T. Ramaprasada Rao, J.
1. These two appeals are connected. A.S. No. 365 of 1966 is by the claimant against the award of the learned Subordinate Judge of Vellore, who after enquiry, granted compensation for the lands compulsorily acquired under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, which compensation, according to the appellant, is insufficient. A.S. No. 436 of 1966 is by the State who mainly questions the right of the Court below for having entertained the claim as regards compensation because there was a statutory bar under Section 25 (2) of the Act which prevented the Court below from enquiring into it. It, therefore, follows that if the preliminary objection raised by the State in A.S. No. 436 of 1966 has to be accepted, it may not be necessary for us to deal with the merits of A.S. No. 365 of 1966. In the light of this, we intend proceeding to consider the objections raised by the State in A.S. No. 436 of 1966 and thereafter, if necessary, advert to A.S. No. 365 of 1966.
2. An extent of 1.99 acres of lands in Shanaukuppam Village, Vellore, belonging to the respondent was acquired under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act for laying the second railway track between Latheri and Vinnamangalam Stations. The notification under Section 4 (1) of the Act was made on 4th July, 1962. It appears from the record that the Land Acquisition Officer, issued the usual notices including that under Section 9 of the Act and called upon the respondent-claimant to state his objections and inter alia the quantum of compensation required by him. We are not, however, asserting that the prescribed notice under Section 9 was issued in the instant case, for, there is no material before us to find that way. On the assumption, however, that the notice issued by the Land Acquisition Officer were in accordance with the statutory requirements as provided for in the Land Acquisition Act, we are proceeding to deal with the preliminary objection raised by the learned Government Pleader before us.
3. After receiving the notice, it appears that the claimant's son presented himself before the Land Acquisition Officer. But as it transprises, no specific claim was made by the representative of the claimant before the Land Acquisition Officer. That no such specific claim was made is not in dispute. The Land Acquisition Officer, however, proceeded with the enquiry and granted a compensation, which it is not necessary for us at this stage to state. Not being satisfied with the compensation so awarded by the Land Acquisition Officer, the claimant sought for a reference under Section 18 of the Act and accordingly a reference was made. The Court entertained the said claim in the ordinary course and at the time when the claim was being enquired into in the normal way, an objection was taken by the State that the claimant was not entitled to any more compensation than that awarded by the Land Acquisition Officer, because of the statutory interdict in Section 25 (2) of the Land Acquisition Act. The claimant's objection which gained favour with the Court below was that in the absence of a specific pleading to that effect by the State after a reference under Section 18 was made to Court, it was not open to the State to make such an objection and pursue the same. We find from the order of the Court below that it was of the view that in the absence of any pleading to that effect by the State, it was not competent to raise the question as above at that stage. Incidentally, the learned Subordinate Judge also considered whether there was any statutory duty on the part of the Land Acquisition Officer to inform the claimant before him, who appeared after service of notices under Section 9 of the Act, informing them that they should make a specific claim by way of compensation as representing the price of the lands compulsorily acquired and warning them that in the absence of such a claim, no more compensation can be granted by the Court in further proceedings thereafter. The learned Subordinate Judge was in two minds on this question and he referred to certain decisions of our Court. But ultimately he was of the view that on a closer reading of Section 9 (2) of the Act, the statute cast an obligation on the part of the Land Acquisition Officer to require the claimant to state the amount of compensation to him. Reliance is placed upon the last sentence in Section 9 (2) of the Act. Therefore, the Court below, whilst negativing the right of the State to raise the preliminary objection on the ground of absence of pleading, also accepted the contention of the claimant that in the absence of any question put by the Land Acquisition Officer in the course of the enquiry as to the quantum of compensation required by the claimant, there was no impediment for the Court to grant higher compensation. It was on these two grounds that he negatived the objection of the State under Section 25 (2) of the Act.
4. In appeal No. 436 of 1966, the learned Government Pleader reiterates that the interdict under Section 25 (2) is formidable and the view of the Court below that in the absence of a pleading, the objection cannot be projected, is unsound and not maintainable. He also contends that there is no statutory duty on the part of the Land Acquisition Officer to inform the claimant other things being equal and the requirements of the statute being otherwise satisfied, that he should make a specific claim as regards the quantum of compensation required by him.
5. The first ground in well founded. The Government in a reference under Section 18 of the Act, has no opportunity to plead in writing their objection and case. There is no indication in the statute to that effect. In the peculiar circumstances, an oral objection of the kind mooted can be entertained at the time of hearing. Further, this is a matter which borders on the jurisdiction of the Court to investigate the claim. Such a jurisdiction fact has to be found to see whether Section 25 comes into play. As the Government is not obliged to plead in writing and as the objection stems out of a statutory provision, we are of the view that the Court had the jurisdiction to hear and adjudicate on the said objection. Further the rule of secundum allegate et probata is applicable only to questions of fact and not to pure questions of law. The admitted fact is that no specific claim for excess compensation was made. In this view also the lower Court is wrong in having not considered the preliminary objection, in the ground that there was no pleading.
6. No doubt it has been stated that the effect of Section 25 (2) is penal in nature and, therefore, it is necessary for the State to establish beyond reasonable doubt that the state of affairs contemplated by statute under Section 25 (2) were strictly complied with and, therefore, the interdict therein would operate. In the instant, case, the claimant's son appeared, but made no specific claim. There is however, no evidence before us or material on record for us to adjudge whether the notices which preceded the enquiry before the Land Acquisition Officer were in strict accord with the statutory requirements. It may be, as pointed out by judicial precedents, the notice may be irregular in the matter of the provision of the 15 clear days before which the claimant could be called upon to appear before the Land Acquisition Officer; it may also be that the prescribed form has not been employed and possibly a mistake could have crept in the text of the notice resulting in the non-specification of the requirements as to the obligation of the claimant to make a specific demand or claim as compensation for his land, etc. In the absence of any such materials, we are not prepared to hazard on such an enquiry and conclude on it.
7. Nevertheless the question is, whether there is an obligation cast upon the Land Acquisition Officer, if every requirements of statute has been followed to inform the claimant at the time of the enquiry that he should make a specific demand. At one time it was thought that such was the statutory obligation for which reliance was placed upon the observations of Curgenven, J., in Venkaterama Iyer v. Collector of Tanjore : AIR1930Mad836 , and the Observations of Krishnaswamy Naidu J., in Subramania Chettiar v. The Stale of Madras : AIR1953Mad943 . But these two cases were noticed by a later division Bench of this Court consisting of Rajamannar, C.J., and Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., In referring to one of these cases, Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., speaking for the Bench said (at page 408):
In both these, the notice served under Section 9 (3) of the Act did not conform to the requirements of the statute which prescribes a minimum of 15 days between the date of the receipt of the notice and the enquiry.
Referring to the other case in Subramania Chettiar v. The State of Madras : AIR1953Mad943 , the learned Judge after having carefully examined the ratio therein, observed that it does not support any such proposition that there was a duty cast upon the Land Acquisition Officer, to inform the claimant that he should make a claim for a particular amount of compensation and that in the absence of any notice, of warning, the provisions of Section 25 (2) would not be attracted. On the other hand, Rajagopala Ayyangar, J., in the said case dealing with the facts in Subramania Chettiar v. The State of Madras : AIR1953Mad943 observed that a mistake was committed by the Land Acquisition Officer in the enquiry conducted by him because there, primarily, the enquiry highlighted upon the objection of the claimant that the acquisition itself was bad. In these circumstances, the learned Judges in Subramania Chettiar v. The State of Madras : AIR1953Mad943 , were of the view that the Land Acquisition Officer ought to have put the claimant in the proper way and ought to have informed him that he should make a specific claim as well as beyond objecting for the acquisition. This was how the learned Judges of the Divisional Bench in A.P.S. Karuppiah Madar v. Special Deputy Collector for : AIR1955Mad406 understood the decision in Subramania Chettiar v. The State of Madras : AIR1953Mad943 . With great respect : we are also of the same view.
8. It, therefore, follows that if the notices as required under the Land Acquisition Act have been served properly and in accordance with the statutory prescriptions, then it is not the duty of the Land Acquisition Officer to inform the claimant that he should make a specific claim for compensation for the lands sought to be acquired. Whilst, respectfully, therefore, agreeing with the ratio in A.P.S. Karuppiah Nadar v. Special Deputy Collector for : AIR1955Mad406 , we are bound to uphold the preliminary objection raised before us by the learned Government Pleader.
9. We, however, make it clear that the material placed before us is not sufficient to express any view on the regularity or otherwise of the notices issued by the Land Acquisition Officer. This has to be scrutinised. For this purpose and also for the purpose of enabling the respondent to avail himself of another opportunity to plead before the Court below that he had sufficient cause for his omission to make the claim before the Land Acquisition Officer and that it was not deliberate and wanton. We were inclined to go into the question ourselves, as we have the jurisdiction to do so. But in the absence of any material we are unable to adjudicate upon it.
10. In the view we have taken as above, it is not necessary for us to consider the merits of A.S. No. 365 of 1966.
11. A.S. No. 436 of 1966 is, therefore, allowed, but there will be no order as to costs. A.S. No. 365 of 1966 is dismissed, but with no order as to costs. The subject-matter of O.P. No. 74 of 1963 (A.S. No. 365 of 1966) on the file of the Sub-Court, Vellore, is remitted back to it for a reappraisal on a petition made by the respondent in A.S. No. 436 of 1966 as to the sufficiency of the cause for the omission to make a claim before the Land Acquisition Officer and if the Court finds that there was sufficient cause, it will re-enquire into the quantum of compensation to which the claimants would be entitled and thereafter dispose of the matter in accordance with law. In view of the above, the appellant in A.S. No. 365 of 1966 would be entitled to refund of his Court-fee.