely in need of such. The number of applicants were so large that Government could not cope with the situation. There was not enough accommodation even for Government servants and Government purposes. So the Government declared that it could not consider further applications. The result was that at the time of allotment, it was apparent that there, was no intention to benefit public at large but to keep a privileged preserve for government servants. In order to put pressure on landlords and tenants to disclose vacancies which could be added to this privileged pool, rewards were handed out to houseless first informants by giving them the vacancies they were instrumental in discovering.

(16) The question arose whether the action of the Government was constitutional, and if the public purpose was served by their action. The court held that the acts of the authorities were intra virus as they really served public purpose, which in short is finding accommodation for the homeless. If thereforee a vacancy is allotted to a person who is in fact houseless, the purpose is fulfillled.

(17) The Bombay Act of 1949 was held intra vires. The Act could not be held invalid merely because it did not state in explicit terms the public purpose.

(18) With regard to the orders of requisition Bose, J. speaking for the Court said : 'We now turn to the orders of requisition. They can only be upheld if they conform to the provisions of the Act. The first question, thereforee, is, whether they were made for a State or public purpose as set out in Sections 5(1) and 6(4)...................... .,... In our opinion, it is not necessary to set out the purpose of the requisition in the order. The desirability of such a course is obvious because when it is not done proof of the purpose must be given in other ways and that exposes the authorities to the kind of charges we find here and to the danger that the Courts will consider them well founded. But in itself an omission to set out the purpose in the order is not fatal so long as the facts are established to satisfaction of the Court in some other way. The underlying principle of our decision, in-Biswabhusan Naik v. State of Orissa, : 1954CriLJ1002 , applies here.'

(19) In the face of this Supreme Court ruling it cannot be said that housing the Government Offices/Officers of Delhi Administration is not a public purpose or is not a purpose of the Union. The words 'Delhi Administration' it is true, do not appear in the notice of the Collector. The omission of these words is not fatal so long as that fact can be established to the satisfaction of the court in some other way, as the Supreme Court has said. It is true that under Section 3 of the Act the purpose of requisition has to be specified in the notice and that under Section 5 the property requisitioned under Section 3 ''shall be used for such purposes as may be mentioned in the notice of requisition'. But this does not mean that housing the Government Offices/Officers is not enough specification of 'the purpose of the requisition'.

(20) Under the Act requisition has to be not only for a public purpose but also for a purpose which is the purpose of the Union. Both these conditions must subsist at one and the same time. The first question is what is a public purpose It is neither possible nor wise to attempt a definition of such a concept as public purpose. In Mersey Docks and Harbour Board Trustees v. Cameron Ii, Hl Cases 443 (505) (6) Lord Westbury said that public purposes 'must be such as are required and created by the Government of the country, and are thereforee to be deemed part of the use and service of the Crown'. In Greig v. University of Edinburgh, L.R.I(1868) . S D 348 he somewhat amplified the definition by saying that such purposes are 'the purposes of the administration of the government of the country'. (See: Bank Voor Handel En Scheepvaart N. V. v. Slatford and another, 1953(1) Q. B. 248 .

(21) The concept of public purpose is not a static concept. Winds of change below upon it. It is impossible to define the limits within which the notion of the common good would have its operating radius. The needs of the society cannot be the same under different historical and sociological conditions. In times of crisis, stress and war, the public welfare usually makes more stringent and burdensome demands upon individual and groups than in times of peace and prosperity. The term public purpose is synonymous with governmental purpose. Public purpose has for its objective a public service or use that shall affect the inhabitants as a community, and not merely as individuals. In the constantly changing world in which we live it is impossible to have prefabricated definitions or formulae.

(22) The second requirement is that the public purpose must be 'a purpose of the Union'. The Act of 1952 was passed 'to provide for the requisitioning and acquisition of immovable property for the purpose of the Union'. In this case the need is of the Delhi Administration. That is certainly a purpose of the Union. As was said by the Supreme Court in the case of State of Bombay v. Ali Gulshan, : [1955]2SCR867 that on a combined reading of Entry 33 List I, Entry 36 in List Ii and Entry 42 of List Iii, in Schedule Vii of the Constitution, 'the categories of 'purpose' contemplated are three in number, namely, Union purpose, State purpose and any other public purpose. Though every State purpose and the Union purpose must be a public purpose, it is easy to think of cases where the purpose of the acquisition or requisition is neither the one nor the other but a public purpose. Acquisition of sites for the building of hospitals or educational institutions by private benefactors will be a public purpose, though it will not strictly be a State or Union purpose.'

(23) Article 246(4) in turn provides that 'Parliament has power to make laws with respect to any matter for any part of the territory of India not included in a State list notwithstanding that such matter is a matter enumerated in the State List'. This shows that the Parliament has plenary powers of legislation for the Union territories. It is also true, as was said by this Court in Seth Munna Lal's case (supra), 'Whatever may be the precise scope of the expression 'purpose of the Union', it cannot extend to a purpose with which the Union is not at all concerned. The purpose of the Union may be coextensive with its executive or legislative functions. It may also extend to matters with which the Union is either administratively or financially concerned. It cannot, however, be extended, for instance, to a purpose with which only a private body, or individual, or even a State as distinct from the Union may be concerned.'

(24) Relying on Union of India v. Prem Kumar Jain and others, : AIR1976SC1856 counsel contended that the purpose of the Delhi Administration is not a purpose of the Union. I do not agree. In the full Bench decision of this Court in Patiala Engineering Works v. Union of India, Air (1975) 1 Delhi 613, the special position of Delhi as Union Territory has been fully explained. There we pointedly drew attention to another Supreme Court decision S. K. Singh v. V. V. Gin, : [1971]2SCR197 where a different view has been expressed. It is to be regretted that this case was not brought to the notice of their Lordships of the Supreme Court in Prem Kumar Jain's case (supra). This apart, on any view of the matter I have no hesitation in holding that the purpose of the Delhi Administration is the purpose of the Union.

(25) This question also arose before T. V. R. Tatachari, J. (our present Chief Justice) in S. Harnam Singh and others v. Lieutenant Governor, Delhi and another, : AIR1970Delhi66 . There the premises were requisitioned by the Government for accommodating government servants. The owners of the property filed a petition for certiorari to quash the order of the Collector Shri B. N. Tandon. The learned Judge dismissed the writ petition. He held that there was no error apparent on the face of the record which merited interference.

(26) In Maharaja Satbir Singh v. Union of India, , the house was actually required for the office of the Housing Commissioner of Delhi Administration. In the notice for requisition it was stated that the house was required for public purpose, namely accommodation for public offices. Shamsher Bahadur. J. dismissed the argument that the notice was not in conformity with the Act. He said:

'THEpurpose stated is in compliance with the legal requirements and no prejudice could conceivably be caused when instead of mentioning the office of the Housing Commissioner, it was stated that the premises were required for accommodation of public offices'.

The learned Judge relied on State of Bombay v. Bhanji Munji (.supra).

(27) Counsel referred me to Aflatoon v. Lt. Governor of Delhi and others, : [1975]1SCR802 and argued that the particulars of the public purpose ought to be specified and unless a party is told about the specific purpose of the requisition it may not be possible for him to file a meaningful objection against the requisition under the Act.

(28) In my opinion it is not necessary to go to. Aflatoon's case (supra) to emphasise the proposition that notice in writing musi speciy the purpose of the requisition. Section 3(1)(a) itself says so. But the question is : Is not housing offices/officers of the Government, a specification of the public purpose of the Union in conformity with the Act. Following the Supreme Court decision in State of Bombay v. Bhanji Munji (supra) and the Division Bench ruling in Ballabha Dass Aggarwal's (supra) and Harnam Singh v. Lt. Governor, Delhi (supra) and Satbir Singh's case (supra) I would hold that the notices in question are in conformity with the Act. With great respect to the judges who decided Seth Munna Lal's case (supra) I would say that decision does not seem to be correct as the Supreme Court ruling of State of Bombay v. Bhanii Munji (supra) was not brought to their lordship's notice and the view taken by the latter Division Bench in Bhallabh Dass Aggarwal's case (supra) appears to be right. The learned Judges in Seth Munna Lals' case (supra) seem to have brought that it is not only necessary to state the public purpose, but also that that purpose is the purpose of the Union with full particulars. It is certainly desirable to do so. But if the words 'the purpose of the Union' are omitted the defect is not fatal because accommodating Government officers/offices is a purpose of the Union provided the offices/officers io be housed in the requisitioned premises are not the offices/officers of the State. The learned Judges in that case seem to have been impressed by the fact that the Act confers very drastic powers upon the Competent Authority to interefere with the rights of a citizen to hold and use property as he pleases. S. K. Kapur, J. said :

'WHENdealing with such a matter a very close scrutiny has to be brought to bear on the facts and law for the meagre safeguards available to the subjects cannot be diluted by conjuctural approach to the problem.'

This, I think, is the major premise of their judicial reasoning. .

(29) The requisitioning powers, it is true. are enjoyed by the Government under its power of eminent domain. This is the realm embracing property rights belonging to the community at large. It is the superior domain exerted by a sovereign state over all property within its boundaries that authorises it to appropriate all or any part thereof to a necessary public use, reasonable compensation being made. This species of property is much better described as 'public domain' or 'national domain'. It is the-power to take private property for public use.

(30) True it is that these powers must not be abused for the purpose of serving a purpose beyond I he legitimate scope of the powers conferred by the Act. But to say that accommodating Government Offices/Officers of the Delhi Administration is not a public purpose of the Union as the words 'Delhi Administration' have not been used is too narrow and pedantic a view. The right to resume possession of the property must be exercised in the manner directed by the Constitution and the law. whenever the public interest requires it. If it is not so done the exercise of power can be challenged and tested in the laboratory of Courts.

(31) In my opinon there is no warrant for the view that the notice must state that the public purpose is the purpose of the Union. It has only to specify the purpose of the requisition. That is the requirement of the statute. True an indispensable requirement. But the statute cannot be interpreted as lying down positively anything more than this. To hold that the notice must state that the purpose is the purpose of the Union is to supplement the written word. But the Judge cannot add words. That will be 'naked usurpation of the legislative function'. (Magor and St. Mellons v. Newport Corporation, (1952) Ac 189 191 per Lord Simon). That the purpose is the purpose of the Union can be proved aliunde i.e. from a source exterior to the notices. In statute law, the duty of the Judges, as Lord Devlin has said recently, is :

'SIMPLYto interpret and apply it and not to obstruct. I remain unconvinced that there is anything basically wrong with the rule of construction that words in a statute should be given their natural and ordinary meaning. The rule does not insist on a literal interpretation or require the construction of a statute without regard to its manifest purpose. There should be, as Lord Diplock has said recently, 'a purposive approach to the Act as a whole to ascertain the social ends it was intended to achieve and the practical means by which it was expected to achieve them'.

(R. v. National Insurance Commissioners (1972) A. C. 914 . But in the end the words must be taken to mean what they say and not what their interpreter would like them to say: the statute is the master and not the servant of the judgment'. (Lord Devlin : Judges and Law Makers 1976 M L R 13.)

(32) Had the Supreme Court decision not been there, I might have persuaded myself to refer these cases to a larger Bench to resolve the conflict between the two Division Bench rulings. But as the Supreme Court ruling has not been noticed either in Seth Munna Lal's case (supra) or Ballabh Dass Aggarwal's case (supra) I was emboldened to hear these cases and decide them. In my opinion the Supreme Court decision gives us sufficient guidance.

(33) In addition to the above mentioned points, counsel took other subsidiary points. The question of mala fide was raised in C. W. 369/67. Then it was said that the Collector did not give a proper hearing to the owners. It was submitted that the finding that accommodation was surplus to the landlord was erroneous since the premises were in the occupation of the owners himself. Next it was maintained that there was non-application of mind on the part of the competent authority.

(34) In C. Ws. 202, 203 and 204 of 1967 it was urged that there were two tenants in the Model Town house and they ought to have been provided alternative accommodation in terms of the proviso to Section 3(2) of the Act. It was also argued that the appellate authority dismissed the stay application by a non-speaking order and this worked injustice. To all these contentions there is one broad answer and it is this. From the order of the Collector an appeal lies to the Central Government under Section 10. These matters ought to be agitated in the appeal. Appeals in all the cases are pending except in C.W. 393/67 where the appeal was dismissed in default. thereforee, the remedy for the petitioners is the appeal and not writ. The statutory remedy has to be pursued. Whether there were tenants in occupation of the property, whether accommodation was surplus, whether Mr. K. N. Joshi was actuated by malice are all questions of fact. They are not errors of law. They can be corrected only by a Court sitting as a Court of appeal and not under Article 226 of the Constitution of India (See : Kaushalya Devi and others v. Bachittar Singh and others, : AIR1960SC1168 .

(35) The question that can be examined in the writ proceedings is whether the order passed by the Competent Authority is in comformity with the Act. On that question my conclusion is that the order 'of the Competent Authority is in conformity with the Act as the premises were requisitioned for a public purpose, being a, purpose of the Union. ' For these reasons I would dismiss all the writ petitions but make no order as to costs.


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