& Ors Vs. Moradabad Development Authority & Anr  Insc 832 (17 August 2007)
Balasubramanyan & D.K. Jain
[Civil Appeal Nos. 5356-81, 5383, 5390, 5392, 5393, 5396, 5398, 5399, 5400-11,
5413-16, 5418, 5420, 5422-25, 5427, 5430, 5431, 5433-35, 5437-43, 5447,
5449-51, 5453, 5454, 5456, 5458-91, 5497, 5498, 5503, 5505, 5509, 5510, 5512-
22, 5524, 5527, 5531, 5532, 5534-68, 5630, 5575, 5577-83, 5585-90 of 2006] P.K.
These appeals involve the correctness of the determination of the compensation
payable to the land owners in acquisitions under the Land Acquisition Act at
the instance of the Moradabad Development Authority in respect of the lands
comprised in three villages, Harthala, Mukkarrabpur and Sonakpur. The Notification
under Section 4(1) of the Act in respect of most of the lands in Harthala
village was issued in the month of March, 1990 and in respect of one block of
lands on 13.9.1991. The Land Acquisition Officer while passing the award
determined the compensation at Rs. 80 per square meter. This was enhanced to Rs.
270 per square meter on references made under Section 18 of the Act. On
appeals, the High Court set aside the enhancement given by the Reference Court and restored the award made by the
Land Acquisition Officer.
aggrieved thereby, the land owners have come up with most of these appeals.
respect of village Mukkarrabpur, the Notifications were dated 18.9.1982,
18.7.1984 and 16.8.1991. Under Awards, Rs.17.05, Rs.117/-, Rs.170/- and Rs.92.59
per square meter were awarded, which were enhanced to Rs.192/-, Rs.350/- and Rs.
350 per square meter by the Reference Court.
The High Court set aside the awards of the Reference Court and restored the awards of the Collector. Hence, the
appeals relating to the acquisition of land in village Mukkarrabpur by some of
the land owners.
respect of village Sonakpur, the Notifications were dated 4.5.1982 and
13.3.1990. In the Award, lands valued at Rs.11.59 and Rs.22 per square meter were
respectively awarded. These were enhanced to Rs.290 and to between Rs.350 to
Rs.390 per square meter by the Reference Court.
On appeal, the decision of the Reference Court
was set aside and the awards of the Collector were restored.
those appeals by land owners relating to the lands in village Sonakpur.
shall first deal with the appeals relating to acquisitions of lands in village Harthala.
In respect of these lands, as noticed, the award was at the rate of Rs.80 per
square meter and the same was enhanced to Rs. 270 per square meter by the Reference Court. Taking the view that the claimants
have not established a case for enhancement of compensation from that awarded
by the Land Acquisition Officer, and that the award of the Land Acquisition
Officer was itself at a higher rate than justified, the High Court set aside
the decision of the Reference Court and restored the award made by the Land
Acquisition Officer observing that in view of Section 25 of the Act, the State
could not seek a reduction of the compensation below that awarded by the
Awarding Officer. While passing the award, the Awarding Officer scrutinised the
various sale deeds from the concerned Sub-Registry covering a period of three
years upto the date of the notification under Section 4(1) of the Act. It was
found that 19 sale deeds have been registered in respect of lands in that area.
Of these, the sales were mostly in acres and not in square yards or square
meters. In other words, the prices were reckoned on the basis of acres and not
on the basis of square meters. The Awarding Officer found that the per square
meter rate in 12 sale deeds were very less. Giving the reason that they relate
to lands located at a distance, but without specifying how distant, the Land
Acquisition Officer brushed aside these sale deeds on the ground that the lands
were situated at quite a far distance from the acquired lands.
certain other sale deeds which were proximate to the date of notification, the
Awarding Officer found that the rates ranged between Rs. 1.83 per square meter
to Rs. 28.39 per square meter and that in one sale deed, the value was shown at
Rs. 17 per square meter. It was conceded that these lands were not at a far
distance from the acquired lands. But it was stated by the Awarding Officer that
it did not appear justifiable for him to adopt these rates. For what reason, it
was not disclosed. We must say that the approach of the Awarding Officer in
rejecting these sale instances is open to very serious criticism. The least
that was expected of him, was for him to give cogent and sustainable reasons
for discarding these sale instances. He thereafter proceeded to rely upon a
sale deed dated 25.10.1989 under which one Ramshankar Tandon sold 100 square
meters to one Usha Thama for Rs. 8,000/- From this, he found that the land
value came to Rs. 80 per square meter. He only noticed that the sale was in
respect of a piece of land which was near the lands acquired. He did not
otherwise undertake a comparison of the lands. He thus based his award on this
sale deed and adopted the rate therein even without making any deduction in
view of the fact that the sale related only to a small extent of 100 square
meters of land.
appears that the acquisition was by invocation of the urgency clause under Section
17(1) of the Act and possession was taken. There was some delay in distributing
the compensation. Some of the land owners whose lands had been acquired had
agreed to receive Rs. 100 per square meter as compensation for their lands
acquired under these notifications. The Awarding Officer took note of that fact
also while making the award. He thus awarded for lands in class-I category,
compensation at Rs. 80 per square meter and for class-III category at the rate
of Rs.8 per square meter.
Before the Reference
Court, certain sale
deeds were produced at the instance of the claimants and one witness P.W. 1 was
examined. On behalf of the State, D.W. 1 was examined and a group sketch was
produced. From the evidence of P.W. 1, it became clear that the lands acquired
were agricultural lands and that agricultural operations were being carried on
in them. There was no electricity connection or pucca road in the land. Though
certain sale deeds were produced, the Reference Court did not advert to the nature of the lands involved in them
and examine whether they were bona fide transactions, whether they related to
comparable lands and whether the prices indicated therein could form the basis
for award of compensation in respect of the acquired lands. Though, he noticed
that the burden was on the claimants to establish that they were entitled to
enhancement of compensation and the quantum of such enhancement, the Reference
Court did not indicate how in its view, the claimants had discharged that
burden and how the sale deeds relied on provided a proper guide for enhancing
the compensation. The Reference
Court noticed that
the sale instances produced before the Court related to developed lands with
various facilities which the acquired lands lacked and it was stated that the
values therein could not be adopted, and that a reduction of 35 to 60% from the
values shown was justified. We would have expected the Reference Court to be more specific in dealing with
such an aspect. It was expected to discuss each of those sale instances,
compare the lands contained therein with those that were involved in the
acquisition, with reference to the advantages and disadvantages, the extents,
the nature of the land, the facilities available and other relevant matters
before determining what would be the just compensation payable to the land
owners in the present acquisition. We must say that no such attempt had been
made by the Reference
Court and its
reasoning smacks of special pleading. The Reference Court concluded that Rs. 270 per square meter would be the
compensation payable and enhanced the compensation to that extent.
High Court referred to the decision of this Court which indicated that the
burden was on the claimants to establish that the compensation awarded to them
by the Award was not adequate and held that viewed from that angle, the
claimants have failed to establish any claim for enhancement. In fact, the High
Court was inclined to find that even the sum of Rs. 80 per square meter awarded
by the Awarding Officer was on the high side or excessive, but since Section 25
of the Act precluded the State from questioning it, it was held that the
argument of learned counsel on behalf of the State in that behalf could not be
accepted. It was thus that the High Court set aside the decision of the Reference Court and restored the award made by the
question is whether this decision of the High Court calls for any interference.
Learned Senior Counsel and other learned counsel appearing in the appeals relating
to the lands in Harthala argued that the High Court has misdirected itself into
thinking that sale instances of small plots had no evidentiary value or are not
relevant in determining the compensation due for larger extents of lands. It
was also pointed out that though the extent as a whole may be large, the
ownership was several and that fact also could not be forgotten especially when
the test is to see what a willing buyer was willing to give and willing
purchaser was willing to receive.
decisions were brought to our notice and particular emphasis was placed on the
decision in Ravinder Narain & was held that there was no absolute
prohibition in taking note of the rates fixed for sale of smaller plots and
making it the basis for fixation of compensation for larger extents.
cannot be any quarrel with the proposition that there is no absolute
prohibition. But the fact remains that normally, when larger extents are
involved in an acquisition, it will be more prudent to rely on sale deeds of
larger extents and not to base the assessment of the compensation on values
fetched at sales of small extents. In this case, transactions involving sales
of land in acres or of larger extents were simply ignored by the Awarding
Officer without giving adequate reasons for such exclusion except vaguely
stating that they were distantly located. Even those sale instances would have
provided a basis for assessing the compensation due in respect of the acquired
lands subject to adjustments for the distance or other disadvantages or
advantages compared to the acquired lands. The basic sale deed relied on by the
Awarding Officer was in respect of sale of a portion of his property by a
seller which had an extent of only 100 square meters and even there, the price fetched
was only Rs. 80 per square meter. The evidence of P.W.1 shows that the lands
involved were agricultural lands and did not have any electricity or other
facilities available. In fact, some of the sale instances indicate that the
prices were only at the range of Rs. 11 per square meter up to Rs.27 per square
meter. On the facts of this case, we are of the view that the contention that
it is not as if sale instances of small extents had to be completely ignored,
does not lead the claimants far. In any event, it cannot be held that the High
Court was in error in not relying on sale instances of small extents in
assessing the compensation payable.
held by this Court in various decisions, the burden is on the claimants to
establish that the amounts awarded to them by the Land Acquisition Officer are
inadequate and that they are entitled to more. That burden had to be discharged
by the claimants and only if the initial burden in that behalf was discharged,
the burden shifted to the State to justify the award. The Reference Court, in our view, could not give any
adequate or tenable reasons for adopting the value it did. No evidence was
clearly or properly discussed to justify a finding that the claimants had made
out a case for enhancement of compensation. As observed by the High Court, it
appears that on the materials available, even the amount awarded by the
Awarding Officer was on the high side since he adopted the sale instance of a
small extent of land and applied it to the larger extents that had been
acquired under these notifications even without any deduction.
The sale instances referred to by the Reference Court are all instances of sale
of developed lands and the further discussion is about the use to which the
authority intended to put the land that was being acquired, which obviously was
an element which had to be discarded while determining the compensation for the
lands acquired. It is therefore clear on the facts of this case that the Reference Court was not justified in granting the enhancement
of land value to the claimants.
Then the question is whether we should still interfere with the decision of the
High Court holding that the amount awarded by the Awarding Officer itself is
more than adequate compensation. Though not conclusive, the fact remains that
some of the similarly situated land owners were content to receive Rs. 100 per
square meter towards compensation by filing affidavits in that behalf before
the concerned authority. Considerable time was spent by learned Senior Counsel
on arguing whether that came under Section 11(2) or Section 11(3) of the Act.
We find that it is not necessary to undertake the exercise of deciding that
aspect in these appeals. But what is relevant is to notice that at least a set
of claimants similarly situated whose lands were covered by the same
notification were content to receive Rs. 100 per square meter towards
compensation. No attempt was made to show by the claimants that they received
those amounts not under their free will but under coercion or in view of any
other circumstance, which compelled them to receive compensation at that rate.
The normal inference would be that they received the amounts since they found
it proper compensation for their lands.
that fact would furnish some evidentiary value regarding the market value of
the lands in the locality. It must be remembered that some of the sale deeds at
the approximate point of time relating to agricultural lands indicated sales
even at Rs. 11 per square meter.
find that the Awarding Officer had taken note of a sale deed, which was at a
time proximate to the date of notifications in these cases and it related to a
piece of land, though a small extent, which was not distant from the acquired
lands, to borrow the language of the Awarding Officer. We are inclined to see
some force in the stand adopted by the High Court that the Awarding Officer
himself had been generous in his award. Since he has adopted such a rate, the
question is whether this Court should interfere with the decision of the High
Court restoring that Award or award any further compensation. The scope of
interference by this Court was delineated by the decision in Thakur [A.I.R.
1976 S.C. 2219], wherein this Court held that there was an element of guess
work inherent in most cases involving determination of the market value of the
acquired land. If the judgment of the High Court revealed that it had taken
into consideration the relevant factors prescribed by the Act, in appeal under
Article 133 of the Constitution of India, assessment of market value thus made
should not be disturbed by the Supreme Court. For the purpose of deciding
whether we should interfere, we have taken note of the position adopted by the
Awarding Officer, the stand adopted by the Reference Court and the relevant aspects discussed by the High Court. On
such appreciation of the facts and circumstances of the case as a whole, we are
of the view that the sum of Rs. 80 per square meter awarded as compensation in
these cases is just compensation paid to the land owners. Once we have thus
found the compensation to be just, there arises no occasion for this Court to
interfere with the decision of the High Court restoring the award of the Land
view of our conclusion as above, all the appeals relating to Harthala have only
to be dismissed.
respect of the lands at Mukkarrabpur, the claim for enhancement was allowed by
the Reference Court in spite of the finding that the
evidence of P.Ws. 1 and 2 adduced on behalf of the claimants was unreliable. It
also found that the two sale deeds relied on by the claimant in support of the
claim for enhancement were also not comparable or reliable in the light of the
evidence of the claimant himself and that it has not been shown that the lands
involved therein were comparable to the lands acquired. In spite of it, the Reference Court granted an enhancement only based
on its award in L.A.R. No. 134 of 1988 and on that basis the award was made at Rs.
192/- per square meter. Obviously, the award in L.A.R. No. 134 of 1988 was set
aside by the High Court. Hence, the award of the Reference Court in the case on hand became untenable. Once no reliance
could be placed on that award to enhance the compensation, it is clear that
even on the finding of the Reference Court,
no claim for enhancement has been made out by the claimants.
that situation, the High Court was fully justified in setting aside the award
of the Reference Court and in restoring the award of the
Land Acquisition Officer. We may incidentally notice that the lands were
agricultural lands being used for cultivation and even the method of valuing it
on the basis of price per square meter does not appear to be justified. All the
same, the award has adopted that method and the State cannot go back on it. In
the absence of any acceptable legal evidence to support the claim for
enhancement, no grounds are made out for interference with the decision of the
High Court in the appeals relating to village Mukkarrabpur.
Same is the position regarding the acquisition of lands in Village Sonakpur.
The award was at Rs. 11.59 and Rs.22 per square meter respectively. They were
enhanced to Rs. 290 per square meter and to Rs.350/- to Rs.390/- by the Reference Court. In spite of the lands being
recorded as agricultural lands, the Reference Court proceeded to award compensation on the basis that the lands
are Abadi lands.
than the oral evidence of certain witnesses, which, according to us, cannot
form the foundation for any enhancement, what was relied on was the awards made
in some other cases. The documents produced were not shown to be sale of lands
comparable to the lands acquired. The Reference Court proceeded to enhance the compensation to Rs. 290/- per
square meter without any acceptable legal evidence in support. The High Court
found that there was no basis for enhancement and that the claimants had not
been able to show that the Land Acquisition Officer did not award the proper
compensation. The High Court was obviously right in proceeding on the basis
that the burden was on the claimants to prove their claim for enhancement.
High Court thus took the view based on the materials, that it was a fit case
where the award of the Land Acquisition Officer should be restored.
find on a scrutiny of the relevant materials in the light of the arguments
raised that it cannot be said that the High Court has either made an erroneous
approach to the claim for enhancement of compensation or that it has so erred
as to warrant our interference under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.
Normally, in an appeal against the award of compensation by the High Court,
this Court interferes only if there has been a misapplication of any principle
of assessing compensation. In the case before us regarding the lands in Sonakpur,
we are not satisfied that any error in principle has been committed by the High
Court justifying our interference.
After all, assessment of compensation for lands acquired involves an amount of
guess work, no doubt, based on the evidence available regarding comparable sale
of lands in the locality and so on. Viewed from that angle, we are in agreement
with the finding that the Awarding Officer has been generous in his award of
compensation in all these cases.
the light of our above conclusion, no interference is called for with the
decisions of the High Court in these cases. We confirm the decisions of the
High Court and dismiss these appeals. We make no order as to costs.