P.D. Desai, C.J.
1. Rule. To be heard today. The learned Advocate General waives service of the Rule on behalf of the respondents.
The petitioner is an 82 year old man whose property situated in village Pulbahal, Tehsil Chopal, district Shimla, was notified for acquisition by a notification published on January 7, 1978 under Section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1984 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act'). The requisite declaration under Section 6 was made by a notification published on Aug. 26, 1978. The award under Section 11 was made on June 20, 1984. A copy of the award has been placed on the record of this proceeding and it contains a recital that the possession of the property was admittedly taken in the year 1972. Under what circumstances the possession was taken nearly six years before the property was even notified for acquisiton is not clear.
2. Since the petitioner was not awarded compensation, although possession was taken from him as far back as 1972, he sent an application to the Chief Minister on May 25, 1984 and endorsed a copy of the said application to one of us (Chief Justice). In the copy so endorsed, a prayer was made at the foot that justice be rendered to him by ordering early payment of compensation because he was deprived of his property on which there were apple trees and thereby deprived of his source of livelihood and stilt no compensation was paid to him since long. In the application, the applicant mentioned that in order to obtain compensation, he had made repeated efforts, that he had to travel on foot a distance of 80 kilometers from Pulbahal to Theog in the last decade from time to time, that the case papers were sent by the Executive Engineer, Theog Division to the Superintending Engineer, II Circle, Shimla, that he was being informed that the papers were not traceable and that, therefore, his compensation could not be finalised, that he was thus being sent from pillar to post, that in his old age the strain was telling on his health and that he be awarded compensation at the earliest. In light of the facts and circumstances of the case as disclosed in the application, it was registered as a writ petition and it was listed for preliminary hearing on June 6, 1984. Notice was ordered to issue on the petition on the same day and it was made returnable to-day. Having issued Rule we have taken up the case for hearing to-day. Since the petitoner is present in person, we have heard him and verified the facts.
3. On behalf of the respondents, an affidavit-in-reply has been filed by the Superintending Engineer, II Circle, Shimla. The substance of the affidavit is that as per the records, the property of the petitioner was 'acquired' by the end of 1972 for the construction of a road from Neri to Phulbahal and the construction was completed by the end of 1.972, The property so acquired consisted of land and house. The payment of compensation could not be made because the papers were not traceable as the 'area' in which the petitioner's property was situate was transferred from Solan Circle to Shimla Circle. The award had since been made on June 20, 1984 and the payment of compensation has been released with interest at the rate of 6 per cent per annum from the date of dispossession. Be it stated that the awarded amount aggregates Rs. 3575/- with solatium and interest at the rate of 6 per cent per annum from 1972 to 1984.
4. The case discloses gross apathy and negligence on the part of the authorities concerned with the acquisition proceedings. Besides, it also reveals an unexplainable feature, namely, taking over of possession six years before the initiation of the acquisition proceedings. Although admittedly the petitioner was dispossessed as far back as 1972, compensation was not determined and paid to him till 1984. Meanwhile, the petitioner, who is an old man living in an interior region, was driven from pillar to post and had to undergo considerable hardship and harassment including covering long distance on foot from time to time only to be informed that nothing could be done in his case because the papers were not traceable. Ultimately, in order to get justice, the petitioner had to knock al the doors of this Court and the award has then come to be made 14 days after notice was issued in the present proceeding by this Court. Though the excuse trotted out in the affidavit-in-reply for the delayed award is that the case papers were not traceable, one is left wondering how all of a sudden the pepers could be traced after so many years within 14 days of the receipt of the notice. For aught one knows, if the petitioner's application had not been registered as a writ petition and notice had not been ordered to be issued the petitioner would still have been knocking at the doors of the authorities without success.
5. Now that the compensation has been paid to the petitioner, the petition does not technically survive. However, the payment of compensation with interest at the rate of 6 per cent per annum on the awarded amount from the date of dispossession does not compensate the petitioner for the hardship, harassment and injustice meted out to him. Every exercise of statutory power in our republic is subject to a paramount condition, namely, that such exercise is not arbitrary, oppressive and fanciful but just, fair and reasonable. The power of compulsory acquisition of property is coupled with the duty to award compensation within a reasonable time. The compensation for the acquired property is adjudged on the basis of the market value as prevailing on the date of the publication of the notification under Section 4 of the Act. Once such notification is issued the property, for all practical purposes, loses its value to the owner and can he developed only at the risk and cost of the owner. In a case where possession is taken over before the award is made, the owner is deprived of all rights to the property including its user and/or usufruct. An authority, who deprives a person of his property under the compulsive force of law, cannot, therefore, sit tight and neglect to perform its duty to award compensation within a reasonable time except at its own risk and cost. The delayed payment of compensation in the present case on the specious ground of non-traceability of case papers cannot absolve the respondents from compensating the petitioner for his hardship and harassment resulting from gross negligence And apathy of the officers towards the rightful claim of the petitioner. With compensation determined on the basis of the valuation of the property apparently made on the fooling of the market value obtaining in 1972 (or even earlier) and actually paid in 1984, the petitioner cannot be regarded to have been compensated adequately for the loss of property even in terms of the real value of money. If the petitioner had been paid the same compensation within a reasonable time, he would indeed have received almost twice as much in terms of the real worth of money, regard being had to the inflationary trend. Besides, the petitioner has been deprived of the user and/or usufruct of his property for a period of 12 years for which interest has been awarded to him at the rate of 6 per cent per annum only and, in addition, he has been subjected to undeserved want, harassment and hardship. On the top of all this, ultimately to secure justice, the petitioner had to take the trouble of approaching this Court and attending the proceedings in the Court today. Having regard to all the circumstances of the case, it would he just and proper to award special compensation to the petitioner. Under the circumstances, the State Government is directed to pay to the petitioner, in addition to the sum of Rs. 3575/- awarded to him under the award made under Section 11 of the Act, an addtional sum of Rs. 40007- by way of special compensation. The special compensation awarded accordingly is not to be regarded as a part and parcel of the compensation awardable under the provisions of the Act. In case, therefore, a reference under Section 18 of the Act is made at the instance of the petitioner and in the course of such reference proceedings the petitioner is held entitled to a higher compensation on merits, the sum of Rs. 4000/-awarded to him pursuant to the order made herein will not be taken into consideration. while awarding such compensation. The special compensation awarded as aforesaid will be paid in cash to the petitioner within a period of three weeks from to-day by the second respondent (Collector, Land Acquisition, Shimla and Kullu) and the payment will he made at his residence at village Pulbahul, Tehsil Chopal, District Shimla. In case of a breach of this order, the concerned officer will be liable to be proceeded against in contempt.
6. Be it stated that in awarding special compensation to the petitioner, the Court has acted upon the principles underlying the decision of the Supreme Court in Ram Pal Singh v. Union of India (1984) 1 SCC 32 : (AIR 1984 SC 504) and Devaki Nandan Prasad v. State of Bihar (1983) 4 SCC 20 : (AIR 1983 SC 1134) wherein compensation was awarded in different context and circumstances but on being found that the. legitimate dues (pensionary benefits) were not paid for an unduly long period and the litigant was subjected to undeserved want and harassment.
7. Let a copy of this judgment be forwarded to the Chief Secretary to the State Government under the Seal of the Court and the signature of the Registrar for initiating such action against the defaulting officers) as is considered fit and proper on the facts and in the circumstances of the case and in light of the observations made in this judgment.
8. Rule is made absolute in terms aforsaid.