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R.P. Ganesan and ors. Vs. the Collector of Madras - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectCivil
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Reported in(1978)1MLJ280
AppellantR.P. Ganesan and ors.
RespondentThe Collector of Madras
Cases ReferredGopayya v. Deputy Collector of Tenali
Excerpt:
- .....trustees,who were then functioning, on receipt of the notice of enquiry into the subject from the land acquisition officer under sections 9 and 10 of the act, preferred their objections and in particular made a claim requesting the grant of a compensation at the rate of rs. 250 per ground. thereafter, apparently no appearance was made by them and this resulted in the land acquisition officer passing an award on 6th may, 1955. at the time of the passing of the award the claimants were not present. the land acquisition officer issued the usual notice under section 12(2) of the act. such notices were admittedly issued on 23rd july, 1955. for reasons not very clear, the trustees of the devasthanam again made a claim increasing their demand from rs. 250 to rs. 1,250 per ground. the land.....
Judgment:

Ramaprasada Rao, J.

1. This appeal is against the judgment of the Fourth Assistant Judge, City Civil Court, Madras in L.A.C. No. 103 of 1962. Briefly, we can state the necessary facts relevant for consideration: On 15th September, 1954 a notification under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act (here in after called the Act), was made to compulsorily acquire 28-88 acres of land belonging to the appellants and comprised in S. No. 1|1 of Ayanavaram for the purpose of constructing quarters for the staff attached to the Integral Coach Factory. The appellants-Devasthanam were at all material times represented by the trustees appointed by competent authorities and the body of trustees,who were then functioning, on receipt of the notice of enquiry into the subject from the Land Acquisition Officer under Sections 9 and 10 of the Act, preferred their objections and in particular made a claim requesting the grant of a compensation at the rate of Rs. 250 per ground. Thereafter, apparently no appearance was made by them and this resulted in the Land Acquisition Officer passing an award on 6th May, 1955. At the time of the passing of the award the claimants were not present. The Land Acquisition Officer issued the usual notice under Section 12(2) of the Act. Such notices were admittedly issued on 23rd July, 1955. For reasons not very clear, the trustees of the Devasthanam again made a claim increasing their demand from Rs. 250 to Rs. 1,250 per ground. The Land Acquisition Officer himself rejected a request for re-enquiry into the subject-matter which apparently the trustees then wanted. The order of rejection was made on 21st September, 1955. Then the Devasthanam once again reiterated their stand and wanted a reference under Section 18, not being satisfied with the award passed by the Land Acquisition Officer on 6th May, 1955. As by then the time available in law for such references under Section 18 of the Act was over, the Land Acquisition Officer, who had no jurisdiction to refer such belated applications for reference to civil Courts, rejected the petitioners' application for reference dated 5th November, 1955 on 11th November, 1955. Thereafter the Devasthanam filed two writ petitions: Chennai Sri Ekambareswarar Devasthanam by Trustees, A.N. Parasuraman and 2 Ors. v. Collector and Land Acquisition Officer, Madras 1. They prayed for a writ of mandamus directing the Collector and the Land Acquisition Officer, Madras to refer the matter relating to award No. 5 of 1955 regarding the appellants' lands to the Principal Judge, City Civil Court, and also sought for a similar writ for a fresh enquiry into the subject-matter under Section 11 of the Act. In fact, the prayer for reference under Section 18 of the Act on the foot that their earlier application to the statutory authority was rejected by him was an alternate to the other request for the issuance of a writ of mandamus to hold a fresh enquiry under Section 11 of the Act in regard to the fixation of the compensation for the lands of the appellants . In the affidavits in support of the writ petition, the appellants averred that there was a change in the Board of Trustees and when the new trustees took charge they became aware that the claim made by the quondam trustees was grossly inadequate and would also accuse the erstwhile trustees of gross negligence resulting in considerable loss to the institution. They ultimately, as already stated in the alternative asked for a reference under Section 18 of the Act on the ground that they did not have any knowledge of the passing of the award and that therefore the lapse of time was to be condoned. Srinivasan, J., who went into the question observed thus:

It is not denied by the petitioner that all the notices that a person interested was entitled under the provisions of the Act upto the stage of making of the award were in fact issued and served upon the petitioner. The petitioner's further claim that the then trustees were guilty of gross negligence in making a claim only for compensation at the very low figure of Rs. 250 per ground, does not arise for consideration here. In these circumstances, there can be no question of directing a fresh enquiry.

But the learned Judge, on an overall appreciation of the case, was satisfied that the appellants should be given an opportunity and therefore he issued an order directing the Collector to refer the application made by the trustees under Section 18 of the Act to the civil Court having jurisdiction. It was in those circumstances that the reference was made to the learned City Civil Judge at Madras.

2. In the Court below the same point was reiterated by the appellants and they urged that consequent upon the mistaken claim made by the quondam trustees which sloped down from their negligence a proper and just claim could not be made in time and therefore they requested the Court below to consider their increased claim for compensation and effectively wanted a rehearing of the entire award proceedings. The learned Judge did not countenance the argument. In so far as the claim of the appellants for increased compensation was concerned, he invoked Section 25(1) of the Act and, finding no sufficient cause or omission in the making of the claim on the part of the Devasthanam as such would not even countenance the request of the claimants for an increased compensation as there was a statutory bar for such grant under Section 25(1) of the Act. In the result, therefore, he decreed that the appellants were not entitled to any enhanced compensation. It is as against this the present appeal has been filed.

3. This is a very unfortunate case in which a public institution is running from pillar to post to get their just compensation . As ignorance of law is no excuse and as the necessary evil in that doctrine has to work against a person as well as against an institution, the appellants, as would be seen hereafter, cannot be helped.

4. From the hypothesis sought to be placed by the appellants in the Court below, it appears that the claimants would be entitled to more compensation than what was granted under the award. But the point for consideration and which was the only point urged before us by Mr. N.S. Raghavan, is whether, in the circumstances of the case, the Devasthanam has the legal right to claim an increased compensation over and above the quantum claimed in the initial stages in the award enquiry before the Land Acquisition Officer. It is common ground that the Devasthanam represented by its then trustees at the appropriate time asked for compensation at the rate of Rs. 250 per ground. There was a change in the Board of trustees and the successor Board realising that the compensation claimed was ridiculously low sought for increased compensation. Whether this could be done and whether a re-enquiry on the foot that the quondam trustees were negligent in the discharge of their official duties in not making a proper and just claim could be gone into in the teeth of Section 25(1) of the Act is the question.

5. Mr. Raghavan would say that there is no estoppel on the part of the claimants in seeking an increased compensation. Understanding it as a general contention it is well-founded. But the contention has to be applied to the facts in the case and in the light of the statutory provision with reference to it; it is not disputed before us that if a perfect and a legal claim has been made under Section 25(1) by a claimant under the Act, then the law precludes from changing over and making an increased compensation in the sense that it is over and above the rate of compensation claimed earlier. There is only one exception to this generic principle which is contained in Section 25(2) and (3) of the Act. That exception is couched in the following language:

Section 25(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, the amount awarded by the Court shall in no case , exceed the amount awarded by the Collector.

Reading this exception contained in Sub-section (2) of Section 25 in conjunction with the relatively equitable provision in Sub-section (3) of Section 25, it is clear that when the applicant has omitted for a sufficient cause to make such a claim, then the Court of reference may award to him an amount in excess of the amount awarded by the Land Acquisition Officer. But the foundation of such an equitable grant is that the applicant omitted with sufficient reason to make such a claim. What is sufficient reason cannot be iron-jacketed and it has to necessarily vary with the facts and circumstances of each case. But what is refusal is apparent and needs no further elucidation. If the applicant has refused to make a claim then he has no option except to take such compensation granted to him by the Collector and cannot ask for any amount in excess thereof, inspite of the fact that he has successfully sought for a reference under Section 18 of the Act and the Civil Court is in seisin of the same. But in a case where it is proved by material that the omission to make a particular quantum of a claim was with sufficient reason and if the Court of reference on reasonable enquiry is satisfied that there was such sufficient reason for the claimant in not having asked for an amount in excess of that claimed by him originally before the Land Acquisition Officer then the Court's power to invoke the beneficial provision of Sub-section (3) of Section 25 of the Act is not taken away. In fact in a recent decision in Collector of Madras v. K. Gokale (1976) 1 M.L.J. 3, this Division Bench referred to these provisions in the following manner:

The rigour of Section 25(2) of the Land Acquisition Act is mitigated by Section 25(3) according to which the Court, on being satisfied that there was sufficient reason for the claimant's lapse under Section 25(3) can award a sum in excess of the amount awarded by the Collector.

It is therefore a primary requisite that the civil Court should be satisfied about the bona fides of the claimant's conduct and the reason given for his lapse in not having made a proper claim before the proper authority in appropriate time.

6. Mr. Raghavan's contention is that the negligence pleaded by the appellants both before the trial Court and before us is an indicia of sufficient cause. We may at once state that when they sought for a reference on 5th November, 1955, the Devasthanam stated thus:

We are surprised that we have had no notice from you regarding the passing of the award in the above. In fact, we applied to you for amending our claim and we expected that you will fix a date for the hearing of the said petition. However, you have now informed us that an award was passed in May, 1955. We have already intimated to you that the claim made at the rate of Rs. 250 per ground was a mistake for Rs. 1,250 having; regard to the market value of the land. It is also found that you have made no reference in the award to our claim regarding the tank and the temple, and the award is incomplete and not in order. The compensation given is totally inadequate and all the claims put forward have not been dealt with.

We request you to refer the award to the Chief Judge, Court of Small Causes, Madras, under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act.

There was no whisper about the negligence of the erstwhile Board of trustees. In the above letter, the ground mentioned was 'mistake'. Even before the trial Court no attempt was made to prove negligence or fraud on the part of the quondam trustees. The finding is that there is absolutely no evidence to show that the trustees acted adversely or fraudulently to the interest of the trust and in consequence there was gross negligence on their part. Srinivasan, J., in the writ petition rightly observed that there was no plea to go into that question as it was not necessary for him to do so. But when the necessity arose the appellants did not take any effort to. substantiate their allegation.

7. Then the next question is whether there was any omission in the matter of, making a claim within the meaning of Section 25(2) of the Act. We have already made it clear that this is not a case where an applicant refused to make a claim. The omission referred to in Sub-section (2) of Section 25 is referable to an overt act on the part of the applicants themselves. It cannot be said that in the instant case the act of the quondam trustees is something very different or should be understood so from the act of the trustees who succeeded. In such public institutions it is common to expect the Board of trustees to change from time to time. The successors to such public bodies should therefore suffer all the resultants of the acts of their predecessors. In the absence of proof of negligence it cannot be said that the prior administrators of the Devasthanam omitted to make a claim; far from it. On the other hand, they did make a claim which is certainly not an omission to make a claim. Only if an omission has occurred, the question whether such an omission wag with or without sufficient reason can arise for consideration. But when a claim has been made by the previous administrators, we fail to understand the contention that there was an omission to make a claim. The successors in interest of the quondam trustees are bound by the claim so made by their predecessors. It therefore follows that in the instant case and having regard to the facts therein it cannot be said that there was any omission to make a claim as required under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act. Reliance is sought to be placed on a decision of our Court in Gopayya v. Deputy Collector of Tenali 42 M.L.J. 298 : 15 L.W. 366 : I.L.R. (1922) Mad. 421 : A.I.R. 1922 Mad. 100. That was a case where the learned Judges said that a reversioner to the estate of a Hindu widow is not her legal representative and is not bound by her acts on any principle of estoppel. It was in those circumstances they entertained in equity the representations made by the reversioner independent of the Hindu widow after the passing of an award and accepted him as a person interested in securing compensation by seeking for a reference under Section 18 of the Act. The principle therein is unassailable but it does not apply to the facts of this case.

8. No question of estoppel arises in this case. But on the other hand the Board of trustees who succeeded another Board of trustees cannot maintain that they have an individuality different from the previous board and that they could ignore the relative acts done by the quondam Board and proceed on the foot that on assumption of their office they are persons totally different from and independent of the quondam Board and that the proceedings should start fresh in so far as they are concerned particularly in the matter of seeking for compensation or seeking for enhanced compensation under the provisions of the Act. The lower Court was therefore right in rejecting the claim for increased compensation. This is so because the appellants as Board of trustees (may be a different set of trustees) claimed only a sum of Rs. 250 per ground. This was granted by both the Land Acquisition Officer and the civil Court. The civil Court did not grant any excess compensation because it had no jurisdiction to do so. Under these circumstances, the appeal fails and is dismissed. But, as we characterised these proceedings as an unfortunate one, there will be no order as to costs.


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