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Khajana Lakshmana Rao Vs. Revenue Divisional Officer, Ranipet - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectProperty
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. No. 821 of 1952
Judge
Reported inAIR1954Mad942; (1954)IIMLJ308
ActsLand Acquisition Act, 1894 - Sections 12(2), 18 and 18(2)
AppellantKhajana Lakshmana Rao
RespondentRevenue Divisional Officer, Ranipet
Appellant AdvocateC.S. Rama Rao Sahib and ;S. Ranganathan, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateSpecial Govt. Pleader
DispositionApplication allowed
Cases ReferredMuthiah Chettiar v. Commr. of Income
Excerpt:
property - reference - sections 12 and 18 of land acquisition act, 1894 - application for issue of writ of mandamus to refer question of compensation payable under section 18 (2) - section 18 (2) lays down limit of time within which claimant has to file application for reference - acquisition officer cannot pass order under section 11, keep it filed in office under section 12 (1) and claim finality of order without claimant's having notice of making of order - limitation period in such case would start only when claimant had notice of award made - application for reference in time and officer had no jurisdiction to refuse to comply with it - application allowed. - - 30 per cent, for the lands and also additional compensation for a well on the property as well as for loss of certain..........officer, ranipet, to refer the question of compensation payable to the petitioner under the land acquisition act to the court under section 18(2) of the said act.2. the facts of the case lie in a very narrow compass, and may be briefly set out. the petitioner is the managing member of a joint hindu family owning among others land bearing s. no, 129 in the village of muppaduvetti in wallajah taluk, in the north arcot district. this land was the subject of notification for the purpose of acquisition under section 4 of the land acquisition act. the government took possession of the property. the petitioner claimed rs. 30 per cent, for the lands and also additional compensation for a well on the property as well as for loss of certain privileges. the members of the joint family.....
Judgment:
ORDER

Rajagopala Ayyangar, J.

1. This is an application for the issue of a writ of mandamus directing the Revenue Divisional Officer, Ranipet, to refer the question of compensation payable to the petitioner under the Land Acquisition Act to the Court under Section 18(2) of the said Act.

2. The facts of the case lie in a very narrow compass, and may be briefly set out. The petitioner is the managing member of a joint Hindu family owning among others land bearing S. No, 129 in the village of Muppaduvetti in Wallajah Taluk, in the North Arcot District. This land was the subject of notification for the purpose of acquisition under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act. The Government took possession of the property. The petitioner claimed Rs. 30 per cent, for the lands and also additional compensation for a well on the property as well as for loss of certain privileges. The members of the joint family represented by the petitioner gave him letters of authority to represent them and also authorised the petitioner to receive the compensation due to them.

At the enquiry which was conducted under Section 11, which was held on 12-6-1950, the. petitioner appeared in person and claimed compensation at not less than Rs. 30 per cent, for the land acquired. Evidently, orders were reserved. The petitioner received subsequently no notice, either that an award was going to be passed nor was he sent a copy of the award as contemplated by Section 12(2) of the Act. The petitioner having heard that some award was passed, from a relation of his, applied on 25-10-1951 to the Revenue Divisional Officer for a certified copy of the award and also intimated to him that he had to file a reference within six months after knowledge of the order, in the event of his not being awarded the compensation claimed by him, requested him to despatch the copy at an early date. The Revenue Divisional Officer thereupon replied by communication dated 31-10-1951 stating that 'in consideration of the objection preferred by the petitioner dated 4-6-1950, the compensation due to him as per award dated 9-3-1951 was referred to the civil Court under Section 31(2).'

3. As there had been no dispute regarding the persons to share in the compensation amount, the reference to Section 31(2) seems to be misleading. The petitioner thereupon made an application on 17-12-1951 to the Revenue Divisional Officer requiring him to refer the question of the quantum of compensation to the civil Court under Section 18(2) of the Land Acquisition Act. This application has been rejected by the Revenue Divisional Officer on the ground that it was filed too lateunder Section 18. The copy of the award received by the petitioner showed that the award was passed on 9-3-1951.

4. The contention of Mr. Rama Rao Sahib, learned counsel for the petitioner is that the application for the reference by the petitioner was within time under the proviso to Section 18(2), and that the Revenue Divisional Officer had no jurisdiction to decline the reference. In the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the Government, it is stated:

'Though the award enquiry was over on 12-6-1950, the award could not be passed till March 1351, as necessary funds had not been placed at the disposal of the Revenue Divisional Officer, Ranipet. Notice under Section 12(2) of the Land Acquisition Act was issued by the Land Acquisition Officer, but the Tahsildar, Wallaj ah returned them unserved as the party was a nonresident. No reference under Section 18(2) of the Act was mads to the Court as the petitioner's request for making such a reference was re-ceived only on 17-12-1951 after the time allowed ..... With regard to the allegationsthat the provisions of Section 12(2) of the Land Acquisition Act have not been properly complied with..... Notice under Section 12(2) was issuedbut was not served on him as he was r.ot present. However, failure to serve the notice does not render the award 'ultra vires'.....Here the applicant, having failed to ask for reference to Court within sis months from the date of the award, he is not entitled to ask for a reference now.'

The learned Government Pleader, appearing for the respondent sought to justify the order impugned on the lines indicated in the counter just now set out. This line of reasoning proceeds on an en(sic) misconstruction of the scheme of the Act in relation to the making of the award and application for reference. On the conclusion of an enquiry under Section 11 the Acquisition Officer is directed to make an award. Section 13(1) directs that the award shall be filed at the Collector's office and attaches finality to it, in respect of 'inter alia' of the true value of the land, 'except as hereinafter provided.' This last qualification obviously refers to and includes the procedure for reference to court as regards the quantum for compensation enacted in Section 18(2). The proviso to Section 18(2) lays down the limits of time within which the claimant has to file an application for a reference.

The proviso takes into account three sets of cases (i) where the person making it was present or was represented before the Collector when the award was made, (ii) where he was not represented before the Collector at the time of the award but has received notice from the Collector under Section 12(2) and (iii) other cases. Under Section 12(2) to which we are referred by the proviso, the Collector is directed to give immediate notice of the award to such of the persons as are not present in person or by their representatives when the award is made. The provisions of Section 18 and the periods of limitation set out therein have therefore to be read in conjunction with the duty cast upon the officer by the terms of Section 12(2).

Read in this light the only conclusion possible is (1) where notice of the date on which an award could be passed is intimated to a party and he or his representative is present at the time when the award is made, the reference application has to be filed within six months from the date of the award. In such a case, there will beno exclusion of time taken by the claimant in obtaining a copy of the award, (2) In cases where notice of the date on which the award would be made is not communicated to the claimant, the Collector has to send notice of the award to the persons interested under Section 12(2). Where such notice has been issued, the claimant has six weeks from the receipt of the notice under Section 12(2) for the purpose of filing the reference application; (3) where the claimant has notice that an award would be made on a particular date, but was not present personally or by representative at the time the award was rendered, and the Collector has not served him with notice of the award under Section 12(2) the claimant would have a period of six months from the date of the award to apply for the reference. In my opinion, this is the precise scope of the provision granting six months from the date of the award referred to in the concluding portion of the proviso to Section 18(2), (4) In other cases, he would have six months from the time the claimant has information that an award has been passed.

5. The contention that is sought to be put upon it by the learned Government Pleader that the limitation period of six months applies even to cases where the claimant has had no notice that an award would be made on any particular date or has the notice served on him is, in my opinion, repugnant to common sense and contrary to the authorities on the point.

6. The instance now on hand furnishes adequate reason why the construction contended for by the learned Government Pleader is unreasonable and untenable. The enquiry in the present case was held and concluded on 12-6-1950 and the award was made about nine months thereafter. How the claimant who had no notice of the making of the award or of the award is to acquaint himself with the date on which the award was made so as to take action under Section 18(2) passed one's comprehension. The Acquisition Officer cannot pass an order under Section 11, keep it filled in his office under Section 12(1) and claim finality to it without the claimant's having notice of the making thereof. On the other hand, it would be in consonance with common sense and a reasonable construction of the enactment to hold that the six months period in such a case would start only when the claimant has notice that an award has been made. This interpretation, which I consider reasonable, is supported by decisions of this court construing analogous provisions.

In -- 'Secy, of State v. Gopisetti Narayansami. Naidu', 34 Mad 151 (A), the question debated was the starting point of limitation for an appeal by way of suit against a final decision under Section 24 of the Survey and Boundaries Act (Madras), Act 4 of 1897, which was the 'date of decision' under S. 13 of the said Act. Dealing with a case like this, the learned Judges Miller and Munro JJ. said,

'..... the date of the decision is the datewhen the decision is passed and the decision cannot be said to be passed until it is some way pronounced or published under such circumstances that the parties affected by it had a reasonable opportunity of knowing what it contains. Till then, though it may be written, signed and dated, it is only the decision which, the officer intends to pass.'

This decision was followed in -- 'Swaminathan v. Lakshmanan', AIR 1930 Mad 490 (B) by Venkatasubba Rao and Madhavan Nair JJ. in dealing with the application to Registrars under Section 73 (1) of the Registration Act 16 of 1908. Thelearned Judges pointed out the distinction between an order made of which the party affected has notice and those which are made by the officer of which interested parties are wholly ignorant. Repelling the contention of the learned Advocate-General that the making of the order meant the making of the order and nothing more, Venkatasubba Rao J. said:

'The very word 'order' by necessary implication means in law that the party affected has had reasonable notice of it. Not a single case in India has been brought to our notice which takes a different view. On the contrary, everydecision on the point seems to recognise theprinciple I have stated.'

These decisions and others on the same lines were referred to and followed by a Bench of this Court recently in a decision reported in--'Muthiah Chettiar v. Commr. of Income-tax, Madras' : [1951]19ITR402(Mad) , where the question to be decided was the proper interpretation of a similar provision in s. 33-A (2) of the Income-tax Act. After referring to the two decisions cited above and after negativing the argument of counsel for the department that these decisions could ba distinguished as justified by the peculiar or special language employed in the enactments dealt with by them, the learned Chief Justice said:

'We consider that the rule laid down by the learned Judges in the above two decisions, is based upon a salutary and just principle, namely, that if a person is given a right to resort to a remedy to get rid of an adverse order within a prescribed time, limitation should not be computed from a date earlier than that on which the party aggrieved actually knew of the orderor had an opportunity of knowing the order and. therefore must be presumed to have had knowledge of the order.'

I respectfully agree with every word of this reasoning and it expresses in forceful language a construction which I have suggested as the only reasonable one to adopt of the proviso to Section 18(2)of the Land Acquisition Act.

7. I am, therefore, of opinion that the application by the petitioner for a reference under Section 18(2) of the Land Acquisition Act was in time and that the officer had no jurisdiction to refuse to comply with it. A writ of mandamus will accordingly issue directing the Revenue Divisional Officer, Ranipet, to refer the question of the quantum of compensation payable to the petitioner to the civil Court for adjudication under Section 18(2) of the Land Acquisition Act of 1894.

8. The petitioner will be entitled to his costs which I fix at Rs. 100.


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