B.E.M.L. Employees House
Bld. Co-Op. Society Ltd. Vs. State of Karnataka & Ors  Insc 525 (10
Shivaraj V. Patil & B.N.
Srikrishna Srikrishna, J.
The judgment of the Division Bench of the Karnataka High Court dismissing
the writ appeal of the appellant is impugned here.
The appellant is a cooperative society of the employees of a public sector
company known as 'Bharat Earth Movers Limited' in Bangalore. The appellant
society moved the State Government for acquisition of land for the purpose of
construction of residential houses for its members. The State Government
decided to acquire a large tracts of land inclusive of land in Survey No. 11 of
Thubarahalli Village, Verthur Holli, Bangalore South Taluka. We are only
concerned here with fifth Respondent (G. Ramaiah Reddy), whose land to an
extent of 1 acre 30 guntas in Survey No. 11 was also acquired by the
Notification under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (hereinafter
called 'the Act') issued on 26.3.1990.
Several land owners including the fifth Respondent filed objections to the
proposal of acquisition of their lands. One of the grounds urged by the fifth
Respondent was that he had put up houses on his land proposed to be acquired
and also that he had sunk a bore well on it. An enquiry was held under Section
5A of the Act by the Special Land Acquisition Officer (SLAO) after which the
SLAO submitted a report. As far as the land of the fifth Respondent is
concerned, the SLAO reported:
"Houses with ACC roofing have come up to the extent of 1 acre and 24 guntas
and is located in the western side of the proposed layout and is at the end of
the same. Hence, if this part is dropped from the acquisition it would not
disturb the layout." The SLAO, however, overruled the objections made by
the fifth Respondent with regard to acquisition of his land in Survey No. 22/3.
In the said report the SLAO had made similar recommendations for deleting
certain other lands from acquisition. When the notification under Section 6 was
published on 15.8.1991, it was found that the State Government had accepted the
recommendations of the SLAO for exclusion from acquisition of several other
lands, but not with regard to the land of the fifth Respondent situated on
Survey No. 11.
Fifth Respondent and five other land owners challenged the acquisition by
writ petitions filed before the High Court of Karnataka. Fifth Respondent's
writ petition was W.P. 3057 of 1992. Although, a number of contentions were
urged in support of the writ petitions, it is not necessary to deal with them
as the learned Single Judge who heard the writ petitions rejected all the
contentions except the one based on Article 14, urged in Writ Petition No.
3057/1992 by the present fifth Respondent. Consequently, the learned Single dismissed
all the writ petitions except writ petition No.
3057/1992 filed by the fifth Respondent which came to be allowed and the
acquisition which was the subject matter of the said writ petition was quashed
The present appellant challenged the judgment and order of the learned
Single Judge by writ appeal No. 67 of 1997. The Division Bench dismissed the
writ appeal and upheld the judgment of the learned Single Judge. Hence, this
A perusal of the judgment of the learned Single Judge indicates that the challenge
to acquisition proceedings based on several grounds were negatived and, thus,
six out of the seven writ petitions failed. As far as the present Respondent
No. 5 is concerned, the learned Single Judge upheld the challenge as he found
that the State Government had accepted and acted upon the Land Acquisition
Officer's report under Section 5A of the Act for dropping the acquisition
proceedings in respect of several similarly situated cases, but only in the
case of the fifth Respondent, despite a recommendation to drop the acquisition
proceedings, the Government had gone ahead with the acquisition proceedings. No
plausible reasons for such discriminative action against the fifth Respondent's
land were placed on record.
It is the case of the fifth Respondent that all the cases where Land
Acquisition Officer had recommended dropping of acquisition proceedings were
similarly situated and there was no reasonable ground, whatsoever, for making a
discrimination in his case to continue with the acquisition proceedings. It was
urged before the learned Single Judge that the State Government had acted
arbitrarily by failure to apply the same yardstick in respect of the fifth
Respondent's land. The Division Bench has accepted this reasoning of the learned
It was urged by the learned counsel for the appellant that whatever be the
recommendations of the Land Acquisition Officer in his report under Section 5A,
they were merely recommendations and the State Government was not bound to
accept them. The State Government had wide discretion to accept or reject the
said report under Section 5A of the Act and take independent decision to
continue or discontinue the acquisition proceedings in respect of any
particular land proposed to be acquired. Wide, the discretion may be; but, not
wild. All exercise of statutory discretion must be based on reasonable grounds
and cannot lapse into arbitrariness or caprice which is anathema to the Rule of
Law envisaged in Article 14 of the Constitution. The facts placed on record do
not indicate that the case of the fifth Respondent was similar, if not
identical, to that of the other land owners, whose lands were dropped from the
Neither the appellant, nor the State Government has been able to show us any
rational distinction between the case of the fifth Respondent and the cases of
the other land owners, whose lands were excluded from the acquisition. When
this is so, it appears to us that the vice of hostile discrimination infects
and vitiates the decision taken by the State Government to continue with the
acquisition against the fifth Respondent's land.
A faint argument was made by the learned counsel for the State Government
that inasmuch as the Government's files had been called for and perused, there
might have been some reason on the file justifying the non-exclusion of the
fifth Respondent's land from the acquisition proceedings. It is difficult to
accept the suggestion, for if there was any such reason the High Court would
not have struck down the acquisition proceedings as hit by Article 14 of the
Constitution. In any event, to put the matter beyond cavil, we adjourned the
matter twice to enable the learned counsel for the State Government to produce
the relevant files before us.
Despite the adjournments granted, no such files have been produced and we
were informed that the files are "not traceable". In this state of
record, we find it difficult to accept the argument of the learned counsel for
the State Government.
The learned counsel for the appellant alternatively argued that even if the
fifth Respondent succeeded in establishing discrimination in his case, the High
Court was not justified in quashing the preliminary notification under Section
4(1) of the Act. He reiterated the argument that, at the most, the final
notification could have been quashed and the authorities under the Act directed
to proceed afresh from the stage of submitting a report under Section 5A of the
Act. He also contended that the report under Section 5A had not been accepted,
as the Revenue Secretary had made a spot inspection and decided not to agree
with the report of the Land Acquisition Officer. As we have already pointed
out, we have no material placed on record to show as to what really moved the
Revenue Secretary or the State Government to overrule the recommendations of
the Land Acquisition Officer only with respect to the land of the fifth
Respondent. Nor, are we impressed by the argument that only the final
notification had to be quashed and the matter be remitted to the authorities
below. Once it is held that the action was discriminatory and hit by Article 14
of the Constitution of India, then the High Court was justified in quashing the
whole proceedings, including the notification under Section 4(1), as prayed for
by the fifth Respondent.
In the result, we find no reason to interfere with the judgment of the High
There is no merit in this appeal and the appeal is dismissed.
No order as to costs.