S.H. Sheth, J.
1. The petitioners in Special Civil Application No. 41 of 1967 are tenants in respect of the land under acquisition. The petitioners in Special Civil Application No. 1532 of 1965 are also tenants in respect of the land under acquisition. In both the cases the notifications issued under Section 4 and under Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act are the same. The notification under Section 4 was issued on 15th April 1940. The notification under Section 6 was issued on 13th April 1942. The award of compensation was made on 29th February 1960. Special Civil Application No. 41 of 1967, was filed on 12th January 1967. Special Civil Application No. 1532 of 1965 was filed in September 1965. So far as Special Civil Application No. 41 of 1967 is concerned, it was filed seven years after the award was made and 25 years after the notification under Section 6 was issued. So far as Special Civil Application No. 1532 of 1965 is concerned it was filed five years after the award was made and 23 years after the notification under Section 6 was issued.
2. On these facts the first preliminary objection which has been raised on behalf of the State Government is that both the petitions are barred by gross delay and laches. It is contended that even a civil suit was grossly time-barred when these two petitions were filed. The petitioners have tried to explain this delay in paragraph 15 in Special Civil Application No. 41 of 1967. They have tried to justify this gross delay by stating that the Government had not taken possession of the property in question until 1967 when the said petition was filed. Therefore, their attempt is to justify the delay on their part by referring to the alleged gross delay on the part of the Government. The second ground which they have stated is that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation had been changing the street line from time to time and that therefore, certain lands were excluded from the acquisition proceedings and certain lands were included therein. The third ground is that they were faced with the threat of eviction only in 1967. Similar grounds have been stated by the petitioners in the other Special Civil Applications explaining the delay in filing it. In the affidavits - in- reply the State Government has tried to meet the allegations made against them on this count. In our opinion, both these petitions suffer from gross delay.
3. Mr. Mehta who appears for the petitioners in both the petitions has tried to argue that the question of delay is not a material question in these two petitions because what is involved is a fundamental right of the petitioners. He has invited our attention to the decision of this High Court in Dalpatbhai Hemchand v. Municipality of Chansma reported in 8 Guj LR 225 = (AIR 1968 Guj 38) wherein the question which this High Court considered was the question relating to the effect of delay on the enforcement of fundamental rights. He has then invited our attention to the decision of the High Court of Bombay in the case of Kamalabai Harjivandas v. T. B. Desai reported in AIR 1966 Bom 36. In that case the constitutional validity of the Requisitioning and Acquisition of Immovable Property Act, 1952 was challenged and it was in that connection that the learned Judges were examining the question of delay on the enforcement of the petitioner's fundamental rights.
4. The next decision to which he has invited our attention is the decision of the Punjab High Court in the case of Lal Chand Jagan Nath v. District Food & Supplies Controller reported in AIR 1965 Punj 410. The learned Judge in that case was considering the effect of delay on enforcement of the petitioner's fundamental rights. Mr. Mehta has then invited our attention to the decision of the Calcutta High Court in the case of Abdul Majeed Qureshi v. Corporation of Calcutta, reported in AIR 1967 Cal 174. In that case a learned Judge of the Calcutta High Court was considering the effect of delay in respect of an action which was instituted by the petitioner challenging the imposition of the licence fee which was ultra vires the powers and authority of the Municipal Corporation of Calcutta.
5. In the present cases the tenants in both the petitions entered into the possession of the land in question after the award was made. Assuming that they have some right to possession, the right which they have is subject to the land acquisition proceedings. The decisions cited before us by Mr. Mehta wherein the effect of delay on the enforcement of the petitioner's fundamental rights was considered have no relevance and have no application to the present case. The petitioners, in the facts and circumstances of these two cases, have no fundamental right to enforce and, therefore, they cannot take recourse to them and explain away the gross delay from which the petitions suffer.
6. Mr. Mehta has then invited our attention to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation v. Shri Balwant Regular Motor Service, Amravati reported in 71 Bom LR 438 = (AIR 1969 SC 329). In that decision the Supreme Court has reproduced with approval a passage from the case of Lindsay Petroleum Collector. v. Hurd, (1874), 5 PC 221 where in Sir Barnes Peacock dealt with the question of laches. It has been laid down therein that the doctrine of laches in Courts of Equity was not an arbitrary or technical doctrine. The validity of the defence of delay and laches must be tried upon principles, it is laid down in that case, substantially equitable. Two circumstances, always important in such cases, are the length of delay and the nature of acts done during the interval, which might affect either party and cause a balance of justice or injustice in taking the one course or the other, so far as it relates to the remedy. Applying these two circumstances to the two petitions before us we find that in one case the length of delay is seven years and in another case the length of delay is five years. In both the cases, it is inordinate. Next, during the period commencing from the date when the award was made until the petitions were filed the petitioners remained absolutely quiet and did not take any steps to vindicate their rights, if they had any. We are, therefore, of the opinion that the present petitions suffer from gross delay and laches and that the petitioners are not entitled to any relief from this Court. They were thoroughly indifferent to their rights, if they had any. We cannot encourage indolence and permit them to agitate stale matters.
7. Another preliminary objection which has been raised by the State is that the present petitioners have no locus standi to file these petitions. The petitioners in both the petitions are tenants and not the owners of the property under acquisition. They entered into possession of the land in 1960, that is to say, 20 years after the notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act was issued and 18 years after the notification under Section 6 of the said Act was issued. Next, they entered into possession after the award of compensation was made. Mr. Mehta, appearing for the petitioners in both the petitions, has contended before us that the petitioners are 'the persons interested' within the meaning of the Land Acquisition Act. According to him, on account of the physical possession of the property which they have, even though they might have obtained it after the award was made, they have sufficient interest to challenge the validity of the acquisition. According to him, the physical possession confers upon them sufficient interest. It is beyond dispute that the petitioners in both the petitions entered into possession of the land after the award for compensation was made on 29th February 1960. In our opinion, tenants who enter into possession of the land under compulsory acquisition after the award of compensation is made are not 'the persons interested' within the meaning of the Land Acquisition Act. They do not have locus standi to challenge the land acquisition notifications. To hold otherwise is to defeat the object of the Land Acquisition Act. An owner of a property may go on inducting tenants after tenants into the land under acquisition in anticipation of successive attempts to take its possession. If such tenants one after another go on challenging the acquisition, there will be no end to litigation and no acquisition of property can be made. The petitions, therefore, must fail on that ground also.
8. Mr. Mehta, appearing for the petitioners, has invited our attention to certain sections of the Land Acquisition Act in order to show that the petitioners, in the facts and circumstances of the present case, are the persons interested and he has also invited our attention to certain decisions. We mention them out of fairness to him.
9. The first decision is in the case of Dinshaw Italia v. State of Hyderabad, reported in AIR 1955 Hyd 203. The second is in the case of Jia Lal v. Om Prakash reported in AIR 1960 J and K 128 and the third is in the case of Boregowda v. Subbaramiah reported in AIR 1959 Mys 265. We have looked into these decisions and we find that the principle laid down in those decisions has no application to the facts and circumstances of the present case. It is, therefore, not necessary for us to examine those decisions in details.
10. In view of our decision on two preliminary points it is not necessary for us to examine the merits of the case. However, since Mr. Mehta has argued them we record a brief opinion thereon. The petitioners according to Mr. Mehta, do not challenge the validity of any of the individual acts. They do not challenge the validity of the notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act. They also do not challenge the validity of the notification under S. 6 of the Land Acquisition Act. They also do not challenge the validity of the award made under the Land Acquisition Act. What they challenge is the mode and manner of the exercise of power and the contention that he has raised is that the land acquisition proceedings have taken as long as 25 years and that therefore, the exercise of power under the Land Acquisition Act in this case is vitiated by gross delay on the part of the Government. It is, therefore, contended that we must strike down the land acquisition proceedings. On behalf of the State Government an affidavit in reply has been filed. An affidavit in reply has also been filed by the Special Land Acquisition Officer. Detailed facts have been stated in paragraph 3 of the affidavit in reply filed by Mr. K.T. Parmar, Under Secretary to the Government of Gujarat, Revenue Department, explaining the circumstances under which the land acquisition proceedings came to be protracted. Similarly, Mr. Mehta, the Special Land Acquisition Officer, has in paragraph 8 of his affidavit in reply stated in detail the facts which were responsible for the protracted proceedings in these cases. We have taken into account all those facts and, in our opinion, the delay which has been caused in these cases in making the award and taking possession of the land under acquisition has been satisfactorily explained. If the petitioners had any interest in the property they could have instituted the proceedings earlier claiming writ to compel the Land Acquisition Officer to complete the proceedings and to make an early award. They did not do so. Not having done so it is not open to them now to complain of the delay on the part of the Government and to pray for striking down the land acquisition proceedings on the ground of delay in making the award and taking possession of the property under acquisition. Mr. Mehta in this connection has invited our attention to the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Ambalal Purshottam v. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, reported in (1968) 9 Guj LR 809 = (AIR 1968 SC 1223). A similar question was considered by the Supreme Court in that case. It has been observed by their Lordships as follows:
'It is true that no steps were immediately taken by the Land Acquisition Officer or authority to make awards of compensation and to take possession of the lands. But the reason apparently was that the Municipality was still trying to purchase the land by private treaty and when it was found that it could not purchase the lands, the Land Acquisition Officer was requested to expedite the determination of compensation. We are unable to hold that there is any evidence that the Government of Bombay issued the notification under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, not for the bona fide purpose of acquisition, but with the object of pegging down prices so that the lands may when needed be obtained at those rates in future. The land was within the line of the street and could not without the sanction of the municipality be put to any profitable use. If either the land owners or the tenants were aggrieved by the delay, it was open to them to claim writs or orders compelling the State Government to complete the assessment and payment of compensation. We are not hereby to be understood as suggesting that after issue of the notifications under Sections 4 and 6 the appropriate Government would be justified in allowing the matters to drift and to take in hand the proceeding for assessment of compensation whenever they think it proper to do'.
11. In this case the time taken by the Land Acquisition Officer in making the award has been satisfactorily explained in the two affidavits-in-reply filed in these two petitions. The delay in taking possession after the award was made in 1960 has also been satisfactorily explained. In view of the facts on record, we are unable to find that the Land Acquisition Officer had allowed the matters to drift. Therefore, on one hand the Land Acquisition Officer did not allow in these cases the matters to drift and on the other hand we find that the petitioners did not take any steps, if they had any interest in the property, to have the award made expeditiously and to see that the possession of the land was expeditiously taken. For these reasons, we find no substance in the contention raised by Mr. Mehta.
12. At the close of the hearing Mr. Mehta states to us that, in view of our decision to dismiss the petitions on these three grounds, he does not raise other contentions.
13. The result is that none of the contentions raised by Mr. Mehta succeeds.
14. Both the petitions, therefore, fail. Rule in each of the two petitions is discharged with costs.
15. Petitions dismissed.