Ramji Veerji Patel
& Ors. Vs. Revenue Divisional Officer & Ors.
R.M. Lodha, J.
appellants were unsuccessful in challenging the acquisition of their land before
the Single Judge as well as the Division Bench of the Madras High Court. They are
in appeal, by special leave.
the requisition of Cholan Roadways Corporation Limited, Kumbakonam (for short, `the
Corporation') for making available land for expansion of their depot, particularly
for a 1workshop, at Chidambaram, the State Government of Tamil Nadu (for short,
`the Government') issued a notification under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition
Act, 1894 (for short, `the Act') which was published in the Gazette on March 3,
1989 notifying for general information that the land mentioned therein, namely,
land admeasuring 1.45 acres comprised in T.S. No. 14, classified as government
wet land in Chidambaram Municipal Town, South Arcot District was needed for the
above public purpose.
The notification under
Section 4(1) was also published in the two newspapers on November 18, 1988 and in
the locality on March 27, 1989. The appellants filed objections to the acquisition
before the Revenue Divisional Officer (for short, `RDO'), Chidambaram. The diverse
objections to the acquisition were raised; one of such objections being that the
other lands behind the existing depot of the Corporation were available and could
be used for the purpose for which their land was sought to be acquired. They stated
that their family was dependant upon the income from the saw mill existing on
the land and by compulsory acquisition of their land, they would be deprived of
the sole means of livelihood.
RDO considered the objections put forth on behalf of the appellants and submitted
his report to the Government on conclusion of the enquiry under Section 5-A of
appears that when the report of the RDO was under consideration, the appellants
sent a representation to the Government bringing to its notice that the land belonging
to Tamil Nadu Evengelical Lutheran Church (`TELC') just behind the existing
depot has been advertised for sale and, therefore, instead of resorting to the compulsory
acquisition of the appellants' land, the land of TELC may be acquired.
Government was not persuaded by the appellants' objections and the declaration
under Section 6 of the Act was issued which was published in the Gazette on March
21, 1990. The publication of the Section 6 declaration was made by other modes
appellants challenged the notification under Section 4(1) and declaration under
Section 6 of the Act in the writ petition before the Madras High Court. In opposition
to the writ petition, counter affidavit was filed on behalf of the Government.
The learned Single Judge of the High Court dismissed the writ petition by his
order dated November 18, 1998.
the order of the Single Judge, the appellants preferred intra-court appeal which
has been dismissed by the impugned order on July 25, 2001.
Pallav Shishodia, learned senior counsel for the appellants raised two-fold
contention. His first contention was that the appellants' objections about the
availability of land belonging to TELC which is situated behind the existing depot
of the Corporation and was available for sale were not rationally considered by
the RDO and the Government.
He submitted that the
livelihood of about 40 members of the family was directly affected by the compulsory
acquisition of their land and, therefore, the objections ought to have been considered
in a reasonable manner more so since the public purpose for which the appellants'
land was sought to be acquired could have been easily met by the acquisition of
the TELC's land. In this regard, he referred to three decisions of this Court, namely,
(i) Delhi Administration v. Gurdip Singh Uban and Others1, (ii) Hindustan Petroleum
Corpn. Ltd. v. Darius Shapur Chenai and others2 and (iii) 1 (2000) 7 SCC 2962 (2005)
7 SCC 627 4Radhy Shyam (Dead) Through LRs. and others v. State of Uttar Pradesh
second contention of the learned senior counsel for the appellants was that the
acquisition of the appellants' land by the Government was for the purposes of the
Corporation and the Corporation being a `company' for the purposes of the Act, the
procedure contemplated in Part VII of the Act was required to be mandatorily followed
and since the said procedure has not been followed, the acquisition is bad in law.
In this regard, Mr. Pallav Shishodia placed reliance upon a decision of this Court
in State of Punjab and Others v. Raja Ram and others4.
the other hand, Mr. B. Balaji, learned counsel for the State of Tamil Nadu supported
the view taken by the Single Judge and the Division Bench of the High Court. He
submitted that the proceedings for acquisition of the appellants' land have
been initiated and concluded in accordance with the procedure prescribed in the
Act. There is no illegality in the acquisition of the appellants' land. He referred
to the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the Government before the High
Court in opposition to the writ petition.3 (2011) 5 SCC 5534 (1981) 2 SCC 66
Act was enacted in 1894 for the acquisition of land needed for public purposes and
for companies and for determining the amount of compensation to be made on such
acquisition. The Act has undergone some amendments in 1919, 1921, 1923, 1933,
1962, 1967 and 1984; the last major amendments being by the Land Acquisition
(Amendment) Act, 1984 (Act 68 of 1984).
provisions contained in the Act, of late, have been felt by all concerned, do not
adequately protect the interest of the land owners/persons interested in the
land. The Act does not provide for rehabilitation of persons displaced from their
land although by such compulsory acquisition, their livelihood gets affected.
For years, the acquired land remains unused and unutilised. To say the least, the
Act has become outdated and needs to be replaced at the earliest by fair,
reasonable and rational enactment in tune with the constitutional provisions, particularly,
Article 300A of the Constitution. We expect the law making process for a
comprehensive enactment with regard to acquisition of land being completed without
any unnecessary delay.
back to the Act, that Section 5-A of the Act confers a valuable right on the
person interested in any land which has been notified under Section 4(1) as being
needed for a public 6purpose or likely to be needed for public purpose is
beyond doubt. By this right, the owner/person interested may put forth his
objections not only in respect of public purpose but also the suitability of the
acquisition in respect of his land.
The objector gets an opportunity
under Section 5-A to persuade the Collector that his land is not suitable for
the purpose for which the acquisition is being made or the availability of other
land suitable for that purpose. Section 5-A proceedings are two-tier
proceedings. In the first step, the objections by the owner/person interested are
heard by the Collector and a report is submitted to the Government. In the
second step, the final decision is taken by the Government on the objections so
furnished by the person interested and the consideration of the report
submitted by the Collector.
Munshi Singh and others v. Union of India5, in paragraph 7 of the Report, this
Court stated as follows : "7. Section 5-A embodies a very just and wholesome
principle that a person whose property is being or is intended to be acquired should
have a proper and reasonable opportunity of persuading the authorities concerned
that acquisition of the property belonging to that person should not be made. ...
The legislature has, therefore,
made complete provisions for the persons interested to file objections against the
proposed acquisition and for the disposal of their objections. It is only in cases
of urgency that special powers have been 5 (1973) 2 SCC 337 conferred on the appropriate
Government to dispense with the provisions of Section 5-A: "
above legal position has been reiterated by this Court in various decisions
including the decisions of this Court in Hindustan Petroleum Corpn. Ltd.2 and Radhy
Shyam3 cited by Mr. Pallav Shishodia. In Hindustan Petroleum Corpn. Ltd.2 , this
Court in paragaraph 6 of the Report stated thus : "6. It is not in dispute
that Section 5-A of the Act confers a valuable right in favour of a person
whose lands are sought to be acquired.
Having regard to the
provisions contained in Article 300-A of the Constitution, the State in
exercise of its power of "eminent domain" may interfere with the
right of property of a person by acquiring the same but the same must be for a
public purpose and reasonable compensation therefor must be paid."
Union of India v. Mukesh Hans6, this Court referred to Munshi Singh5 and in paragraph
35 of the Report stated that the limited right given to the owner/person
interested under Section 5-A of the Act to object to the acquisition proceedings
is not an empty formality and is a substantive right.
a matter of law, under the Act, the only right that the owner/person interested
has, is to submit objections to the compulsory acquisition of his land under Section
5-A. No question, such right and the consideration of objections filed by the land-6
(2004) 8 SCC 14 8owner/person interested in exercise of such right must be
given the importance it deserves. The question before us, is whether the
consideration of the appellants' objections to the acquisition of their land by
the Government suffers from any illegality or irrationality.
appellants and their family members purchased the subject land admeasuring 1.45
acres on January 27, 1981. The said land was agricultural at the time of
purchase and was depressed in as much as it was low in level than the main road.
The appellants incurred expenditure in raising the level of the land and made
improvements; raised the building thereon and installed a saw mill somewhere in
In their objections
filed on May 24, 1989 before the RDO, the facts concerning the expenditure
incurred by them for converting the agricultural land into building site; the deprivation
of their sole means of livelihood and the availability of other lands were stated.
The objectors also stated that the workshop of Thanthai Periyar Transport Corporation
was originally put up in Anna Kalayarangam land owned by the Municipality. Later,
they had purchased four acres of land comprised in T.S. Nos. 133 and 151 at Lal
Puram main road, and constructed a workshop and that workshop was functioning. The
Corporation, the objectors submitted, can acquire any extent of land next to
them to construct a workshop.
RDO considered the above objections raised by the appellants and in the proceedings
drawn on September 14, 1989 overruled the same. The RDO held that when the requisitioning
authority approached TELC for making available their land, the TELC refused to sell
the said land and informed them that they required their land for their religious
The RDO, in this backdrop,
observed that TELC's land cannot be acquired for the purpose of expansion of
depot. As regards the availability of lands near Thanthai Periyar Transport Corporation,
the RDO observed that these lands were one kilometre away from the
Corporation's depot and, thus, the land of the appellants alone was suitable
for the expansion of depot. The RDO, accordingly, forwarded its report to the Government.
October 26, 1989, TELC issued a public notice in a daily newspaper `Dina
Malhar' for sale of its land referred to above. The appellants sent the copy of
the said notice to the Government. However, the Government was not persuaded to
accept the landowners' objections and on consideration of the RDO's report
proceeded with the issuance and publication of declaration under Section 6 of
Pallav Shishodia, learned senior counsel for the appellants vehemently contended
that the land belonging to the 10TELC is suitable as that land is situated just
behind the existing depot; the existing depot has already access to the main
road from Chidambaram to Cuddalore and on acquisition of the land of TELC, the acquired
land too would have access to the main road through the existing depot of the Corporation.
He, thus, submitted that suitability aspect has not at all been rationally considered
by the Government.
is difficult to accept the contention of the learned senior counsel for more
than one reason. In the first place, in paragraph 5 of the counter affidavit
filed by the Government before the High Court, inter alia, following averment
was made: ".......The land acquired exists adjacent to the existing depot and
it has easy access to the main road from Chidambaram to Cuddalore and it is found
to be more suitable in all aspects for the expansion of the depot.........."The
above averment remains unrebutted and unchallenged by the appellants as no
rejoinder was filed.
if the land proposed to be acquired and the alternative land suggested by the owners/persons
interested are equally suitable for the purpose for which land is being
acquired, the satisfaction of the Government, if not actuated with ulterior motive,
11must get primacy. In the judicial review, it is not open to the court to examine
the aspect of suitability as a court of appeal and substitute its opinion.
In any case the
present case is not a case where the other lands suggested by the appellants have
been found to be equally suitable. The Government has given reasons as to why the
appellants' land has been found to be more suitable for expansion of the depot.
The appellants' land is adjacent to the existing depot of the Corporation
having easy access to the main road. In our view, the manner in which the
decision has been taken by the Government regarding suitability of the
appellants' land for expansion of the depot of the Corporation is not vitiated
by any error of law nor it is irrational or founded on the extraneous reasons.
and more important, at the insistence of the learned senior counsel for the appellants,
we considered the site plan referred to by him and from a perusal thereof no
doubt is left that the land of the appellants is more suitable than the land of
TELC situate behind the existing depot. TELC land has no direct access from the
Chidambaram to Cuddalore main road. It has access from a different side road passing
adjacent to the canal.
The size of the
TELC's land is also awkward; it is a long piece of land of which width narrows down
from 175 feet to 56 feet west to east. On the other hand, the appellants' land is
adjacent on the southern side to the existing depot and has access from the
Chidambaram to Cuddalore main road. Having regard to the purpose for which the
land is sought to be acquired, namely, expansion of existing depot,
particularly, for a workshop, the appellants' land is definitely more suitable.
Pertinently, in their
objections, the appellants have not challenged the public purpose for the
acquisition of their land. In what we have indicated above, it cannot be said that
suitability aspect has not been reasonably or rationally considered by the Government.
comes the second contention of Mr. Pallav Shishodia. He relied upon the
decision of this Court in the case of Raja Ram4 and submitted that the erstwhile
Corporation or the successor Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (TNSTC) is a
`government company' for the purposes of the Act and, therefore, compliance
with the provisions of Part VII of the Act had to be made in order to lawfully
acquire any land for its purpose. In this regard, he referred to the averment
made in the reply to I.A. No. 3 of 2003 that TNSTC was the beneficiary of the acquisition;
it is they who have remitted the extent of compensation quantified by the authorities
under the land acquisition.
regard to the above contention of Mr. Pallav Shishodia, it is enough to say that
it overlooks Section 3(cc) and Section 3(e) of the Act, substituted by Act 68
of 1984. The definition of `company' in Section 3(e) after substitution in 1984
is as follows: "S.3(e).- the expression "company" means-- (i) a company
as defined in section 3 of the Companies Act, 1956 (1 of 1956), other than a Government
company referred to in clause (cc); (ii) A society registered under the Societies
Registration Act, 1860 (21 of 1860), or under any corresponding law for the time
being in force in a State, other than a society referred to in clause (cc);
(iii) A co-operative society
within the meaning of any law relating to co-operative societies for the time being
in force in any State, other than a co-operative society referred to in clause
(cc)".Section 3(cc) of the Act defines the expression "corporation
owned or controlled by the State" as follows : "S.3(cc).- the expression
"corporation owned or controlled by the State" means any body corporate
established by or under a Central,
Provincial or State
Act, and includes a Government company as defined in section 617 of the Companies
Act, 1956 (1 of 1956), a society registered under the Societies Registration
Act, 1860 (21 of 1860), or under any corresponding law for the time being in force
in a State, being a society established or administered by Government and a co-operative
society 14 within the meaning of any law relating to co-operative societies for
the time being in force in any State, being a co-operative society in which not
less than fifty-one per centum of the paid-up share capital is held by the
Central Government, or by any State Government or Governments or partly by the
Central Government and partly by one or more State Governments;"
Corporation and the TNSTC fall within the definition of Section 3(cc) is not in
dispute. Both may not have been divested of their character as a government company
but sub-clause (i) of Section 3(e) excludes a government company from the
definition of company. Part VII (Sections 38 to 44B) of the Act provides for acquisition
of land for companies. In view of the definition of the `company' in Section
3(e) which excludes government company, the Corporation or for that matter its successor
TNSTC does not fall within the definition of the `company' and, therefore, is
not covered by Part VII of the Act at all.
Raja Ram4, the definition of `company' in Section 3 (e) of the Act prior to its
substitution fell for consideration. The definition of `company' under
consideration read as follows : "the expression "company" means a
company registered under the Indian Companies Act, 1890 or under the (English)
Companies Acts, 1862 to 1882 or incorporated by an Act of Parliament of the
United Kingdom or by an Indian law, or by Royal Charter or Letters Patent and
includes a society registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, an a registered
society within the meaning of the Cooperative Societies Act, 1912, or any other
law relating to cooperative societies for the time being in force in any State."
was in the context of the above definition that this Court held in Raj Ram4 that
the Food Corporation of India was not divested of its character as a company within
the meaning of definition of clause (e) of Section 3 of the Act. As noticed
above, the definition of `company' has undergone complete change and the government
company has been expressly excluded from the expression `company' for the
purposes of the Act.
the above reasons, it has to be held that Part VII of the Act has no
application to the present case as the acquisition of land is not for a
`company' as defined in Section 3(e).
Pallav Shishodia, learned senior counsel also urged that the appellants are
migrants from Gujarat. They have settled in Chidambaram about thirty years back
and the livelihood of the entire family of the appellants which comprised of about
40 members is dependant on the saw mill existing on the subject land. Having regard
to these facts, he would submit that we invoke our jurisdiction under Article
142 of the Constitution and declare the acquisition of the appellants' land bad
in law to do complete justice.
There is no doubt
that by compulsory acquisition of their land, the appellants have been put to
hardship. As a matter of fact, the RDO was alive to this problem. In his report
dated September 14, 1989, the RDO did observe that the land owners have spent
considerable money to raise the level of the land for constructing compound
wall and running saw mill. He was, however, of the opinion that the appellants'
land was very suitable for the expansion of the depot and the suitable
compensation can be paid to the land-owners to enable them to purchase an
however, proceeded to challenge the acquisition. The litigation has traversed
upto this Court and taken about 22 years. The public purpose has been stalled
for more than two decades. Being the Highest Court, an extraordinary power has
been conferred on this Court under Article 142 to pass any decree, order or direction
in the matter to do complete justice between the parties. The power is plenary
in nature and not inhibited by constraints or limitations. However, the power
under Article 142 is not exercised routinely. It is rather exercised sparingly and
In the name of justice
to the appellants, under Article 142, nothing should be done that would result in
frustrating the acquisition of land which has been completed long back by
following the procedure under the Act and after giving full opportunity to the appellants
under Section 5-A. The possession of the land has also been taken as far back
as on July 25, 2001. The appellants made an application (I.A. No. 2 of 2002)
for direction to the respondents not to interfere with the functioning of the
saw mill and permit them to use the saw mill but this Court in its order dated May
8, 2002 only said that the saw mill shall not be demolished till further orders.
No permission was
granted to the appellants to use the saw mill. In other words, for more than ten
years the saw mill is closed after possession was taken over from the
appellants. In the circumstances, this is not a case fit for exercise of power under
Article 142 and declare the acquisition of the appellants' land bad although the
acquisition proceedings have been completed in accordance with law.
the learned senior counsel invited our attention to the application (I.A. No. 4)
wherein the appellants offered for amicable settlement by expressing their
readiness and willingness to give an area of land admeasuring 13250 square feet
out of the total land of 1.45 acres (i.e. 1 acre and 19445 sq. ft.) free of
cost to the Corporation. The offer is not acceptable to Mr. B. Balaji. He
submitted that such a small area is of no use for expansion of the existing depot.
We do not find any unreasonableness in the submission of 18the counsel that an
area of 13250 square feet would not meet the purpose for which the appellants'
land has been acquired.
view of the above, there is no merit in the appeal and it is dismissed. I.A.
No. 4 and other pending applications, if any, stand disposed of. No costs.
(JAGDISH SINGH KHEHAR )