S. Natarajan, J.
1. The State has preferred this appeal against the order of the District Judge of Pudukottai in L.A.O.P. No. 47 of 1974 on the file of his Court. The said petition related to a reference made under Sections 30 and 31 of the Land Acquisition Act, by the Land Acquisition Officer (Special Deputy Collector - Rural Housing) Pattukottai. The facts in brief are as follows: An extent of 1.22 acres of wet land in Survey No. 25215 in No. 157, Avudayarkoil, Aranthangi Taluk, belonging to the Deity Sri Athmanathaswamy was acquired by the Government for a public purpose to wit providing house sites to landless rural workers. The land acquisition proceedings were initiated by means of a notification under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act in 1973. An enquiry under Section 9 of the Act was held on 7th January, 1974. at the, Special Deputy Collector's office at Pattukottai. On that day the agent of the Adheenakarthar of the Thiruvaduthurai Adheenam (hereinafter referred to as the Adheenam) who is the hereditary trustee of vSri Athmanathasamy Devasthanam of Avudayarkoil appeared before the Land Acquisition Officer and filed an objection statement Exhibit R-l given by the Adheenam and also gave a formal statement Exhibit R-2 regarding the filing of Exhibit R-l. The Land Acquisition Officer passed an award on 9th January, 1974, fixing the compensation of Rs. 34.40 per cent, and granted total compensation of Rsi. 4,837.55. On 10th January, 1974, the Adheenam sent a petition, Exhibit R-3 to the Land Acquisition Officer slating that the price of the wet land in the area of acquisition was Rs. 150 per cent, and as such the Officer should award compensation at that rate for the land sought to be acquired. In support of such a statement the Adheenam sent registration copies of two sale deeds, Exhibits P-1 and P-2. The Land Acquisition Officer refused to consider the request for higher compensation on the ground that he had already pronounced the award on 9th January, 1974.
2. As the acquired land belonged to the Deity and as the Adheenam was only a hereditary trustee and had no alienable right over the properties, the Land Acquisition Officer made a reference under Sections 30 and 31 of the Act and deposited the compensation amount in Court and left it to the Court to deal with the disbursement of the amount.
3. The Adheenam filed a counter statement before the Court and stated that the Land Acquisition Officer should have awarded compensation at the rate of Rs. 150 per cent, and he having not done so, the Court may enhance the compensation amount to that rate.
4. The State opposed the claim of the Adheenam for payment of higher compensation and contended that since the Adheenam had failed to make a claim for higher compensation before the award was passed, it was not entitled to ask for higher compensation and in any event the rate claimed was excessive. The learned District Judge framed the following question:
Whether the claimant is entitled to get enhanced compensation, and if so, to what amount?
5. Before the learned District Judge P.W. 1, an Inspector in the Avudayar Devasthanam was examined on the claimant's side and Exhibits P-1 and P-2, sale deeds were marked in evidence. For the State, the Village Karnam was examined as P.W. 1 and Exhibits R-l to R-5 were filed. The District Judge held that in spite of the Adheemam having sent the petition, Exhibit 3, claiming higher compensation only a day after the award was passed the Adheenam was not estopped from claiming higher compensation and the Adheenam cannot be deemed to have given up its right to ask for higher compensation. Proceeding then to determine the value of the land the District Judge placed reliance on Exhibit P-2 and fixed the compensation amount to Rs. 100 per cent, and passed orders accordingly. It is the correctness of that order, which is challenged by the Government in this appeal.
6. The principal contention of the learned Additional Government Pleader was that the District Judge had failed to notice the interdict contained in Sub-section (2) of Section 25 of the Act and consequently, his action in granting enhanced compensation to the Adheenam is against law. Elaborating his contention, the Additional Government Pleader stated that Exhibit R-3 petition had been sent only on 10th January, 1974, and had been received by the Land Acquisition Officer only on 16th January, 1974, whereas the award had been passed on 9th January, 1974, itself and consequently, it was a case where the Adheenam had omitted to make a claim for higher compensation within the prescribed time. It was further submitted that the Adheenam had also failed to adduce sufficient cause for the non-filing of the claim statement within time and hence the civil Court had no power to condone the omission and examine the Adheenam's claim for payment of higher compensation. The second argument related to the fixation of the compensation amount at Rs. 100 per cent.
7. In support of the first argument the Additional Government Pleader cited the decision in Secretary of State v. Sohan Lal (1918) 44 I.C.883 In that case, the facts were as follows: - In a land acquisition matter, the Collector caused notice to be served on the owner of one of the items of the acquired lands by name, Sohan Lal for an award enquiry proposed to be held on 20th July, 1912. Sohan Lal failed to make a claim for, payment of higher compensation before the Collector before the said date. However, the award enquiry was not held on 20th July, 1912, but was adjourned to a later date, because no notices could be served on some of the owners of the other items of lands, which were also acquired. In the meanwhile Sohan Lal appeared before the Collector on 21st August, 1912, and gave a petition for payment if compensation at a higher rate. The Collector passed an award thereafter and since Sohan Lai was not satisfied with the award, he asked for a reference to the civil Court under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act, and a reference was accordingly made. It was contended on behalf of the Government that since Sohan Lal had failed to make his claim statement on or before 20th July, 1912, he was not entitled to ask for a higher compensation than what had been awarded by the Collector. A Division Bench of the Punjab Chief Court, overruled the objection and held that since Sohan Lal had filed his statement for higher compensation before the award was passed, he was not barred in law from disputing the correctness of the compensation amount fixed by the Collector. A converse inference is therefore, sought to be raised to contend that since the claim statement had not been filed by the Adheenam on or before 9th January, 1974, the Adheenam was not entitled to dispute the correctness of the award passed by the Land Acquisition Officer. The contention of the learned Additional Government Pleader cannot be accepted for more than one reason.
8. For determining the scope of Section 25(2) of the Act, reference must be made to the several Sub-sections of Section 25 as well as Section 9 of the Act. Section 25 reads as follows:
25. Rules as to amount of compensation.
1. When the applicant has made a claim to compensation purusant 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.
2. When the applicant has refused to make such claim or has omitted without sufficient reason (to be allowed by the Judge) to make such claim, thei amount awarded by the Court shall in no case exceed the amount awarded by the Collector.
3. When the applicant has omitted for a sufficient reason (to be allowed by the judge) to make such claim, the amount awarded to him by the Court shall not be less than and may exceed the amount awarded by the Collector.
From the terms of the section it may be seen that the three Sub-sections contemplate three different situations. Sub-section (1) deals with the cases where a claimant pursuant to a notice given under Section 9 has made a claim for higher compensation within the time given to him. In such a case, the Court can award higher compensation to him in a reference made under Section 18 of the Act, but the powers of the Court are circumscribed within the limits of the compensation amount awarded by the Collector or Land Acquisition Officer on the one hand, and the amount claimed by the claimant in his claim petition on the other. In other words, the Court cannot award compensation amount less than what has been awarded by the Collector himself nor can it award a compensation higher than what has been claimed by the claimant himself. Sub-section (2) deals with those cases where the claimant has refused to make a claim statement for higher compensation or has failed without sufficient reason to make a claim statement. In such cases, the Court has no powers to disturb the compensation awarded by ithe Collector. To put it differently the Court cannot concede the request of the claimant for a higher compensation irrespective of the merits of his contentions. Sub-section (3) deals with those cases where a claimant has omitted for a sufficient reason to make claim statement within the time given to him by the Collector. The reason for his failure to make the statement must be found to be sufficient by the civil Court. If the Court finds that the failure to make the statement was on account of a sufficient or justifiable reason, the Court has the power to overlook the non-filing of the claim statement within time and award a higher rate of compensation to the claimant. It is apposite to mention here that Sub-section (3) deals with those cases alone, where the claimant has omitted for sufficient reason to make a claim statement within the time given to him by the Collector and not to those cases where the claimant has deliberately refused to make a claim statement.
9. Coming now to Section 9, it reads as follows:
9. Notice to persons interested.
The Collector shall then cause public notice to be given at a convenient place on or near the land to be taken, stating that the Government intends to take possession of the land, and that claims to compensation for all interests in such land, may be made to him.
2. Such notice shall state the particulars of the land so needed and shall require all persons interested in the land to appear personally or by agent before the Collector at a time and place therein mentioned (such time not being earlier than fifteen days after the date of publication of the notice) and to state the nature of their respective interests in the land and the amount and particulars of their claims to compensation for such interests, and their objections (if any) to the measurements made under Section 8. The Collector may in any case require such statement to be made in writing and signed by the party or his agent.
3. The Collector shall also serve notice to the same effect on the occupier (if any) of such land and on all such persons known or believed to be interested therein or entitled to act for persons so interested as reside or have agents authorised to receive service on their behalf within the revenue district in which the land is situate.
4. In case any person so interested resides elsewhere and has no such agent the notice shall be sent to him by post in letter addressed to him at his last known residence address or place of business and registered under Part III of the Indian Post Office Act, 1866.
From the section it may be seen that Sub-section (1) deals with the causing of a public notice. Sub-section (2) besides stating what the contents of the notice should be imposes an obligation on the Collector to fix the date of hearing at least 15 days after the date of publication of the notice. Sub-section (3) deals with service of personal notice on the occupier, if any, of the land and on all such persons known or believed to be interested therein, etc. Sub-section (4) deals with the the service of notice on persons residing else where and who have no agent at the place where the land is situate.
9. It is by now well-settled that the serving of personal notice under Sub-section (3) of Section 9 must also conform to the directions contained in Sub-section (2) regarding the interval to be given between the date of notice and the date of hearing. I may refer to some decisions on this aspect of the matter. In Venkatarama Ayyar v. Collector of Tanjore : AIR1930Mad836 , it has been held by this Court that in respect of notices under Section 9(3) of the Act also, there must be an interval of at least 15 days between the date of service of such notice and the date when the claimants are required to state their objections and claims. The same ratio has been laid down in Lal Saheb v. State : AIR1975Ori126 and in The Revenue Divisional Officer, Chidambaram v. A.R. Damadara Mudaliar, Managing Trustee of Patalewarar Devasthanam, Tiruppapuliyur : AIR1978Mad138 ,
10. The further thing to be noticed is that the application of the interdict contained in Sub-section (2) of Section 25 depends upon the valid service of notice under Section 9(3) read with Section 9(2) of the Act. We have already seen, as is the of public notice under Section 9(2), in the case of private notice under Section 9(3) as well, there must of an interval of at least 15 days before the date of service of notice and the date of the enquiry. If that requirement is not complied with, then the failure of the complainant to file claim statement regarding the valuation within the. time given in the notice or even before the passing of the award, will not disentitle him to claim higher compensation. This view has been uniformly taken by several Courts over a long number of years, and it has become a settled proposition by now. The reported cases on this matter are as given under: Venkatarama Ayyar v. Collector of Tanjore : AIR1930Mad836 , Special Land Acquisition Officer v. Section P. Paiit; Lal Saheb v. State : AIR1975Ori126 ; S.S.M. Vidwa Poshaka Sangham v. Special Tahsildar 1975 A.L.J. 107 and The Revenue Divisional Officer, C hidamabaram v. A.R. Damodara Muduliar, Managing Trustee of Palaleswurar Devaslhanam, Tiruppapuliyur : AIR1978Mad138 . Hence if the contention of the State is to be accepted, the State must prove that valid notice under Section 9(3) giving clear interval of 15 days between the data of service of notice and the date of enquiry had been given effect to on the Adheenam. It is from this perspective, the contention of the State has to be examined. Admittedly, the notice issued by the Land Acquisition Officer under Section 9(3) of the Act was on 27th December, 1973. The date of enquiry has been fixed as 7th January, 1974, i.e., within a period of 15 days from the date of notice. Even assuming that the notice was served on the date of its issue itself, for which inference there is no material in this case, it still follows that the notice will not amount to a valid under section 9(3), because the enquiry has been fixed within a period of 15 days. If in response to such an invalid notice, the Adheenam had not filed a claim -statement before the passing of the award, the State cannot legitimately contend that the Adheenam had deliberately failed to file the claim statement within the time given to it and such lapse must be construed as an inexcusable one. Consequently, it follows that the contention put forward by the Additional Government Pleader, cannot be sustained. In the instant case, there is additional material to discountenance the objection raised by the State. In response to the notice, dated 27th December, 1973, the Adheenam had sent a petition, Exhibit R-l raising objections therein to the very acquisition of the land. The objection raised by the Adheenam was that the land sought to be acquired was a valuable piece of wet land and the Deity was already depleted of its holdings by reason of the Land Ceiling Act, etc., and as such the acquisition proposal should be dropped. This objection has been overruled by the Land Acquisition Officer by means of a letter, dated 7th January, 1974, the copy of which is strangely not to be found in the file produced by the Additional Government Pleader. Even so, the subsequent objection, Exhibit R-3, dated 10th January, 1974, sent by the Adheenam makes reference to the communication sent on 27th January, 1974 by the Land Acquisition Officer. Significance must be attached to the letter, dated 7th January, 1974, by the Land Acquisition Officer, because the Adheenam would have thought that it was only thereafter it should 'have filed a statement regarding the compensation amount for the land. From this point of view also, the State's contention is untenable
11. Mr. B. Kumar, learned Counsel for the Adheenam advanced an argument stating that in as much as the land belongs to the Deity, the sending of a notice to the Adheenam under Section 9(3) cannot be, considered to be a valid notice, and on that ground too the reliance of the Additional Government Pleader on the notice, dated 27th December, 1973, is misconceived. I do not think there is merit in this argument, because the Adheenam is the hereditary trustee of the deity and is therefore competent to receive notice on behalf of the deity. It is further seen that the Land Acquisition Officer had originally sent a notice to the Executive Officer of the Devasthanam and since he declined to receive the notice, the Land Acquisition Officer had to issue the notice to the Adheenam.
12. Once the legal objection raised to the grant of enhanced compensation is overruled, the only other question remaining for consideration is about the correctness of the quantum of compensation fixed by the District Judge.
13. On this aspect of the matter the Adheenam has filed two sale deeds, Exhibits P-1 and P-2. Under the former sale deed, the rate works out to Rs. 150 per cent, and under the latter sale deed the rate works out to Rs. 97 per cent. Though Exhibit P-2 is later in point of time, it is somewhat odd that the sale of land is for a lower rate than what is contained in Exhibit P-1. J5e that as it may it is in evidence that lands sold under Exhibits P-1 and P-2 are also situate in the same ayacut in which the acquired land is situate and all of them are of the same tharam and bear the same amount of kist. It has been stated by R.W. 1 in evidence that the lands sold under Exhibits P-1 and P-2 adjoin an important road, viz., Mimisal-Arantangi Road, while the acquired land adjoins only a Panchayat Union Road, viz., Pattukottai road. The difference in the respective locations of the lands, cannot loom large or have any impact, because admittedly the acquired land also has good road frontage. As all the lands are situate in the same ayacut the distance between the lands sold under Exhibits P-1 and P-2 on the one hand, and the acquired land, on the other cannot be much. Moreover, it is seen that even in the year 1972, the price of the land was Rs. 150 percent. It was at that rate the Adheenam claimed the compensation. In such circumstances the fixation of the compensation amount at Rs., 100 per cent, by the District Judge cannot be said to be excessive. Therefore, the second contention of the Government should also fail.
14. The resultant position is that the appeal preferred by the State, has to fail. Accordingly, it will stand dismissed with costs. Counsel's fee is fixed at Rs. 250.