1. These Writ Petitions raise a common question. Having regard to the nature of the question raised, it is not necessary to refer to the facts in detail and it is enough, if the broad facts are stated for, the purpose of appreciating the question raised. Manali village in Chingleput Taluk, Chingleput District, was an inam village which became an estate under the Tamil Nadu Estates Land Act, 1908 by virtue of the Tamil Nadu Estates Land (Third Amendment) Act, 1936 (Tamil Nadu Act XVIII of 1936). For the purposes of the Madras Refineries Ltd., a major portion of the lands in the said village was notified to be acquired under the provisions of the Land Aquisition Act, 1894, hereinafter referred to as the Act. The notification under Section 4(1) of the Act was published in all these cases in the Tamil Nadu Government Gazette on 3-2-1965. The declaration under Section 6 of the Act was published in the Gazette on 9-6-1965. Under the provisions of Section 17(1) of the Act, possession was taken on different dates even before the passing of the award.
2. The Tamil Nadu Legislature had enacted the Tamil Nadu Inam Estates (Abolition and Conversion into Ryotwari) Act, 1963 (Tamil Nadu Act XXVI of 1963) hereinafter referred to as the Abolition Act. The Government by G. O. Ms. No. 3265, Revenue, dated 21st November, 1966 issued a notification under the Abolition Act for the purpose of taking over the village on 15th December, 1966. The second respondent in W. P. No. 489 of 1971 filed W. P. No. 2816 of 1966 on the file of this Court against the notification of the village under the Abolition Act and obtained an interim order of stay from this Court on 14-12-1966 preventing the Government from proceeding further pursuant to the notification issued under the Abolition Act. As pointed out already, under Section 17(1) of the Act, possession was taken on different dates even before the passing of the award, of different parcels of land notified under Section 4(1) of the Act. Some of those lands had been taken possession of even before the issue of notification under the Abolition Act. Under those circumstances, the Government had to make up its mind whether it will proceed with the acquisition of the lands under the provisions of the Act or not. It appears that as a result of a conference the inamdars had with the Government officials and Ministers concerned, G. O. Ms. No. 1111, Revenue, dated 3rd June, 1969 was issued. This Government order referred to the steps that had been already taken under the Act as well as the Abolition Act and the pendency of the writ petition, W. P. No. 2816 of 1966 on the file of this Court as well as the interim order passed by this court. The Government order stated:
'The question whether proceedings under the Land Acquisition Act can be pushed through in view of the stay orders of the High Court, has been examined by the Government. According to Section 2(10) of Madras Act 26/63 where the operation of any notification issued under Section 1(4) of the Act, has been stayed or interrupted by an order of Court or Tribunal or other authority constituted under any law for the time being in force, the notified date shall be the date from which the Government have been in uninterrupted possession of the Inam Estate. In this particular case, the Section 4(1) notification has been stayed by the High Court. The effect of this is, that the Inam Estate of Manali has not vested in the Government so far. Consequently, the date of vesting will stand postponed due to the operation of the proviso to Section 1(4) and Section 2 (10) of the Madras Act 26 of 1963. It is learnt that there is some likelihood of delay in the disposal of the Writ Petition filed by Thiru Ramakrishna Mudaliar. In these circumstances, the Government are advised that there is no need to delay the passing of the award in respect of the lands required by the Madras Refineries Ltd, The Government accordingly direct that the award under the Land Acquisition Act be passed for all the lands required for the Madras Refineries Limited without waiting for the decision of the High Court in Writ Petition No. 2816 of 1966. The District Revenue Officer, Chingleput, is requested to take immediate action in the matter.'
Subsequently, on 1-12-1969, W. P. No. 2816 of 1966 was dismissed by this Court as having become infructuous.
3. Pursuant to G. O. Ms. No. 11, Revenue, dated 3-6-1969 referred to above, the Land Acquisition Officer, who happens to be the first respondent in all these writ petitions, passed awards in respect of the lands covered by these writ petitions on different dates commencing from 18-8-1969 to 1-7-1970. These writ petitions have been filed by the State of Tamil Nadu for quashing these awards made by the first respondent under the provisions of the Act.
4. Though in the affidavits filed in support of these writ petitions, it was contended that the first respondent acted mala fide in passing these awards, that he had colluded with the inamdars of the village in question and that consequently his act was fraudulent, the only point that was urged before me in the course of the hearing of the writ petitions by the learned Advocate-General, who appeared for the petitioner in these writ petitions was that the first respondent, Land Acquisition Officer, had not taken into account the tenure of the land in determining the market value of the land as provided for in Section 23 of the Act. According to the learned Advocate-General, the lands in the inam village were subject to the obligation of paying jodi or quit rent, in addition to the full assessment as imposed by the Tamil Nadu Inam Assessment Act, 1956 (Tamil Nadu Act XL of 1956); this recurring obligation imposed on the land should have been taken into account in determining the market value of the lands in question; but the Land Acquisition Officer simply compared the sales relating to Ryotwari lands in the adjacent village for the purpose of ascertaining the compensation; and consequently the failure of the Land Acquisition Officer to take into account the tenure of the land, namely, the lands being inam lands has vitiated his award.
5. As against this contention of the learned Advocate-General, Mr. M. K. Nambiar, learned counsel for the Inamdars and persons interested in lands, advanced two arguments. One is that having issued G. O. Ms. No. 1111, Revenue, dated 3-6-1969, the Government is estopped from contending that the Land Acquisition Officer had erred in ascertaining the market value of the lands without reference to the tenure of the lands. The second is that in any event, the State is not entitled to apply for any writ of certiorari to quash the award made by the first respondent, having regard to the nature of the award under the law as well as under the decisions of Courts.
6. As far as the first point urged by Mr. M, K. Nambiar is concerned, I am clearly of the opinion that his argument is misconceived. From what I have stated above, with reference to G. O. Ms. No. 1111, Revenue, dated 3-6-1969, it is clear that the Government decided to proceed only under the Land Acquisition Act, and it did not purport to claim or assert its rights under the Abolition Act referred to already. The argument of Mr. Nambiar proceeds on the misapprehension that seeking to have the awards, in the present cases quashed, the Government is putting forward its right to the lands in question under the Abolition Act. As I have pointed out already, all that the learned Advocate-General contended before this Court was that the Land Acquisition Officer, when he determines the market value of the lands as provided for in Section 23(1) of the Act, should take into account the, recurring liability and the obligation to which the land was subject for the purpose of ascertaining the market value of land and in that context it was stated that the inam lands suffered a greater disadvantage in that they were subjected to the payment of jodi or quit rent in addition to the full assessment, while Ryotwari lands were liable to pay only the kist and therefore when the Land Acquisition Officer purported to assess the compensation or market value of the lands in question he should have taken into account this recurring liability of the Inam lands and this the Land Acquisition Officer had failed to do. Therefore, the argument of the learned Advocete-General is based exclusively on the provisions contained in Section 23 of the Act and it is not based upon any assertion of right on the part of the Government under the provisions of the Abolition Act. Even if the Abolition Act had: not been in existence, still the inam character of the lands will have a bearing on the determination or ascertainment of the market value of the lands and the grievance of the Government is that the Land Acquisition Officer has failed to take that into account. As a matter of fact, the first respondent, namely, the Land Acquisition Officer has filed a counter-affidavit before this Court putting forward the contention that it was not his duty to take into account the tenure of the land in determining the compensation. Apart from contending that G. O. Ms. No. 1111 Revenue dated 3-6-1969 constituted an estoppel preventing the Government from putting forward any claim on the basis of its rights under the Abolition Act, Mr. Nambiar did not dispute the contention of the learned Advocate-General that under the Act itself, the Land Acquisition Officer was under an obligation to assess the market value of the lands after taking into account the nature and the tenure of the land and he has failed to do so in these cases.
7. However, the above conclusion of mine does not in any way help the petitioner in these writ petitions. The other contention of Mr. M. K. Nambiar, to which I have already drawn attention, is that the award made by the Land Acquisition Officer under Sections 11 and 12 of the Act is not a decision or determination of any rights of the parties so as to bring the same within the certiorari jurisdiction of this Court. The learned counsel contended that the making of an award by the Land Acquisition Officer amounts only to an offer made by that officer on behalf of the Government to the persons interested in the lands by way of compensation for the lands compulsorily acquired by the Government, that when the offer is made, the Land Acquisition Officer is acting as the agent of the Government, that the offer so made by the Land Acquisition Officer as the agent of the Government is binding on the Government and that the Government cannot challenge the same by means of a petition for the issue of Writ of certiorari, in my opinion, this contention of the learned counsel is well founded, having regard to the provisions of the Act as well as the decisions to which I shall draw attention.
8. It is not necessary for me to refer to the relevant provisions of the Act, since they have been referred to in the various decisions themselves which I shall refer to immediately.
9. The earliest of the cases to which attention has been drawn is that of the High Court of Calcutta in Ezra v. The Secretary of State. ILR (1903) Cal 36. In this case, a suit was instituted by the owner of a land for a declaration that all the proceedings taken by the local Government in the matter of acquisition of the Land were void and for a mandatory injunction restraining the Government as well as the Bank of Bengal for whom the land was acquired from taking any step whatever towards taking possession of the said premises. One of the contentions put forward on behalf of the plaintiff was that the proceedings before the Land Acquisition Collector were illegal and in fraud of the Act; that he proceeded on the estimate sanctioned by the Government and did not form his judgment on the evidence before him; and that as a judicial officer he was confined to the evidence given in Court. It is this contention of the plaintiff in the suit that was negatived by a Bench of the Calcutta High Court, after an elaborate reference to the provisions of the Act. The Court pointed out:
'Throughout the proceedings the Collector acts as the agent of Government for the purposes of acquisition, clothed with certain powers to require the attendance of persons to make statements relevant to the matters, which he has to enquire into. He is, in no sense of the term, a judicial officer, nor is the proceeding before him a judicial proceeding.'
The Court proceeded to hold:
'The considerations to which we have referred satisfy us that the Collector acts in the matter of the enquiry and the valuation of the land only as an agent of the Government, and not as a judicial officer; and that consequently, although the Government or the Company at whose instance the Government is acquiring the land is bound by his proceedings, the persons interested are not concluded by his finding regarding the value of he land or the compensation to be awarded. His enquiry and his valuation are departmental in their character for the purpose of enabling the Government to make a tender through him to the persons interested. Such tender once made is binding on the Government, and the Government cannot require that the value fixed by its own officer acting on its behalf should be open to question at its own instance before the Civil Court.' This view of the Calcutta High Court was affirmed by the Privy Council on appeal in Ezra v. Secretary of State for India, (1905) ILR 32 Cal 605 (PC). The Judicial Committee observed:--
'The sections directly relevant (besides the 9th already set out) are the 11th, 12th, 13th. 14th. 15th and 18th. These sections, and the question as a whole, are very satisfactorily discussed in the judgment under appeal, and their Lordships do not think it necessary to repeat the reasoning. It is, to say the least, perfectly intelligible that the expert official charged with the duty of fixing a value should be possessed of alt the information in the hands of the department, and should at the same time avail himself of all that is offered at the enquiry, his ultimate duty being not to conclude the owner by his so-called award, but to fix the sum, Which in his best judgment is the value and should be offered'.
The Chief Court of Punjab in Macdonald v. The Secretary of State for India in Council, (1909) 4 Ind Cas 914 pointed out:
'We accept, of course, the well-established proposition that the action of the Collector under the Act is purely administrative, and we are prepared to admit that to a large extent the Collector may conduct his enquiry through other agencies.'
They also expressed the view that an award under the Act is in the nature of a tender made by the Government to the owner of the land.
10. In Padamsi Narayan v. The Collector of Thana, ILR 46 Bom 366 = AIR 1922 Born 161, Macleod, C. J., pointed out that an award made under Section 11 is an offer by the Government to the person interested in the land to be acquired of the compensation to be paid.
11. The Supreme Court had to consider the nature of the functions performed by the Collector as well as the nature of the award made by him under the provisions of the Act in Raja Harish Chandra Raj Singh v. The Deputy Land Acquisition Officer : 1SCR676 . The Supreme Court referred to with approval principles laid down by the Calcutta High Court in ILR (1903) Cal 36, as well as the decision of the Privy Council in ILR (1905) Cal 605 and the decision of the Punjab Chief Court in (1909) 4 Ind Cas 914 referred to already. The Supreme Court pointed out:
'In dealing with this question it is relevant to bear in mind the legal character of the award made by the Collector under Section 12. In a sense it is a decision of the Collector reached by him after holding an enquiry as prescribed by the Act. It is ,a decision, inter alia, in respect of the amount of compensation which should be paid to the person interested in the property acquired; but legally the award cannot be treated as a decision; it is in law an offer or tender of the compensation determined by the Collector to the owner of the property under acquisition. If the owner accepts the offer no further proceeding is required to be taken: the amount is paid and compensation proceedings are concluded. If however, the owner does not accept the offer, Section 18 gives him the statutory right of having the question determined by Court, and it is the amount of compensation which the Court may determine that would bind both the owner and the Collector. In that case it is on the amount thus determined judicially that the acquisition proceedings would be concluded. It is because of this nature of the award that the award can be appropriately described as a tender or offer made by the Collector on behalf of the Government to the owner of the property for his acceptance,'
That question arose in the context of the construction of the proviso to Section 18 of the Act, dealing with the period of limitation for claiming a reference to the Court by a person interested in the land. The question that had to be considered by the Supreme Court was whether the expression, 'the date of the award' occurring in the proviso to Section 18 meant literally the date on which the award was made or it meant date on which the award was communicated to the persons concerned or the date on which the person concerned came to acquire knowledge of the award. It is only in that context the Supreme Court made the above observations. As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court went to the extent ot pointing out that if the award made by the Collector is in law no more than an otter made on behalf of the Government to the owner of the property, then the making of the award, as properly understood, must involve the communication of the offer to the party concerned, that is the normal requirement under the contract law and that its applicability to cases of award made under the Act cannot be reasonably excluded. Therefore, the above decisions make it quite clear that the making of an award by the Collector, under the provisions of the Act does not Constitute a decision or determination on the part of the Collector and that it merely constitutes an ascertainment of the market value of the property by the Collector administratively as an agent of the Government to enable the Government to offer that amount by way of compensation to the person concerned. If so, it follows that an award made by a Collector under the provisions of the Act cannot be said to be a decision or determination by a judicial or quasi-judicial officer so as to bring it within the certiorari jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
12. Mr. Nambiar for the purpose of emphasising his contention drew my attention to certain provisions contained in the Land Acquisition Manual issued by the State of Tamil Nadu. As a matter of fact, the affidavits filed in support of these writ petitions themselves contend that Chapter XVII of the Land Acquisition Manual lays down guidelines for ascertaining or assessing the value of the land in an estate and for the apportionment of the same and that the first respondent herein has failed to follow those guidelines. The learned Advocate-General very fairly conceded that the said Chapter XVII constituted merely administrative instructions given by the Government to its officers and that therefore they did not have statutory force so as to clothe them with enforceable character. At the same time the learned Advocate-General contended that the Collector should have followed those guidelines given in Chapter XVII. It is in that context Mr. Nambiar drew my attention to certain other provisions contained in she Land Acquisition Manual itself, according to which the Collector acts only as an agent of the Government and the award made by the Collector is binding on the Government. In paragraph 2 of Chapter II of the same Manual, it is stated:
'The Collector acts as the Agent of the State Government for the purpose of acquisition. He is clothed with certain powers to require the attendance of persons to make statements relevant to the matter which he has to investigate; but he is in no sense, of the term a judicial Officer and the proceedings before him are not judicial proceedings.' Obviously and factually this statement in the Manual is based on the decision of the Judicial Committee in ILR (1905) Cal 605, The same Manual in Chapter VIII states: 'The award is an offer made by the Collector regarding the amount tendered by him to the owner of the land and is binding on the Government for whom the Collector acts as the agent. If the owner of the land accepts the offer, the award becomes final at once.'
The contention of Mr. Nambiar is that it is not only the decisions of the Courts that hold that the Collector functions as an agent of the Government is ascertaining the compensation that such an ascertainment of compensation is an offer made by him on behalf of the Government to the owner of the land and that such ascertainment, is binding on the Government, but the Government also has all along been proceeding only on the basis that the Collector is functioning only as its agent and the award made by him is binding on it. In my opinion, this contention of Mr. Nambiar is well founded,
13. It can also be noticed in this context that Sections 18 and 25 of the Act support this conclusion. Section 18 gives a right to a person interested in the land to apply to the Collector for referring the matter to the Court. The Government is not considered to be a person interested and therefore the Government does not have a right under Section 18 to call for a reference to a Civil Court against the award made by a Collector under Sections 11 and 12. Under Section 25(1) of the Act, when the applicant has made a claim to compensation pursuant to any notice given under Section 9, the amount awarded to him by the Court shall not exceed the amount so claimed or be less than the amount awarded by the Collector under Section 11. These provisions also therefore make it clear that the amount awarded by the Collector is the irreducible minimum which the Government otters to the owner of the land by way of compensation and even when the owner of the land or the person interested takes up the matter to the Court the Court shall not give him anything less than the amount awarded by the Collector under Section 11. These provisions themselves indicate that the amount awarded by the Collector is the final amount as far as the Government is concerned and it is binding on the Government. As a matter of fact, Section 12(3) itself states that the award shall be filed in the Collector's office and shall, except as provided in the Act thereafter be final and conclusive evidence, as between the Collector and the persons interested, whether they have respectively appeared before the Collector or not, or the true area and value of the land, and the apportionment of the compensation among the persons interested. The only provision destroying this finality is that contained in Section 18 which gives a right to a person interested to ask for a reference and not to the Government to ask for a reference. Therefore, Sections 12, 18 and 25 themselves will show that the amount awarded by the Collector under Section 11 is final as far as the Government is concerned and is binding on the Government and the Government cannot call that in question in any Court. This conclusion is independent of the other conclusion, namely, the award made by the Collector under Section 11 is not judicial in character and does not constitute a judicial or quasi-judicial determination so as to bring it within the certiorari jurisdiction of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
14. The learned Advocate-General drew my attention to certain other decisions. He cited the decision of the Privy Council in M. Samiullah v. Collector of Aligarh and relied on the following passage occurring in that judgment:
'It is clear therefore that the Land Acquisition Officer, in awarding the amount of compensation under Section 11, is performing a statutory duty, a duty the exercise of which, in cases where land is to be acquired for a public purpose, concerns the public, since it affects the expenditure of public money. In assessing compensation he is bound to exercise his own judgment as to the correct basis of valuation, and his judgment cannot be controlled by an agreement between the parties interested,'
The next decision on which reliance was placed by him is that of the Patna High Court in Pannalal Maheshwari v. State of Bihar : AIR1955Pat63 . In that case, the Patna High Court held that the Collector was under the statutory duty to make an enquiry into the valuation of the land and into the respective interest of the persons claiming compensation and to make an award in respect of the matters mentioned in Section 11, and that Section 12 imposed a further duty upon the Land Acquisition Officer to file the award in the Collector's office and to give immediate notice of his award to such of the persons interested as were not present personally or by their representatives when the award was made. On this basis the Court held that a writ in the nature of mandamus should be issued under Article 226 of the Constitution commanding the Collector to perform the statutory duty imposed upon him under Sections 11 and 12 of Act.
15. The next decision relied is that of a single Judge of the Allahabad High Court in Baru Mal Jain v. State of Uttar Pradesh : AIR1962All61 . That judgment dealt with the question as to when the Collector could be said to have made his award finally under Section 11 of the Act and rejected the suggestion that the Land Acquisition Officer could make a subsequent award dictated by the Land Reforms Commissioner.
16. In my opinion, none of these decisions helps the case of the State in these writ petitions There is no inconsistency, between the duty being statutory and at the same time it being administrative in character. Simply because a writ of mandamus can be issued to compel a Collector to perform his duty under Sections 11 and 12 of the Act, it cannot be contended that when the Collector has performed his duty and made an award, that award has become a judicial one so as to attract the certiorari jurisdiction of the Court. Again simply because the source of the authority or the power of the Collector is the statute, it does not necessarily follow that the act done pursuant to that statutory power constitutes a judicial act. All that the above decisions point out is that the Collector is under a statutory obligation to make an award in terms of Sections 11 and 12 of the Act. As a matter of fact, the Allahabad High Court in the decision referred to above pointed out that it cannot be denied that the proceedings under the Act for awarding compensation are administrative in nature.
17. The last decision on which reliance was placed by the learned Advocate-General is that of the Supreme Court in Suri Ramatanu Co-operative Housing Society Ltd. v. State of Maharashtra : 1SCR719 . In paragraph 22 of this judgment, the Court observed:
'Section 33 of the Act deals with compensation. The amount of compensation under the Act can be determined by agreement between the State Government and the person to be compensated. Where on the other hand no such agreement can be reached, the State Government shall refer the case to the Collector. That is Sub-section (3) of Section 33 of the Act. The proviso to that Sub-section is that no compensation exceeding such amount as the State Government may by general orders specify to be paid for such acquisition shall be determined by the Collector without the previous approval of the State Government or such officer as the State Government may appoint in that behalf. This proviso was construed on behalf of the petitioner to be a fetter on the judicial powers of the Collector to determine compensation. Sub-section (5) of Section 33 of the Act states that in determining the amount of compensation, the collector shall be guided by the provisions contained in Sections 23 and 24 and other relevant provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. The provisions indicate that if the Collector will determine an amount higher than what the State Government may by general orders specify, the approval of the State Government will be necessary, there is no ceiling fixed by Government. Finally, there is an appeal to the Court from the decision of the Collector. The decision of the Court will finally determine the amount of compensation. We are of opinion that there is no restriction on the powers of the Collector in the matter of determination of compensation, although the approval of Government may be necessary in the Government interest.'
I am unable to hold that this decision is of any assistance to the petitioner, because in that case the Court was dealing with the Maharashtra Industrial Development Act, 1961 (3 of 1962) and was not dealing with the nature or character of the action of the Collector under Sections 11 and 12 of the Act. As a matter of fact, the Supreme Court held that the two Acts are dissimilar in situations and circumstances. Even independent of this consideration, the passage extracted above, on which alone reliance was placed, does not in any way help the case of the petitioner in these writ petitions.
18. Apart from the above considerations, the decision of the Supreme Court in : 1SCR676 referred to already clearly and categorically lays down the proposition that an award made by a Collector under Section 11 of the Act is not a decision and that it is only an offer made by him on behalf of the Government to the owner of the land. That decision will clearly lead to the inevitable conclusion that the award of the Collector made under Section 11 of the Act cannot be questioned by way of a petition for the issue of a writ of certiorari under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
19. Under these circumstances, the writ petitions fail and they are dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.