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Northern India Paint Colour and Varnish Co. (Pvt.) Ltd. Vs. Union of India and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Case NumberLetter Patent Appeal No. 91 of 1974
Judge
Reported in22(1982)DLT158
ActsDisplaced Persons (Compensation and Rehabilitation) Act, 1954 - Sections 23 and 33
AppellantNorthern India Paint Colour and Varnish Co. (Pvt.) Ltd.
RespondentUnion of India and anr.
Advocates: Harsh Arora,; L.K. Bhushan,; D.P. Wadhawa and;
Cases Referred(Paul Wallis Furnell v. Whangarai High Schools Board
Excerpt:
.....of the guidelines provided in rule 24. the displaced person is entitled to lead evidence to indicate the correct valuation and is also entitled to know the evidence which is relied upon so that it can be rebutted. thereforee, the order is quasi-judicial.; 3. the answer to the third question was left open in view of the agreement between the counsel for the parties that in view of the peculiar facts, of the case, the date of valuation may be taken as 21st may, 1955 that is the date on which the rules came into force, and not the date of the execution of the lease since on that date neither the act nor the rules had come into force. - - thereforee, the writ petition must fail. 4) proceeded to determine the value of the land in question and then to be given an opportunity to lead such..........rules, 1955 (in short, 'the rules') an industrial concern in the occupation of a displaced person the value of which does not exceed rs. 50,0001- can be allotted. but, as the value of this property was determined at rs. 56,0361- it was not considered 'allottable' to the displaced person occupying it i.e. the appellant. it is admitted that the appellant was not given an opportunity of being heard on the question of determination of the value of the industrial concern. however, as the value exceeded rs. 50,000|-, the assistant settlement commissioner ordered on 29th november. 1952 the sale of the property by public auction.(6) the appellant, who was aggrieved filed an appeal under section 23 of the displaced persons (compensation & rehabilitation) act, 1954 (in short, 'the act')......
Judgment:

Leila Seth, J.

(1) This letters patent appeal is directed against the judgment and order dated 13th November, 1973 of Hon'ble Mr. Justice B. C. Misra.

(2) As a consequence of the partition of the Indian sub-continent into India and Pakistan in 1947 a large scale upheaval of persons, properties and emotions took place. This resulted in persons moving and being evacuated from Pakistan to India and vice versa. It also meant that these displaced persons had to be rehabilitated and compensated for the properties left behind. It was a colossal task. It was taken on by the Custodian of Evacuee property and the government.

(3) The appellant. Northern India Paint, Colour & Varnish Company (Private) Ltd. was such a displaced person. On 20th June, 1948, the Custodian of Evacuee property, New Delhi executed a lease deed in favor of the appellant. This pertained to an industrial concern styled as Ismail Lace Mills situated at No. I, Canal Road, The lease was to take effect from 12th May, 1948 and the annual rental provided therein was Rs. 600.

(4) At the time of the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947 there had been a great deal of rioting and arson. This had resulted in damage to, inter alia, property; the said factory premises had been burnt and were in a dilopidated state; as such extensive repairs had to be carried out. According to the appellant the cost of repairs was Rs. 14,515.09 whereas admittedly Custodian sanctioned only Rs. 3,000.00 equivalent to five years' lease amount.

(5) The appellant who was in occupation of these premises made representations for its transfer. Under rule 22 (c) of the Displaced Persons (Compensation & Rehabilitation) Rules, 1955 (in short, 'the Rules') an industrial concern in the occupation of a displaced person the value of which does not exceed Rs. 50,0001- can be allotted. But, as the value of this property was determined at Rs. 56,0361- it was not considered 'allottable' to the displaced person occupying it i.e. the appellant. It is admitted that the appellant was not given an opportunity of being heard on the question of determination of the value of the industrial concern. However, as the value exceeded Rs. 50,000|-, the Assistant Settlement Commissioner ordered on 29th November. 1952 the sale of the property by public auction.

(6) The appellant, who was aggrieved filed an appeal under section 23 of the Displaced Persons (Compensation & Rehabilitation) Act, 1954 (in short, 'the Act'). The said appeal was dismissed by the Deputy Chief Settlement Commissioner on 4th April, 1963.

(7) Before the Deputy Chief Settlement Commissioner the appellant averred that the value of the acquired evacuee property in its possession was less than Rs. 50.000 and was, thereforee, allottable under rule 22. It also submitted that the industrial concern which was delivered to it on 12th May, 1948 was totally burnt and in a dilapidated condition and over Rs. 30,000.00 had been spent on reconstruction and importation of modern machinery. Further, that the premises should be transerred to it as the adjoining concerns had been transferred to the respective allottees. The Law Officer, however, raised preliminary objections contending that no appeal lay in respect of the valuation of a saleable property and that the order of the Assistant Settlement Commissioner directing disposeal by auction an administrative order. The Deputy Chief Settlement Commissioner after hearing parties observed as follows :

'AFTERgoing through the record I am inclined to uphold the preliminary objection taken by the Law Officer. The valuation of a saleable property is not a justiciable matter, thereforee. no appeal or revision lies in respect of it. In this connection my attention has been drawn to a judgment delivered by the Circuit Bench of the Punjab High Court in Civil Writ Case No. 465-D of 1957 (Jetha Nand Motchand v. Chief Settlement Commissioner and Union of India).

INview of this position, the present appeal being in connection with the valuation assessed of a saleable property is not maintainable and is hereby dismissed. The appellant, however, may, if so advised apply to the Chief Settlement Commissioner on the Administrative side for re-examination of the question of valuation of the property when the pleas raised by him can be considered.'

(8) On 29th April, 1963, the appellant moved the Central Government under section 33 of the Act. The said application was rejected by the Joint Secretary by a non-speaking order dated 27th May, 1963.

(9) After the rejection of this petition, the appellant filed a representation dated 8th June, 1963 to the Chief Settlement Commissioner. It was once again requested that the property be transferred to the appellant. This request was made in the light of the observation, set out earlier, made by the Deputy Chief Settlement Commissioner in his order dated 4th April, 1963. This representation too was rejected on 4th July, 1964. The appellant, thereafter, moved yet another petition dated 7th July, 1964 which was also rejected on 17th August, 1964.

(10) In Balwant Singh and others v. Deputy Chief Settlement Commissioner and Others, , a Division Bench of the Punjab High Court overruled the decision in Jetha Nand Motchand v. Chief Settlement Commissioner, (Civil Writ No. 465-D of 1957 dated 16th December, 1958) (2) on the basis of which the deputy Chief Settlement Commissioner had held that the question of valuation was not justiciable. The said Division Bench held that an opportunity to show-cause regarding valuation must be given to an allottee or lessee in occupation of acquired evacuee urban or agricultural land. This opportunity could be given either at the initial stage or at any subsequent stage. The fixation of such value under rule 348, for the purpose of deciding the rights of the allottee or occupant of the land under rule 34C, is not such an administrative matter in the decision which the allottee cannot claim a right to be associated. As such, ex parte orders of the District Rent and Managing Officer fixing the value of the land, the order of the Settlement Commissioner (Appeals) refusing to grant an opportunity to the allottee or lessee to show-cause with regard to the correct fixation of value and the order of the Deputy Chief Settlement Commissioner upholding the said orders were held to be vitiated by apparent errors and were set aside and quashed.

(11) The Court further observed that the nature of the proceedings involved in fixing the value of the property was quasi judicial, and not administrative. But even if not quasi judicial, the principles of natural justice required that an opportunity be given to the person whose statutory rights in the property were likely to be affected by the decision of those proceedings.

(12) Immediately on coming to know of this judgment, the appellant once again applied to the Central Government on 15th January, 1966 to grant it 'an opportunity to be heard and establish by evidence that the area included in the factory premises has been sizably reduced' and that due to the supervening events the original valuation is no longer valid and the petitioner is entitled to the ownership of the premises. It was also prayed that orders be passed for reassessment of the original valuation in view of certain facts set out therein. 'The denial of any personal hearing opportunity before valuation was highlighted. It was also mentioned therein that the total area of the land, while valuing the property at Rs. 56,000|-, was deemed to be 7500 sq. yards, whereas even at that time the total area in possession of the appellant was 6250 sq. yards as 1250 sq. yards had been taken over by the Municipal Corporation for sewage mains. That subsequently after the assessment the area had been further reduced by 2500 sq. yards which had been taken over by the Municipal Corporation for public roads; as such, the premises pertained only to 3750 sq. yards; the assessed value would, thereforee, be substantially reduced and would be about Rs. 18.750.00 , very much within the allotable limit.

(13) On 10th March. 1966, the Central Government held that the petition did not lie under section 33 and was misconceived; that review of the order of the Central Government was not maintainable particularly on the same facts; further, that even if the area taken by the Municipal Corporation and used for laying sewage mains is excluded the value the remaining area calculated at the market value exceeded the allottable limit. According to Mr. G.D. Khetrapal, Joint Secretary, who passed the order, 'the petitioner cannot have the land at the rate of Rs. 5|- originally assessed in the year 1953. The question has to be decided on the basis of market rates of the land prevailing now. The property in question is saleable and as such it cannot be transferred to him under the provisions of the Act'.

(14) Being aggrieved and having no other redress, the appellant filed a writ petition on 20th August, 1966 challenging the order of 10th March, 1966 of the Central Government, and praying for a decision on merits. The learned single judge who heard the matter felt that as the order of the Central Government dated 27th May, 1963 had become final, there was no ground for reconsideration of the matter. He was also of the opinion that there was no legal infirmity in the impugned order of the Central Government dated 10th March, 1966 and. thereforee, the writ petition must fail. He, however, made it. plain that 'the authorities who have not yet sold the property by public auction must consider the matter in view of two decisions of the Punjab High Court referred to above, in particular the decision in Karam Chand Thakar Dass v. Union of India and another, . The authorities must take particular care to see that the property that is put to public auction is the one that constituted evacuee property and which had been leased out to the petitioner and in doing so no part of the property of the petitioner should be sold off without its consent. If the authorities find that the petitioner has carried out any constructions or reconstructions from the foundation, they surely cannot be sold as forming part of the evacuee property leased out to it. On the other hand. if it has carried out only repairs or improvements in the existing structures, they would go along with the property of the department'.

(15) The learned single judge pointed out that he was making this observation in view of the abovementioned decisions and the rule of law so that the authorities do not perpectuate any injustice in the matter. The parties were, however, left to bear their own costs.

(16) Mr. Harsh Arora, learned counsel appearing for the appellant submitted that in view of the two abovementioned decisions in Balwant Singh and Karam Chand Thekar Dass as also the decision in Lieutenant Coinmandor Ajab Lal Sahni v. The Union of India and others. 1973 P.L.R. 76 the appellant who was an interested party was entitled to be heard before the valuation of the property was determined. She also urged that the relevant date for the purposes of valuation was the date of allotment and|or lease i.e. 12th May. 1948. She further brought to our notice that the fact of certain portions of the property having been taken away by the Municipal Corporation, first for laying sewage mains and then for making roads, and the fact that substantial improvements had been made by the appellant, had not been at all considered in arriving at the valuation.

(17) We find some force in her arguments. The value of the acquired evacuee property has to be determined b the Settlement Officer having regard to, inter alia, all or any of the factors enunciated in rule 24, which reads :

'24.Valuation of acquired evacuee property which is an allottable property (1) Where any acquired evacuee property which is an allottable property is to be transferred to any person in occupation thereof in satisfaction of the whole or a part of the compensation, payable to such person, the Settlement Officer, shall first determine the value of the property having regard inter alias to all or any of the following matters: (a) the amount for which property was assessed for the purpose of municipal taxes during the year in which the date of acquisition falls : (b) the annual rental income of the property; (c) sales of similar or contiguous property during the last three years; (d) the present market value of the site and the present value of the evacuee building and in the case. of .an industrial concern the value of the machinery, (2) For the purpose of determination of the value of any acquired evacuee property under subrule (1), depreciation may be allowed according to the age of the building, quality of construction and the standard of maintenance of the property.'

(18) It is admitted by the parties that the disputed property is an industrial concern, and, thereforee, a class of acquired evacuee property which is ordinarily allottable to the displaced person in occupation thereof. However, Rule 22 provides a rider, which requires that the value of such property should not exceed fifty thousand rupees in order to be allottable. The valuation of the property, thereforee, determines the question whether the property will fall into the class which can ordinarily be allotted to the sequently whether the appellant would be entitled to the transfer of the said property in its favor. There can certainly he no doubt that decision, for on this would depend its rights.

(19) This is the crux of the problem. Is the displaced person in occupation entitled to be heard on the question of determination of valuation? Is it a quasi judicial order The answer to both the questions would appear to us to be in the the affirmative. That the displaced person in occupation has a vital interest in the valuation, is too obvious to be reiterated. It is a matter of survival. The result will determine his entitlement to the property. If it is above Rs. 58,000 it will be to his detriment. If below. to his advantage. The decision encroaches on individual interest. The rules of natural justice certainly requires that such a person be given an opportunity to participate in the process of determination, irrespective of whether it is a quasi judicial order. As observed by Lord Morris of Gorthy-Gest, 'Natural justice is but fairness writ large and juridically' and not 'a leaven to be associated only with judicial or quasi-judicial occasions'. (Paul Wallis Furnell v. Whangarai High Schools Board, 1973 A.C. 660.

(20) Further, the determination has to be done on the basis of guidelines provided in rule 24. These pertain to (a) the municipal assessment of property in the year it was acquired, (b) the annual rental, (c) sales of similar properties for the last three years; and (d) the present market value of the land, the building and the machinery. The displaced person must be allowed to lead evidence to indicate what the correct or proper valuation should be. The person is 'also entitled to know the evidence on which the officer reliefs so that he can rebut it.

(21) In Lieutenant Commander Ajab Lal Sahni's case (supra) A.S. Koshal, J. (as he then was) after setting out rules 22, 24 and 25 opined; 'These provisions leave no room for doubt that the person in occupation of an allottable pro perty has a vital interest in the process and result of valuation which must be carried out as laid down in rule 24. Under rule 22 the answer to the question whether a property is allottable depends on its value and rule 25 will create rights in favor of an occupant of that property only if it is allottable. In these circumstances it must be held that when the Rehabilitation authorities evaluate a property in accordance with the provisions of rule 24, they perform quasi-judicial functions with which the persons interested must be associated. It follows that the petitioner was entitled to be given notice of all the material on the basis of which the Assistant Settlement Officer (respondent No. 4) proceeded to determine the value of the land in question and then to be given an opportunity to lead such evidence as might be relevant to such determination and as he (the petitioner) might like to produce. The orders passed by the respondent do not sent any of these requirements. Neither was the petitioner 'informed at any time of the evidence which forms the basis of the determination of the value of the land of Rs. 14,1461- nor was he given any opportunity to lead his own evidence in rebuttal of the material relied upon by the Rehabilitation authorities. The principle of natural justice that no action to the detriment of a person shall be taken without giving him an opportunity of being heard, has been violated in the present case and the impugned orders, therfore, cannot be supported.

(22) The learned judge quashed the orders and directed that the valuation be determined afresh after giving an opportunity to the petitioner to produce such evidence as he considers necessary and relevant.

(23) A similar view has been expressed earlier by the Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court in Balwant Singh's case (supra) while dealing with allotment and valuation of evacuee agricultural lands situated in urban areas under Rules 34B and 34C. This was followed by the same Bench in Karam Chand Thakar Dass's case (supra).

(24) Valuation of property is an estimation of its worth in terms of money. This cannot be arrived at arbitrarily. Certain factors have to be taken into consideration, as above noticed in terms of Rule 24. The discretion of 'the Settlement Officer in determining the value, is not unfettered. S. 4. do Smith has described the term 'quasi-judicial' as ambiguous but has ascribed the following three meaings to it:

'ITmay describe a function that is partly judicial and partly administrative eg. the making of a compulsory purchase order (a discretionary or administrative act) preceded by the holding of a judicial-type local inquiry and the consideration of objections. It may, alternatively, describe the 'judicial' element in a composite function; holding an inquiry and considering objections in respect of a compulsory purchase order are thus 'quasi-judicial' acts. Or it may describe the nature of a discretionary act itself where the actor's discretion is not unfettered.'

(25) It is, thereforee, clear to us that the process of determination of value in the present case is a quasi-judicial order and the appellant is entitled to an adequate opportunity of being heard and presenting its point of view.

(26) The next question is which is the relevant date for the purposes of valuation Is it the date of original occupation in terms of a lease or allotment or is it the date on which the value is first fixed Or is it neither of these, but the date on which the value is eventually fixed Or is it some other date ?

(27) In the above noticed decision of Karam Chand Thakar Dass (supra), the Punjab & Haryana High Court noticed that the relevant date for the purpose of valuation is the date of original allotment and not the date on which its value is fixed. In fact, this aspect was conceded by counsel therein. However, it is well known that time is of the essence in valuation. Values vary from time to time. Recession or influation may make all the difference. It is, thereforee, essential to know the date on which the value is to be assessed.

(28) We would have had to examine this matter in some detail, especially as the date of occupation in terms of the lease was 12th May, 1948, a date on which neither the Act not the Rules had come into force. But our task has been simplified, because of counsels concession. When the case was set down for rehearing and this aspect of the matter was pointed out to learned counsel for the parties, they were in agreement that in the facts and circumstances of the present case, the relevant date for purposes of valuation should be 21st May, 1965 i.e., the date on which the Rule came into force. They agree that the position prevailing as on that date with regard to the area of the premises as also the market value is pertinent.

(29) As above noticed, the learned single judge had made certain observations so that injustice should not be perpatuated. Almost ten wears have elapsed since then. But it does not appear that the authorities are at all considering giving the appellant an opportunity of being heard in the matter of valuation and making a fresh determination. The property has not yet been auctioned in view of the order of this court. In these circumstances, we do not rest content with making observations. We set aside the orders determining the value of the property and direct a fresh evaluation after giving the appellant an adequate opportunity of hearing and production of relevant evidence.

(30) For the reasons outlined above, we allow the appeal with costs.


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