M/s. Guru Gobind
Singh Refineries Ltd. Vs Punjab State and others etc.
With CIVIL APPEAL
NOS.9013-9025 OF 2010 (Arising out of SLP(C) Nos. 3093-3105 of 2009) CIVIL
APPEAL NOS.9026-9058 OF 2010 (Arising out of SLP(C) Nos. 3108-3140 of 2009) CIVIL
APPEAL NOS.9074-9101 OF 2010 (Arising out of SLP(C) Nos. 3148-3175 of 2009) CIVIL
APPEAL NOS.9059-9073 OF 2010 (Arising out of SLP(C) Nos. 4648-4662 of 2009)
S. Singhvi, J.
appeals by M/s. Guru Gobind Singh Refineries Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as,
`the Company'), which is now known as HPCL – Mittal Energy Limited, and the
land owners are directed against judgment dated22.10.2008 of the learned Single
Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court whereby he declined to interfere with
the valuation of the land and belting method adopted by the Reference Court but
remanded the matter for reconsideration of the issue relating to categorization
of the acquired land.
Government of Punjab acquired various parcels of land situated in villages
Phulokhari, Kanakwal, Ramsra and Raman, Tehsil TalwandiSabo, District Bhatinda
for setting up Oil Refinery and Liquid Fuel based Power Plant. Notification
under Section 4 read with Section 17 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (for
short, `the Act') was issued on 27.8.1997 in respect of 1995.82 acres land, but
declaration under Section 6 was published only for 1992.575 acres land.
Land Acquisition Collector passed award dated 4.6.1999 for payment of
compensation to the land owners. He divided the acquired land in the following
three categories:"Sr. Name of Kind of land
Area in Acres
the aforesaid three categories of land, the Land Acquisition Collector fixed
market value at Rs.3.50 lacs per acre, Rs.2.75 lacs per acre and Rs.5lacs per
with the compensation awarded by the Land Acquisition Collector, as many as 131
land owners filed applications under Section 18 of the Act. Thereupon, the
Collector made a reference to the Court of Additional District Judge, Bhatinda
(Reference Court). After considering the evidence produced by the parties, the
Reference Court clubbed the land classified as Nehri/Chahi with Barani and tube
well irrigated land and fixed market value thereof at Rs.3.50 lacs per acre.
For Gair Mumkin land, the Reference Court maintained the market value fixed by
the Land Acquisition Collector but carved out a new category i.e., land
abutting metal led road except Gair Mumkin, going from Raman to Kalianwala via
Gyan up to a depth of 500 meters and fixed its market value at Rs.3.75 lacs per
appellants challenged the award of the Reference Court by filing separate
appeals under Section 54 of the Act. While the Company questioned the clubbing
of Nehri/Chahi land with Barani and tube well irrigated land and creation of
new category i.e., land abutting metalled road, the land owners claimed that
compensation awarded by the Reference Court was not just and equitable and they
were entitled to higher market value.
The High Court admitted the appeals but declined to stay the award of the
Reference Court. Thereupon, the Company filed Special Leave Petition(Civil) No.
8386/2006. While issuing notice on 12.5.2006, this Court passed the following
order: "Issue notice. Without prejudice to the claims involved, let
the petitioners deposit Rs.7,50,00,000/- (Rupees Seven Crores and fifty lakhs
only) in the trial court. The amount shall be invested in fixed deposit in a
nationalised bank initially for a period of six months. There shall be interim
stay of the impugned order subject to the aforesaid condition." Similar
order was passed on 28.8.2006 in Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.13778/2006.
Both the special leave petitions were finally disposed of on 22.4.2008in the
following terms: "These special leave petitions are against interim
orders passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court. While issuing notice in
the appeals, interim protection was denied. By order dated 12.05.2006, this
Court, while issuing notice, directed deposit of Rupees 7.5 crores with the
Trial Court, to be invested in a nationalized Bank initially for a period of
six months. Since the main matter is pending before the High Court, we do not
think it necessary to pass any further orders in the matter. Let the Regular
First Appeals be heard by the High Court. We feel interest of justice would be
best served if the amount deposited is permitted to be withdrawn by the land owners
on furnishing such security, as may be fixed by the Trial Court. The special leave
petitions are disposed of accordingly."
the impugned judgment, the learned Single Judge negative the Company’s
challenge to the belting of the land by recording the following reasons:
"It cannot be
disputed that the area abutting a road certainly has a better value as compared
to the area falling behind it. To state that valuation of the land either on
the road or behind that should be at the same rate is totally misconceived.
Even otherwise, the benefit given by the learned court below for the land on
the road is very marginal as the same has been assessed at Rs. 3,75,000/- per
acre, whereas other part of the land behind that has been assessed at Rs.
3,50,000/- per acre. As the amount of compensation awarded for the front
portion is marginally high, i.e., Rs. 25,000/- per acre, I do not find any good
reason to interfere with the impugned award on this ground." However, the
learned Single Judge expressed reservation on the issue of clubbing of the land
categorized as Nehri/Chahi with Barani and tube well irrigated land and
remanded the case to the Reference Court for further detailed examination and
recording a specific finding with regard to the areashown as Barani. This is
evident from the following extracts of the impugned judgment: "A perusal
of the material produced on record shows that the Collector in his award had
mentioned the quality of land as Nehri, Barani and Gair Mumkin giving specific
area pertaining to that quality in four villages, the land of which was
acquired. The land owners in the present case had produced evidence in the form
of records regarding Chakbandi etc. showing the land to be Nehri, whereas on
the other hand the Refinery had produced jamabandis and khasra girdawaris to
show that the area, as mentioned in the award, with regard to Barani land is correct
description thereof which did not call for any interference by the learned
Court below. The learned court below had merely referred to Ex.A1, Ex. A2, Ex.
A25 and Ex. A37 in Land Reference No. 103 of 2000 and has not referred to any
other material in other land references produced by the land owners regarding
quality of land. The total of the land which was allegedly found to be Nehri in
terms of exhibits, as referred to above, is also not tallying with the area
mentioned in the exhibits. Even it has not been recorded as to in what area the
alleged 19 tube wells were installed and as to whether those were forming part
of the land which was considered as Nehri by the Collector or those were found
in the area which was recorded as Barani. In addition to this, the learned
Court below has recorded certain facts in paragraph 55 of the award regarding
the total area sown in Punjab and the percentage thereof which is irrigated.
Similar facts regarding the area of Bhatinda were also mentioned. No evidence
in that regard has either been discussed by the learned Court below or has been
referred to. At the time of hearing, nothing had been referred to substantiate
the plea that the khasra numbers, which were recorded as Barani by the
Collector and the corresponding evidence regarding the same showing them to be
Nehri. All what has been referred to at the time of hearing was that the total
area shown in the evidence led by the land owners in Land Reference No. 103 of
2000 is that the land forming part of the documents (Chakbandi) etc. is more
than the area which is shown to be Barani by the Collector, but the same is not
showing that it is the same land which was shown as Barani by connecting it
with khasra numbers. Merely on the basis of the figure taken by the learned
Court below from certain publications or elsewhere without there being any
evidence to that effect on record cannot be made the basis for changing the category
of the land, once the same was being contested by the Refinery. Accordingly, in
my opinion, on this issue a further detailed examination is required by the
learned Court below by recording a specific finding with regard to the area
with reference to khasra numbers which were shown as Barani by the Collector.
It has to be considered as to whether there exists any source of irrigation in
the land which has been recorded as Barani in the revenue record to change the
category thereof from Barani to Nehri."
learned Single Judge rejected the land owners' prayer for fixing higher market
value of the acquired land and observed: "As far as the claim of the
land owners for further enhancement
in the value of
the land, as assessed by the Court below while upholding the award of the
Collector is concerned, a perusal of the evidence led by the land owners, as
referred to in paragraph 41 of the impugned award, shows that the sale deeds as
produced on record were pertaining to only two villages, namely, Ramsra and
Raman. Sale deeds (Ex. A14, Ex.A15, Ex. A17, Ex. A18 and Ex. A23) are of a date
which is subsequent to the acquisition of land, whereas sale deeds (Ex. A13,
Ex. A19, Ex. A20, Ex. A21 and Ex. A22) are pertaining to dates which are prior
in time. Further perusal of the sale deeds shows that the area comprised
therein is ranging from 8 marlas to 4 kanals with the price range of Rs.
4,00,000/- per acre to Rs. 7,60,000/- per acre. A perusal of sale deed dated
4.8.1997 (Ex. A.13) shows that the land measuring 4 kanals described as Barani (rural)
was sold at average price of Rs. 4,00,000/- per acre. In the sale deeds, Ex.
A.19, Ex. A20, Ex. A21 and Ex. A 22, land measuring 5-1/2 marlas to one kanal
was shown to have been sold from Rs. 4,35,000/- per acre to Rs. 7,60,000/- per
acre. The description of the land as mentioned in the aforesaid sale deeds clearly
show that the property therein was urban and further that the area dealt with
is quite small as compared to the large chunk of land measuring 1992.575 acres
acquired. Firstly, these sale deeds cannot be made basis for determination of
value of large chunk of acquired land. Secondly, even if a reasonable cut is
applied keeping in view smallness of area dealt with the sale deeds and the
location thereof, still the value of the acquired land as assessed at Rs.
3,50,000/- per acre cannot be said to be on lower side."
Sunil Gupta, learned senior counsel for the Company assailed the impugned
judgment and argued that the reasons assigned by the learned Single Judge for
refusing to interfere with the belting of the land and grant of higher
compensation for such land are ex facie erroneous because no evidence was
produced by the land owners to show that the land up to the depth of 500 meters
from the metal led road was different from the remaining land and its price was
higher. Learned senior counsel emphasized that when a vast chunk of land
measuring 1992.575 acres was acquired for setting up refinery, different market
value could not have been fixed for a small portion of the land on the ground
that it is near the metal led road and could fetch higher market value. Learned
senior counsel then argued that the sale deeds produced by the land owners were
not at all relevant for fixing market value of the acquired land because the
same related to very small parcels of land measuring 8 to 1 kanal or even less.
Shri Gupta produced a compilation of papers to show that Gair Mumkin land
situated in and near the abadi canfetch higher market value and argued that the
same cannot be made basis for awarding higher compensation for other categories
Manoj Swarup, learned counsel for the land owners argued that the entries made
in the jamabandis and other revenue records, which were based on the settlement
operations carried out many decades ago do not reflect true nature of the land
as on the date of acquisition and, as such, those entries could not have been
relied upon by the Land Acquisition Collector for fixing market value of the
acquired land. Learned counsel emphasized that due to availability of
irrigation facilities i.e., canals and tube wells, the quality of the land in
Phulokhari, Kanakwal, Ramsra and Raman has altogether changed in last 20 years
and the Reference Court did not commit any error by clubbing Barani and tube
well irrigated land with Nehri/Chahiland for fixing market value of such land.
Learned counsel then argued that air Mumkin land is not superior to
Nehri/Chahi, Barani and tube well irrigated land and when the State Government
has itself fixed market value of Gair Mumkin land at Rs.5 lacs per acre, the
Reference Court should have awarded compensation for the entire land at least
at the rate of Rs.5 lacs peracre. Learned counsel submitted that if this Court
is not inclined to interfere with the order of remand passed by the High Court,
then the Reference Court should be directed to decide all the issues afresh
after givingopportunity to the parties to produce additional evidence. In the
end, the learned counsel submitted that the land owners may be permitted to
withdraw the amount deposited by the Company in furtherance of the conditional
interim order dated 12.5.2006 passed in Special Leave Petition(Civil) No.
8386/2006. He pointed out that even though the land owners had applied to the
Reference Court for withdrawal of the amount, necessary orders were not passed
by the concerned Court because of the stiff resistance put up by the counsel
for the Company.
senior counsel for the Company seriously opposed the last-mentioned request of
the land owners' counsel and submitted that his client should be allowed to
withdraw the amount deposited in compliance of the direction given by this
Court because by virtue of the judgment of the High Court, the award passed by
the Reference Court has become non est and the land owners cannot derive any
benefit from the same..
have considered the respective submissions. The reasons recorded by the High
Court for remanding the case to the Reference Court for deciding the issue of
clubbing the land categorized as Nehri/Chahi withBarani and tube well irrigated
land do not appear to be flawed. In our view, the Reference Court was not
justified in deciding the issue relating to fixation of market value of the
acquired land by presuming that irrigation facilities are available throughout
the State of Punjab either through canalsor through tube wells. The Reference
Court should have referred to the substantive evidence produced by the parties
and then decided whether it was just and proper to club the land categorized as
Nehri/Chahi with Barani and tube well irrigated land. Therefore, we do not find
any error in the direction given by the High Court to the Reference Court to
decide issue relating to clubbing of different categories of land.
we are inclined to agree with the learned counsel for the land owners that the
High Court should have ordered an open remand so as to enable the parties to
lead additional evidence on all the issues including the belting of land and
fixation of market value at a flat rate keeping in view the rate fixed by the
State Government for Gair Mumkin land. What is the extent of land falling
within 500 meters of the metalled road and whether such land can fetch higher
price in the market are questions which can be decided only after giving
opportunity to the parties to adduce further evidence. Likewise, the questions
whether the entire Gair Mumkin land i.e.,281 kanals 9 marlas is in abadi and
market value thereof can be made basis for fixing market value of other
categories of land or higher market value fixed by the State Government for
Gair Mumkin land would supply basis for grant of higher compensation in respect
of other lands are required to be decided after considering the evidence which
may be produced by the parties. Therefore, it will be in the interest of
justice if the Reference Court is directed to decide all the issues afresh
after giving opportunity to the parties to adduce additional evidence.
shall now deal with the question of withdrawal of the amount deposited by the
Company in compliance of order dated 12.5.2006 passerby this Court in S.L.P.
(C) No.8386 of 2006. A reading of order dated24.4.2008 by which the special
leave petitions filed by the Company against the High Court's refusal to stay
the award of the Reference Court were disposed of by this Court shows that
liberty was given to the land owners to withdraw the amount on furnishing
appropriate security to be fixed by the trial Court. It is not in dispute that
the Company did not seek modification of that order. Therefore, we do not find
any justification to pass an order which may run contrary order dated
the result, the appeals are disposed of in the following terms:
impugned judgment of the High Court is set aside and the matter is remanded to
the Reference Court with the direction that it shall pass fresh award after
giving opportunity to the parties to produce additional evidence on all the
Reference Court shall not entertain any unreasonable request made by either
party for adjournment of the case and shall dispose of the matter within 6
months from the date of receipt/production of this judgment.
land owners shall be entitled to withdraw the amount deposited by the Company
after furnishing appropriate security to the satisfaction of the Presiding
Officer of the Reference Court.
[Asok Kumar Ganguly]