1. This is an appeal against the decision of the Lower Court in the matter of the compulsory acquisition of the claimant's land. 32 cents belonging to him were acquired. The land is situated in old Survey No. 215, now Re-Survey No. 142, in Kattunga village. The Acquiring Officer gave an award at the rate of Rs. 10 per cent., which the Lower Court has increased to Rs. 15. There Vas also a tamarind tree acquired for which the Acquiring Officer gave an award of Rs. 80 which has been increased by the Lower Court to Rs. 120. Government appeals against the decision of the Lower Court and the claimant has filed a memorandum of cross-objections.
2. The learned Government Pleader on behalf of the Government has argued a point of law as well as argued the case on the merits. The point of law is this. The notice about the enquiry was served upon the claimant on 19th August, 1925 and it directed him to appear on 3rd September, 1925. Section 9(3) of the Land Acquisition Act directs the Collector to serve notice on the claimant to the same effect ac the notice inSub-section (2). The notice in Sub-section (2) is to notify the claimant to appear before the Acquiring Officer 'at a time and place mentioned therein, such time not being earlier than fifteen days after the date of publication of the notice.'
3. When that is applied to Sub-section (3) it would mean that the notice tobe served upon the claimant should direct him to appear at a time not earlierthan fifteen days after the service of the notice. The question is whether 'not earlier than fifteen days' means that the claimant is to have fifteen days clearbefore he need appear, that is, before the date of the enquiry or whether thedate of enquiry may be on the 15th day. The language used seems to us unhappyand there is something to be said for an interpretation either way. The onlyreported case exactly on the point to which our attention has been called is inTaraprasad Chaliha v. The Secretary of State for India in Council I.L.R. (1929) C. 837 where a Bench of the Calcutta High Court has decided for the present claimant's view. No particular reasons are given, but in the circumstances and having' regard to the fact that if there is any real dubiety in interpretation in matters of procedure like that, the benefit of the doubt ought to be given to the party, we follow the interpretation of the phrase given by the learned Judges in Calcutta. We might add that in order to avert further difficulties of the same kind in future, it would be wise if Acquiring Officers gave more than fifteen days clear notice in the notices issued underSection 9.
4. It is, therefore, open for us to go into the merits of the case, the claimant not being precluded from putting forward his case although he did not object underSection 9. since the notice given to him was defective.
5. [His Lordship dealt with the question of compensation and concluded:]
6. The appeal, therefore, is allowed to the extent of the reduction of the price of the tamarind tree to Rs. 80, and as to costs we direct that each party shall bear his costs here. The Memorandum of Objections is dismissed.