K.S. Palaniswamy, J.
1. This petition is filed under Article 226 of the Constitution to issue a writ of certiorari for quashing the proceedings initiated under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, against the petition schedule properties belonging to the petitioners. For the purpose of starting small scale industries, the Government of Pondicherry issued a notification under Section 4(1) of the Act on 17th January, 1969. In the schedule to the notification, three items of properties Were described with survey numbers and extents, which were 1682, 1683 and 1684, the extends being 25.90 acres, 38.90 acres and 17.40 acres respectively. A notice under Section 5-A was issued to the petitioners on 1st April, 1969, containing the same description as regards survey numbers and extents. That notice was served on the petitioners on 11th April, 1969. The notice inter alia stated that if there was any objection to the proposed acquisition, it should be filed within 30 days from the date of service of the notice and that if such objections were filed, an enquiry would be held on 10th May, 1969. On 29th April, 1969, the petitioners sent up a memorial to Lt. Governor, Pondicherry protesting against the proposed acquisition. On 10th May, 1969, they appeared before the acquisition officer and signed a statement reiterating their objections already filed. On 4th June, 1969, the acquisition officer sent up proposals suggesting the overruling of the objections and proceeding with the acquisition. The declaration under Section 6 was issued on 12th June, 1969, in which a different schedule of property was given. In this schedule, survey numbers and extents are mentioned respectively as 1682, 1685 and 1684, with corresponding extents of 25.90 acres, 18.75 acres (out of the total extent of 38.90 acres) and 17-40 acres. It would thus be seen that, whereas the notification under Section 4 and the declaration under Section 6 were consistent with regard to two survey numbers, namely, 1682 and 1684, the declaration under Section 6 was at variance with regard to the other survey number, giving the survey number as 1685 as against the survey number 1683 shown in the notification under Section 4(1). It is to quash this notification under Section 6 that this writ petition has been filed.
2. Two contentions are urged in support of this writ petition. First is that the petitioners had no reasonable opportunity of substantiating their objections to the acquisition as there was no enquiry at all under Section 5-A of the Act. The second contention is that the declaration under Section 6 is void and inoperative in regard to the survey number 1685 which is not the item notified under Section 4(1).
3. In the counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the respondent, it is contended that the petitioner attended the enquiry under Section 5-A on 10th May, 1969 and that the objection taken in this behalf is, therefore, untenable. It is further contended that the declaration under Section 6 gave correct details, and that a slight mistake in regard to the description of the survey number in the notification under Section 4(1) cannot invalidate the proceedings.
4. The records produced by the respondent's Counsel show that the petitioners appeared before the acquisition officer on 10th May, 1969, and gave a statement objecting to the acquisition and further affirming the objections already sent through their advocate on 29tb April, 1969 which is at page 273 of the file produced by the learned Government Pleader. The period of 30 days within which the petitioners were required to submit their objections expired on 10th May, 19698 on which date the enquiry itself was posted. The file also shows that the acquisition officer submitted his proposals to the Government on 4th June, 1969, stating that the objections may be overruled. This report states that the view of the Director of Industries and Commerce was obtained with regard to the objections. But the file does not show when a copy of the objections was sent to that officer and when the reply of that officer was received.
5. In this connection, the rules framed by the Government under Section 55(1) of the Act may be noted. The relevant rule is Rule 3, which reads thus:
Rule 3 : (a) If a statement of objections is filed by a person who is not interested in the land, it shall be summarily rejected.
(b) If any objections are received from a person interested in the land and within the time prescribed in Sub-section (1) of Section 5-A, the Collector shall fix a date for hearing the objections and give notice thereof to the objector as well as to the department or company-requiring the land, where such department is not the Revenue Department. Copies of the objections shall also be forwarded to such department or company. The department or company may file on or before the date fixed by the Collector a statement by way of answer to the objections and may also depute a representative to attend the enquiry, (c) On the date fixed for enquiry or any other date to which the enquiry may be adjourned fry the Collector, the Collector shall hear the objector or his pleader and the representative, if any, of the department or company and record any evidence that may be produced in support of the objections.
From this rule, it is clear that the acquisition officer has got to take action step by step in the matter of the enquiry under Section 5-A. If the person interested m the land sends his objections within the time specified, the acquisition officer should fix a date for hearing the objections and give notice thereof to the objector as well as to the department or company requiring the land where such department is not the Revenue Department. The acquisition officer should also send copies of the objections to such department or company. An option is given to the department or company to file before the date fixed by the acquisition officer, a statement by way of answer to the objections and may also depute a representative to attend the enquiry. The acquisition officer is required to hear the objector or his pleader and the representative, if any, of the department or company on the date fixed for the enquiry or any other date to which the enquiry may be adjourned by him. He is also required to record evidence that may be produced in support of the objections.
6. From this rule, it would be seen that the objector gets an opportunity to know, at the time of the enquiry, what answer if any, the company or the department, for whom the acquisition is proposed to be made, has given with regard to his objections. On coming to knew at the time of enquiry how the objections are sought to be met by the company or the concerned department, the objector gets an opportunity to adduce evidence in support of the objections. If the company or the concerned department has nothing to say in answer to the objections, the objector might urge before the acquisition officer that the objections should be accepted as they are not controverted, though, it would be open to the acquisition officer on an appreciation of all the facts, either to accept or reject the objections. Such a procedure is laid down with a view to give the owner of the land every reasonable opportunity to urge his objection against the proposed compulsory acquisition. In the instant case, the petitioner had no opportunity to know the answer given by the concerned department which is referred to by the acquisition officer in his report sent to the Government. As already pointed out, the time given to the petitioners to file their objections expired on 1,0th May, 1969, on which date the enquiry itself was posted. The records do not show that the enquiry was adjourned from 10th May, 1969 to some other date and that on the adjourned date the objections were examined in the light of the answer of the concerned department. On the other hand, the records show that the enquiry was concluded on 10th May, 1969, itself. Therefore, it was impossible for the acquisition officer to have known on that date what the concerned department had to say in answer to the objections of the petitioners. Thus, the mandatory provisions contained in Rule 3 were violated as the enquiry was not conducted in accordance with the said rule. The gravamen of the charge of the petitioners is that they had no reasonable opportunity of making their representations. No doubt, they did appear before the acquisition officer on 10th May, 1969, and gave a statement reiterating their objections already filed. But the enquiry was not conducted in the manner laid down in the rules. The acquisition proceeding is, therefore, vitiated and is liable to be quashed.
7. In the view which I have taken about the enquiry under Section 5-A, it is unnecessary to consider the question whether the declaration under Section 6 with regard to Survey No. 1685, which does not find a place in the notification under Section 4, is invalid. In the result the writ petition is allowed quashing the acquisition proceedings, except the notification under Section 4. No order as to costs.