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Lt. Governor of Delhi and ors. Vs. Mandir Sita Ramji and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
Overruled ByShri Mandir Sita Ramji Vs. Lt. Governor of Delhi and Ors.
SubjectProperty
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetter Patent Appeal No. 377 of 1971
Judge
Reported inAIR1973Delhi218
ActsLand Acquisition Act, 1894 - Sections 8A
AppellantLt. Governor of Delhi and ors.
RespondentMandir Sita Ramji and anr.
Advocates: S. Pappu,; R.L. Tandon,; S.R. Soma Sekharan,;
Cases ReferredIn Grant v. Langston
Excerpt:
(i) land acquisition act (1894) - section 5-a--scope of--hearing contemplated is mandatory--inquiry by collector--purpose and nature of--objections of a legal nature--court directing hearing to be given--whether sufficient compliance.;that the hearing contemplated by section 5-a of the act is mandatory, for the person interested has no other opportunity to object to the proposed acquisition except in proceedings under section 5-a.;the inquiry by the collector is to serve a two-fold purpose; it is intended to instruct the mind of the government so that the government would be in a position to decide whether any land is needed for public purpose or for a company and it is also meant to act as a safeguard against any ill-informed action on the part of government.;the action of the government.....prakash narain, j.(1) this is an appeal under clause 10 of the letters patent against the judgment of a learned single judge of this court, who had issued a writ quashing the' notification dated 7th d november, 1968, issued under section 6 of the land acquisition act, 1894, in respect of certain lands in village karkar doma, shahdara, delhi. (2) the facts of the case are that on november 13, 1959, the delhi administration issued a notification under section 4 of the land aquisition act, 1894, (hereina (3) one of the points that were canvassed before us was that the notification under section 6 has been rightly quashed inasmuch as the hearing contemplated by section 5-a of the act was not given by the collector before making his recommendations to the delhi administration and even the.....
Judgment:
Prakash Narain, J.

(1) This is an appeal under clause 10 of the Letters Patent against the judgment of a learned single Judge of this Court, who had issued a writ quashing the' notification dated 7th D November, 1968, issued under section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, in respect of certain lands in village Karkar Doma, Shahdara, Delhi.

(2) The facts of the case are that on November 13, 1959, the Delhi Administration issued a notification under section 4 of the Land Aquisition Act, 1894, (hereina

(3) One of the points that were canvassed before us was that the notification under section 6 has been rightly quashed inasmuch as the hearing contemplated by section 5-A of the Act was not given by the Collector before making his recommendations to the Delhi Administration and even the Delhi Administration did not apply its mind to the objections of Shree Sita Ram Bhandar prior to making of the declaration under section 6 of the Act. We, thereforee, without prejudice to the contentions of the parties, directed by our order dated 6th April, 1972, that the Delhi Administration should give a hearing to Shree Sita Ram Bhandar on the objections that it filed before the Collector under section 5-A of the Act and a report about it as well as the decision of the Delhi Administration should be submitted to this Court by 27th April, 1972. The report of the Delhi Administration has been filed along with the decision of the Delhi Administration which has been taken on the record and made a part of it. According to this report, a hearing was afforded to Shree Sita Ram Bhandar which was represented by Counsel before the Delhi Administration. The proceedings of the hearing were conducted before Shri R.N. Puri, Deputy Secretary (Land & Buildings), Delhi Administration, who submitted the record of the hearing along with his report to the Secretary (Land & Buildings), Delhi Administration. Shri Prakbhar Kamath, Secretary (L & B), then put up all these papers, along with his comments, before the Lt. Governor who, agreeing with the report of Shri Puri, rejected the objections of Shree Sita Ram Bhandar.

(4) Before us, the points that have been agitated are as follows :

(A)No hearing having been given by the Collector as required under section 5-A of the Act, the declaration under section 6 of the Act has been rightly quashed by the learned single Judge.

(B)Inasmuch as the Collector did not make any recommendations in respect of the land in question, that the Delhi Administration could not record its satisfaction as has been rightly held by the learned single Judge.

(C)That the hearing now given by the Delhi Administration under the orders of the Court dated April 6, 1972, cannot be regarded as a hearing contemplated by section 5-A of the Act and the basic infirmity still remains.

(D)That the hearing under the orders of the Court was to be' given by the Delhi Administration and the hearing before the Deputy Secretary does not amount to compliance with the directions and orders of the Court.

(E)That in any case the hearing given by the Deputy Secretary, Delhi Administration was not a full hearing and the decision taken in pursuance of that cannot be regarded as a decision given in consonance with the provisions of law of or the principles of natural justice. Further, the order of the Lt. Governor is not a speaking order and so is vitiated.

(F)That the land in question is attached to a temple on the land dedicated to Hanumanji and so is land attached to a religious institution which results in the acquired land being exempt from the purview of the notification under section 4 of the Act.

(5) When the matter had been argued before the learned single Judge, the arguments were confined to non-compliance of the provisions of section 5-A of the Act and the non-application of his mind by the Collector to the objections of Shree Sita Ram Bhandar resulting in the Collector's failure to make any recommendation about the land in question. Both these objections were sustained by the learned single] Judge and he held that the requirement of a hearing under section 5-A as well as the requirement of the Collector making a recommendation not having been complied with in this case, the declaration under section 6 of the Act could not be sustained.

(6) At this stage it will be advantageous to notice what exactly happened before the Collector after Shree Sita Ram Bhandar had filed its objections. It seems that a notice was given to Shree Sita Ram Bhandar to attend a hearing on the 27th July, 1962, with regard to A the objections filed by it. On that day the objections filed were perhaps not readily traceable and so another copy of the objections was handed over to the Collector. On these objections, the following endorsement was made by the Collector:-

'PI.report if this property is that of mandir Sita Ramji a charitable institution and is exempt from the notification.'

(7) It is the common case of both the parties that no report was received by the Collector in respect of the endoresement made by .him on 27th July, J 962, and there was also no further hearing before the Collector. As already observed earlier, on 7th November, 1968, the Collector made his recommendations to the Delhi Administration in respect of the land in question. It would be advantageous to quote from this report. The Collector's recommendation in respect of the land in question was as follows:-

'ONEobjection was received from Shri D.R. Rungta, General Attorney of Shree Sita Ram Bhandar who stated that the objector had follow ing land and houses etc. in the land in question: (1) Land measuring 324 Bighas. (2) Five Cattle sheds pacca built of vast dimensions. (3) Several servants quarters. (4) Wells five in number. (5) One fruit garden. (6) Several Godowns. (7) One Shri Hanuman Mandir. (8) OnePathshala. Other objections raised by him are mostly of a general nature. Decision may kindly be taken after the inspection of site.'

(8) The objections that had been filed under section 5-A (Annexure 111 to the Writ Petition), inter (ilia, stated that Shree Sita Ram Bhandar the objector, is managing Shri Sita Ram Mandir and other temple in Pilani (Rajasthan) and other regilious and charitable institutions, e.g. Dharamshala, Yagyashalas, etc., in and outside Rajasthan; that the said objectors own and possess the following land and houses, etc., on it near village Karkar Doma, Shahdara, Delhi:-

(A)Land measuring 324 Bighas. (B) Five cattle sheds puce built of vast dimensions, (C) Several servants quarters, (D) Wells 5 in number, (E) One Fruit Garden, (F) Several Godowns, (G) One Shri Hanuman Mandir, (H) One Pathshala;

that all the above properties mentioned at items (B) to (H) are situated and built in the above mentioned land measuring 324 Brighas; that the above mentioned buildings were constructed and the land was purchased for the purpose of the said Trust and the income from the same has been used for the maintenance of a Gaushala and other religious institutions as described before; that the objectors object to the land and their properties being acquired, amongst others, for the reasons that the said Notification under section 4 of the Act is ultra virus the Constitution and, thereforee, a nullity and that the said land is the property of the religious institution and, thereforee, is exempted from being acquired under clause 2(d) of the said Notification under section 4 of the Act.

(9) There can be no dispute that the hearing contemplated by section 5-A of the Act is mandatory for the person interested has no other opportunity to object to the proposed acquisition except in proceedings under section 5-A. If land is acquired without affording the hearing contemplated by section 5-A, except where the provisions of section 17 of the Act are attracted, such acquisition has to be struck: down. It is settled law that the provisions of section 5-A of the Act with regard to affording a hearing are mandatory though some distinction may be made in the provisions of section 5-A with regard to the recommendations to be made by the Collector which have been held by some courts not to be mandatory in nature. But the real purpose of sec. 5-A is that on receipt of objections, the Collector must give a hearing to the objectors and he must also make a recommendation as contemplated by section 5-A, though those recommendations are not binding on the Government and are of mere recommendatory nature.What found favor with the learned single Jugde in the present case was not only that an opportunity to be heard on the objections was not afforded, but that the Collector abdicated his functions to make recommendations in respect of the land in question which he could not do. On this aspect, the learned single Judge has referred to the decision of a Bench of this Court in L.P.A. No. 11 of 1969, Hanuman Prasad Gupta and others vs. Lt. Governor and others, decided on 6th November, 1970(1). Construing that decision, the learned Judge came to the consclusion that in the case of Hanuman Prasad Gupta there was no complete abdication of his functions by the Collector inasmuch as he did apply his mind to the objections before him and came to the view that the objections being purely legal, the State Government may come to a conclusion thereon and he refrained from expressing any opinion about the same. In the present C case, according to the learned Judge, there was complete abdication of his mind and functions by the Collector and apart from summarizing the objections, he did not appy his mind at all to the matter before him. We are in respectful disagreement with this opinion of the learned Judge. But before we set down our reasons for it, it would be pertinent to examine the scope of the hearing contemplated by section 5-A of the Act as well as the scope and nature of the recommendations that a Collector is required to make in his report under section 5-A.

(10) As is evident on a reading of section 5-A, any person interested in the land which has been notified under section 4, sub-section (1), is required to submit his objections in writing. As was observed by Sikri, C. J. in Parshottamm Jadavji Jani vs . State ofGujrat and others, : AIR1971SC1188 , the said objections 'must allege some specific objections, such as these :

'(I)the notified purpose is not genuinely or properly a public purpose; (ii) the land notified is not suitable for the purpose for which it is notified; (iii) the land is not so well suited as other land; (iv) the area proposed is excessive; (v) obejector's land has been selected maliciously or vexatiously; (vi) the acquisition will destroy or impair the amenity of historical or artistic monuments and places of public resort; will take away important public rights of way or other conveniences or will desecrate religious buildings, graveyard and the like.'

(11) After admitting an obejction and after having given the objector an opportunity of being heard either in person or by pleader, the Collector is to decide whether it is desirable to hear oral or documentary evidence and in this hearing he shall afford to the other party an opportunity of rebutting the evidence led and of cross-examining the witnesses. Thereafter, the Collector makes his recommendations. The scope of the inquiry to be conducted by the Collector, however, is restricted. All that he has to find out in this inquiry is whether the objector is a person interested, the land in question is suitable for the public purpose for which it is being acquired, the extent of land which will meet the requirements of the specific public purpose, and whether the objections as filed on questions of fact are sustainable. The Collector may also opine as to whether the proposed acquisition should be proceeded with in respect of the public purpose for which the land has been notified for intended acquisition. The inquiry by the Collector is thus to serve a two-fold purpose : it is intended to instruct the mind of the Government so that the Government would be in a position to decide whether any land is needed for a public purpose or for a company, and it is also meant to act as a safeguard against any ill-informed action on the part of Government. It is left to the subjective satisfaction of the Government concerned to decide whether any particular land is needed for a public purpose or for a comapny. A safeguard has, however, been provided that the Government does not act on any incorrect information and thereby deprive a person of his property. The inquiry is intended to serve the purpose of affording an opportunity to the person interested to show that the land is not needed for a public purpose or for a company and that the proposal for acquisition initiated by the Government by issue of a notification under section 4 should not culminate into any definite proceeding for acquisition of the land but should be dropped; see Patel Gandalal Somnath and others vs . State of Gujarat and others., : AIR1963Guj50 . We cannot agree with the contention raised on behalf of the appellant that the inquiry contemplated by Section 5-A is merely an administrative inquiry. The action of the Government in acquiring land may be an administrative action but inasmuch as the action has civil consequences in the nature of depriving a person of his property, though compensation is contemplated to be paid, the inquiry conducted by the Collector under Section 5-A must be regarded as a quasi-judicial inquiry though his report may be an administrative report on which the satisfaction of the Government is to be recorded. Inasmuch as the statute itself requires that a hearing must be given, we need not dilate on the applicability of the principles of natural justice in administrative actions having civil consequences. It is in this state of law that it has to be seen whether there has or has not been compliance with the provisions of Section 5-A of the Act in the present case.

(12) What found favor with the learned single Judge was that the Collector after asking for a report on the objections filed by ShreeSita Ram Bhandar did not afford any further hearing to the objector and proceeded to make a recommendation without even receiving a report on the query made by him on 27th July. 1962. The crucial point is whether the recommendations of the Collector in the case of Shree Sita Ram Bhandar, which we have noticed above, spell out an abdication of his functions by the Collector and whether no further opportunity being granted to the objectors amount to a denial of the right of hearing. In our view, on a reading of the objections as filed by Shree Sita Ram Bhandar, the only question that remained for a decision of the Government was whether the land and buildings, other than those which the Collector recommended should be left out of acquisition, stood exempted from the purview of the Notification under Section 4 of the Act in view of the exemption clause in the said Notification. Whether the words 'attached to' could be equated to the words 'owned by' was the only question left for determination of the concerned Government and this is what was referred by the Collector for the decision of the Delhi Administration. The rule laid down by the Bench of this court in the case of Shri Hanuman Prasad Gupta(l) was clearly attracted. The Collector had summarised the objections, which indicates application and not abdication of mind by him, leaving the decision on the question of law to the Government. It was not necessary in (he circumstances of the case that the Collectors recommendations on the objections should have taken the form of either agreeing or disagreeing with the same. The recommendation contemplated by section 5A of the Act may (to quote from the Bench decision in Shri Hanuman Prasad Gupta's case) ( 1 )'as well take the shape of a suggestion to the appropriate government that the objections raise certain issues but even if the Collector's own opinion on the legal issues is not there, it will nonetheless be a recommendation, nothing more and nothing less.

(13) The learned Counsel for the respondents has urged that the tenor of the note of the Collector made on 27th July, 1962 shows that what had to be found out was-

(A)Whether property in question was the property of Shri Mandir Sita Ramji; (b) Whether it was a charitable institution ; and (c) whether in this view of the matter, it was exempt from the Notification. All these could not be regarded as a mere question of law.

(14) The constitution of Shree Sita Ram Bhandar was on the record and it was not in dispute that a temple may be a religious institution, thereforee, on these facts all that had to be decided was whether in terms of the exemption contained in the Notification under Section 4 of the Act, land measuring 324 bighas, etc. were exempt from the purview of acquisition. On this aspect it is a decision of the Government which was to be final and a pure question of law arose as has been observed by us earlier.

(15) It is no body's case that after the Collector had submitted his report the objector has any right of appearing before the appropriate Government prior to the appropriate Government recording its satisfaction leading to the issue of a Notification and a declaration under Section 6 of the Act. Inasmuch as the question of law may be considered as somewhat ticklish, we felt that in the fitness of things, without creating a precedent, the respondents/objectors may be heard by the Delhi Administration, the appropriate Government in this case, and so directed that a hearing may be given by the Delhi Administration to the objector, shree Sita Ram Bhadar, and a report about the hearing and recording the satisfaction of the Government on those objections be submitted to us. As already noticed earlier, this was received in Court and we find that the objections stood rejected. Unless it can be shown that the satisfaction so recorded by the Lt. Governor of Delhi is perverse or ex-facie contrary to the settled law, this Court will not sit in appeal to reverse the satisfaction so recorded. This leads us to the consideration of the arguments advanced on behalf of the respondents which we have summarised in points (c) to(f) earlier.

(16) For the purposes of this case, although there is no express finding of the Delhi Administration, we may presume that the Hanuman temple on a portion of the land in question is an old temple and is a religious institution. The question would then arise whether the land in question is 'attached to' this religious institution. Mrs. Shyamla Pappu, the learned counsel for the Lt. Governor and Delhi Administration, contested the proposition that the Hanuman temple which has been exempted from acquisition is a religious institution, but argued in the alternative that assuming that the said temple is a religious institution no material was placed by the objector to show that the land in question was attached to this temple. We will examine this contention in due course.

(17) It is true that the hearing afforded by the Delhi Administration in persuance of this Court's order dated April 6, 1972. cannot be regarded as a hearing contemplated by Section 5A of the Act. But then, as we have already observed, the Collector had entertained the objections by Shree Sita Ram Bhandar and on the assumption that it was a religious charitable institution, referred the question of law regarding exemption of the properties claimed to be owned by Shree Sita Ram Bhandar or Mandir Sita Ramji for the decision of the Delhi Administration. In that view of the matter, in our view, the infirmly pleaded that there was no hearing as contemplated by Section 5A ceases to have any force. It has not been shown to us what the objector could have shown to the Collector on further hearing. If all that had to be shown was that the property was owned by Shree Sita Ram Bhandar/ Mandir Sita Ramji or that the property was owned by a religious institution, then the only thing to bed etermined was whether ownership was synonymous to the land being attached to the institution. As far' as that is concerned, it had to be decided by the Delhi Administration and an opportunity to do so was afforded to the first respondent under the Court's orders dated April 6, 1972. Inasmuch as the spirit of the law is that a party should have a hearing, the requirement stands satisfied.

(18) In that view of the matter, we need not dilate on the various precedents cited on behalf of the respondents in which the Supreme Court has laid streess on the principles of natural justice being followed even in the case of administrative orders involving civil consequences.

(19) It was urged by the learned counsel for the first respondent that the hearing given under this Court's order dated April 6, 1972 by the Dy. Secretary does not amount to compliance with the directions and orders of the court inasmuch as the hearing was to be given by the Delhi Administration and not the Deputy Secretary. There is no force in this contention. The Delhi Administration has to act through its. officers and a responsible officers of the status of the Deputy Secretary was deputed to give the hearing after the initial objection of the first respondent to the hearing being given by the Collector was upheld. The Deputy Secretary then submitted the entire record of the proceedings before him to the Secretary who in turn placed it before the l.t. Governor. In that view of the matter, it must be held that the court's order dated April 6, 1972, was fully complied with.

(20) A grievance was made by the counsel for the first respondent that the hearing as given was not a full hearing and the satisfaction recorded by the Lt. Governor cannot be regarded as one complying with the provisions of Section 6 of the Act inasmuch as the order is not a staking order. There is no force in this contention. A perusal of the proceedings filed in this court shows that the objector was represented by counsel before the Deputy Secretary, Shri R.N. Puri, and was allowed to file documents as well as affidavits. The contention that the objector was not allowed to cross-examine witnesses is untenable inasmuch as it was for the obejector to substantiate its pleas and no witnesses appeared on behalf of the Government. It was urged that certain witnesses whom the objector wanted to produce were not summoned and were not allowed to be produced. On 21st April, 1972, a .list of 12 witnesses was filed by the objector without disclosing the relevancy of those witnesses. Subsequently, the counsel for the objector gave up one witness and regarding the clerk of the Land Acquisition Collector whom he wanted to summon, since the file was already before Shri Puri, the counsel agreed to give him up also. Regarding the third and the fourth witnesses, counsel agreed to place copies of the affidavits of the two witnesses on the record and the fifth witness was also given up. The counsel wanted Shri K N. Srivastava, Revenue Assistant, to be summoned, but since Shri Srivastava's affidavit was on record that was disallowed. Two more witnesses were also given up and of Two other witnesses the counsel agreed to file affidavits. In the end the counsel only wanted two witnesses to be summoned. Shri Puri felt that he had no powers to summon these witnesses and so directed that their deposition on behalf of the objector may be brought on record by their affidavits being filed. This was done.

(21) Thus the contention that some witnesses were not summoned is without foundation, and inasmuch as these were witnesses of the objector whose affidavits were taken on record, the question of crossexamining them did not arise. The site was inspected by Shri Puri in the company of the counsel for the objector as well as its Manager and another employee. Tn this view of the matter, it does not lie in the mouth of the first respondent to urge that the hearing as given was not complete. As already noticed earlier, a full record of the proceedings before Shri Puri was placed ultimately before the Lt. Governor who has in terms stated that he agreed with the report and, thereforee, rejected the objections. In administrative proceedings, it is not necessary that every officer should write a detailed order. So long as it is clear that the higher authority has applied its mind, the order of the higher authority need not be a speaking order. It is apparent on a reading of the note of the Lt. Governor that he had applied his mind inasmuch as he agreed with the report of Shri Puri, We thus find that there is no force at all in the contentions raised by the respondents.

(22) We now come to the last contention that the words 'attached to' are synonymous with 'owned by'. The contention is that it is not necessary for the land to be physically attached to an institution in the sense of its being contiguous to the institution because land even at some distance may be attached to an institution, if it is owned by the institution. We cannot agree with this contention. It may be that physical contiguity is not relevant but then 'attached to' connotes something different from mere ownership. The first respondent had not stated in its objections that the notified properties were 'attached to' any temple. All that was said was that the said properties were owned by the objector. thereforee, any enquiry that the land in question was attached to Hanuman temple on the land would have been really outside the scope of the objections as raised. However, even if it could be said that the objections should be read to mean that the land was attached to the Hanuman Mandir, no evidence was adduced either before us or before the Delhi Administration to show that the land was really attached to the Hanuman temple. As it apparent from a reading of the report of Shri Puri, the accounts of the first respondent were not . produced to show that the income from the land in question was utilised for maintenance or upkeep of the Hanuman temple. if it had been so shown, perhaps it could be argued that the land in question was attached to the Hanuman temple. It was nobody's case that the land in question was owned by the Hanuman temple nor was it shown that the income of the land was utilised by the first respondent for the said temple or that there even was any income from the land in question. The ordinary dictionary meaning of these words spell out different concepts and we cannot persuade ourselves to agree with the contention that the words 'attached to' and 'owned by' would have the same meaning or concept. There can be no ambiguity in the meaning of the words 'owned by' and for the purpose of this case, it has been assumed that the land in question was in the ownership of Shree Sita Ram Bhandar/Mandir Sita Ramji. It only remains to be considered what in law is the meaning of the words 'attached to' and whether there is any material on the record to show that the land in question was attached to Shree Sita Ram Bhandar/ Mandir Sita Ram/the Hanuman temple on the land in question.

(23) The word 'attached' has been judicially interpreted in the context of many statutes. When this word is considered in relation to articles or things considered in fixing the rating value of a premises, it means, to quote from the speech of Cockburn, C.J. in Laing v. Bishopswearmouth, 3 Q.B.D. 299 4 'now does the word attached' there mean attached by some physical fastening such as screws or bolts? If it does, a thing weighing tons, which cannot be and never was intended to be lifted, would not be taken into account if not fastened to some part of the building; whereas if it were fastened it would. That, as it seems to my mind, would be a monstrous consequence. I do not think the word 'attached' does there mean 'physically fastened', so as to determine whether the thing is to be taken into account or not.' Similarly, whether open space was 'directly attached' to a dwelling house came up for consideration in Bryce v. Lindsay, 39 Sc. L.R. 141 and was held to mean a space in contact with the dwellinghouse which space belongs to the owner of such house of which he can prevent from being built on. In Grant v. Langston, 1900 A.C. 390) 'attached' to a dwelling house was held not to mean mere contact of some part of the two structures, but as being attached for use with the dwelling house. Thus it is the manner of the utilisation of land which will determine whether it was 'attached to' or not in the present case. Inasmuch as nothing has been shown that the land was utilised for the purpose of the temple or the institution or that its income was so utilised, it must be held that the mere contiguity of the land to the temple of Shri Hanuman or its ownership by Shree Sita Ram Bhandar/Mandir Sita Ramji at Pilani would not make the land in question 'attached to' any one of these. In this view of the matter, we do not find anything patently illegal in the satisfaction recorded by the Lt. Governor that the land in question does not qualify for being exempted from acquisition.

(24) The result is that this appeal is accepted and the writ petition filed by the first respondent is dismissed. In the circumstances of of the case, we make no order as to costs.


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