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SC directs HP to disburse compensation for land used for road construction in 1972-73

New Delhi, Apr 6 (PTI) The Supreme Court Wednesday directed the Himachal Pradesh government to treat some lands, which were utilised for the construction of the road in 1972-73, as a “deemed acquisition” and appropriately disburse compensation saying it is apparent that the state’s actions have compounded the injustice meted out to the landowners.

The apex court observed that the facts of the case reveal that the state has, in a “clandestine and arbitrary manner”, actively tried to limit disbursal of compensation as required by law only to those for which it was specifically “prodded by the courts” rather than to all those who were entitled.

A bench of Justices S R Bhat and P S Narasimha delivered its verdict on an appeal against the Himachal Pradesh High Court judgement which had disposed of the writ petition filed by the appellants with liberty to institute a civil suit in accordance with the law.

“Given the disregard for the appellants’ fundamental rights which has caused them to approach this court and receive remedy decades after the act of dispossession, we also deem it appropriate to direct the respondent-state to pay legal costs and expenses of Rs 50,000 to the appellants,” the bench said while allowing the appeal.

The top court, while referring to an earlier verdict, noted it was concluded that forcible dispossession of a person of their private property without following due process of law was violative of both their human right and constitutional right under Article 300-A of the Constitution.

The top court noted that appellants before it claim to be owners of the land situated in the Sirmaour district.

It noted that the state had utilised the subject land and adjoining lands for the construction of ‘Narag Fagla Road’ in 1972-73 but allegedly, neither land acquisition proceedings were initiated nor compensation was given to the appellants or owners of the adjoining land.

The bench said that pursuant to a judgement passed by the high court directing the state to initiate land acquisition proceedings, a notification under section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 was issued in October 2001, and the award was passed in December 2001 fixing compensation at Rs 30,000 per ‘bigha’.

After that, some landowners had initiated proceedings under the Act for enhancement of compensation, and an award was passed in 2005 by the reference court in their favour.

Later, the appellants had filed a writ petition before the high court in 2011 seeking compensation for the subject land or initiation of acquisition proceedings under the Act.

The high court had held that the matter involved disputed questions of law and fact for determination on the starting point of limitation, which could not be adjudicated in writ proceedings.

During the arguments before the apex court, the state’s counsel had argued that the petition was hit by “immense delay” and was liable to be dismissed on this ground alone.

“While the right to property is no longer a fundamental right, it is pertinent to note that at the time of dispossession of the subject land, this right was still included in Part III of the Constitution. The right against deprivation of property unless in accordance with the procedure established by law continues to be a constitutional right under Article 300-A,” the bench said.

It said in the case of private property, the top court has upheld the high threshold of legality that must be met to dispossess an individual of their property, and even more so when done by the state.

“Given the important protection extended to an individual vis-a-vis their private property (embodied earlier in Article 31, and now as a constitutional right in Article 300-A), and the high threshold the state must meet while acquiring land, the question remains – can the state, merely on the ground of delay and laches, evade its legal responsibility towards those from whom private property has been expropriated?” it noted.

The bench said in these facts and circumstances, that it finds this conclusion to be unacceptable and warrants intervention on the grounds of equity and fairness.

“When seen holistically, it is apparent that the state’s actions, or lack thereof, have in fact compounded the injustice meted out to the appellants and compelled them to approach this court, albeit belatedly,” it said.

The bench noted that initiation of acquisition proceedings initially in the 1990s occurred only at the behest of the high court and even after such judicial intervention, the state continued to only extend the benefit of the court’s directions to those who had specifically approached courts.

“The State cannot shield itself behind the ground of delay and laches in such a situation; there cannot be a ‘limitation’ to doing justice,” it said.

The bench said the state was unable to produce any evidence indicating that the land of the appellants was taken over or acquired in the manner known to the law, or that they had ever paid any compensation.

“In view of the above discussion, in view of this court’s extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 136 and 142 of the Constitution, the state is hereby directed to treat the subject lands as a deemed acquisition and appropriately disburse compensation to the appellants in the same terms as the order of the reference court dated October 4, 2005…,” it said.

The bench directed the state to ensure that the appropriate land acquisition collector computes the compensation and disburses it to the appellants within four months. PTI ABA ABA RKS RKS

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

Source: The Print

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