State of Punjab Vs. Mst. Qaisar Jehan
Begum & ANR  INSC 27 (11 February 1963)
11/02/1963 DAS, S.K.
AYYANGAR, N. RAJAGOPALA
CITATION: 1963 AIR 1604 1964 SCR (1) 971
RF 1979 SC 404 (10)
Limitation-Land Acquisition Act, (1 of 1894),
On October 25,1953, the Collector made an
award in respect of land belonging to the respondents, who were evacuees, in
the District of Gurgaon. The respondents were not notified about the
acquisition and they were not present at the time of the award.
The respondents filed an application before
the Collector stating that they came to know of the contents of the Award only
on July 22, 1955 when they received the compensation amount and that the amount
of Rs. 96 pet acre as given in the Award was too low and that the market value
of the land was about Rs. 600/per acre. The Collector accepted the application
and referred the matter under s. 18 of the Land Acquisition Act, to the Senior
Subordinate judge, Gurgaon.
The Senior Subordinate judge held that the
application for a reference which was made on September 30, 1955, was filed
beyond the period of limitation prescribed by s. 18 and discharged the
reference. The matter was taken to the High Court in revision by the
respondents and the High Court accepted the revision petition and directed the
Subordinate judge to deal with the reference on merits, on the view that the
civil court was preclued from going into questions other than the matters
specified in s. 18 of the Act. The High Court did not go into the correctness
of the decision on merits on the question of limitation. On appeal by special
Held, assuming that the civil court could go
into the question of limitation, the respondents who were entitled to notice
under s. 12, sub-s. 2, of the Act had admittedly received no notice nor were
they present at the time when the Award was made and therefore neither cl. (a)
nor the first part of cl. (b) of the proviso to s. 18 applied.
The scheme of the Act requires that before
applying for reference under s. 18, the parties concerned must have knowledge
of the essential contents of the award and in the present 972 case the
petitioners though they had come to know of the award earlier did not know the
essential contents of the award till July 22, 1955, therefore, the period of
six months contemplated in the second part of cl. (b) of s. 18 would commence
from that date and the application for reference was within time.
Raja Harish Chandra Raj Singh v. The Deputy
Land Acquisition Officer,  1 S. C. R. 676, relied on.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 592 of 1961.
Appeal by special leave from the judgment and
order dated November 16, 1959, of the Punjab High Court at Chandigarh in Civil
Revision No. 268 of 1958.
R. Ganapathy Iyer and R. N. Sachthey, for the
S. P. Sinha and Saukat Hussain, for
respondent No. 2.
1963. February 11. The judgment of the Court
was delivered by S. K. DAS, J.-This is an appeal by special leave from the
judgment and order dated November 16, 1959 passed by the Punjab High Court on
an application in revision in respect of an order dated December 17, 1957 by
which the learned Senior Subordinate judge of Gurgaon held that a reference by
the Collector of Gurgaon under s. 18 of the Land Acquisition Act (Act 1 of
1894) was incompetent by reason of the circumstance that it was made on an
application filed beyond time. The appellant before us is the State of Punjab
and the respondents are two ladies being related as mother and daughter. We
shall presently state the relevant facts, but before we do so it is necessary
to say that the only point on which the High Court disposed of the application
in revision before it made by the respondents herein, was whether the civil
court to which a reference is 973 made by the Collector under s. 18 of the Land
Acquisition Act on an application filed beyond time, can reject the reference
on the ground that the reference made is incompetent. On this point there is a
conflict of judicial opinion. In disposing of the application in revision the
learned single judge who heard it proceeded on the basis that he was bound by
the Division Bench decision of the same High Court in Hari Krishan Khosla v.
State of Pepsu (1), which held that the jurisdiction of the civil court on a
reference under s. 18 was confined to considering and pronouncing upon any of
the four different objections to an award under the Act which might have been
raised in the written application for the reference and the civil court had no
jurisdiction to decide the question of limitation.
Therefore, the learned single judge did not
go into the further question as to whether the application made for a reference
in the present case was filed beyond time or not as prescribed by the proviso
to s. 18 of the Act. That question has however been agitated before us by
reason of the decision in Raja Harish Chandra Raj Singh v. The Deputy Land
Acquisition Officer (2) , a decision of this court which was not available at
the time when the learned single judge of the Punjab High Court disposed of the
application in revision.
We proceed now to state the relevant facts.
The respondents who were evacuees were owners of 55 big has and 7 bis was of
land in two villages known as Salarpur and Nasirpur in the district of Gurgaon.
Their lands in the aforesaid two villages along with lands of other persons in
other villages were acquired by the appellant for use as a field Firing and
Bombing Range. The respondents were not notified about the acquisition and were
not present at the time of the award. The respondents alleged, and this was not
denied, that the Collector treated the property as evacuee property and none of
the notices contemplated by the Land Acquisition (1) A.I.R. 1958 Punjab 490.
(2)  1 S.C.R. 676.
974 Act, 1894 were issued to them. The
Collector made an award on October 25, 1953 by which he allowed compensation at
the rate of Rs. 96/per acre in respect of the lands of the respondents. On
December 24, 1954 that is more than a year after the award, the respondents
made an application to the Collector in which they said that certain
agricultural lands of villages Salarpur and Nasirpur were compulsorily acquired
by the Collector by an award dated October 30,1953 (October 30 was presumably a
mistake for October 25), but they were not given any notice of the acquisition
proceedings. The respondents further stated that the awerd had fixed the
compensation to be given to the land owners affected by the acquisition, but
the amount to be paid to each owner was not apportioned therein. The
respondents then referred to a judgment and decree of the Lahore High Court
dated November, 13, 1944 under which they were held to be the owners of the
lands in question. A prayer was made on behalf of the respondents for payment
of the compensation money at an early date for the purpose of defraying the
expenses of a daughter's marriage, but without prejudice to the claim of the
respondents for enhancement of the amount of compensation. The amount of compensation
appears to have been paid on July 22, 1955 and on September 30, 1955 the
respondents made an application to the Collector for a reference under s. 18 of
the Act. In this application the respondents stated that they knew about the
award on July 22, 1955 when they received the compensation amount and therefore
the petition was within time. The principal objection which they raised to the
award was that the market value of the land was not Rs. 96/per acre as given in
the award, but about Rs. 600/per acre. The Collector accepted this application
in a very short order which stated :
"Public Prosecutor has been heard. Mst. Timur
975 Jehan Begum has filed an affidavit to the effect that she had no knowledge
of the award at the time it was made and that she only came to know about it in
July, 1955, when she received the award money. Nothing has been shown to me to
the contrary to prove that the award was made within the knowledge of the
petitioners. Under the circumstances it would be only fair and equitable to
refer the petition under section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act to a civil
court for determining the compensation, which I hereby do." A reference
was made accordingly to the civil court and the Senior Subordinate judge of
Gurgaon who heard it came to the conclusion that the application made to the
Collector for a reference war barred by time, because the Collector's award was
made on October 25, 1953 and the application for a reference was made on
September 30, 1955. The learned Subordinate judge expressed some doubt as to
whether the respondents were entitled to count the period of the limitation
from the date of knowledge but he held that even if they were entitled to do
so, their date of knowledge must be taken to be December 24, 19-54 on which
date they made an application for interim payment and the application for
reference having been made more than six months from the date of knowledge, the
application was barred by time within the meaning of the proviso to s. 18 of
the Act. As to whether it was open to the civil court to go into the question
of limitation the learned Subordinate-judge referred to the conflict of
.judicial opinion and said that the preponderance of opinion was in favour of
the view that the. civil court could go into the question in order to find out
whether the reference was competent or not. In this view of the matter, the
learned Subordinate judge discharged the reference on the ground that it was
incompetent. It may be mentioned here that the 976 Division Bench decision of
the Punjab High Court in Hari Krishan Khosla's case (1), was not available to
the learned Subordinate judge on the day he passed his orders. The matter was
then to the High Court on an application in revision by the respondents and we
have already stated that the High Court dealt with it on the footing of the
decision in Hari Krishan Khosla's case (1). The High Court accepted the
application in revision, set aside the order of the learned Subordinate judge
and directed him to deal with the reference on merits. It is from this order of
the High Court that the appeal has come to us by special leave.
It is necessary at this stage to set out the
proviso to s. 1 8 of the Act "............
Provided that every such application shall be
made,(a) if the person making it was present or represented before the
Collectorate at the time when he made his award. within six weeks from the date
of the Collector's award;
(b) in other cases, within six weeks of the
receipt of the notice from the Collector under section 12, sub-section (2), or
within six months from the date of the Collector's award, whichever period
shall first expire." Assuming that the appellant can raise the ground of
limitation, the first question before us is whether the application made on
September 30, 1955 was within time within the meaning of the aforesaid proviso.
Clause (a) of the proviso is clearly not applicable in the present case,
because admittedly the respondents were neither present nor were (1) A.I.R.
1958 Punjab 490.
977 represented before the Collector when the
latter made his award. The first part of cl. (b) is also not applicable,
because the respondents did not receive any notice from the Collector under
sub-S. (2) of S. 12 of the Act. That subsection requires the Collector to give
immediate notice of his award to such of the persons interested as are not
present personally or by their representatives when the award is made. Clearly
enough, the respondents herein were entitled to a notice under sub-s. (2) of S.
12 but admittedly no notice was issued to them.
As to the second part of cl. (b) of the
proviso, the true scope and effect thereof was considered by this court in Raja
Harish Chandra's Case (1). It was there observed that a literal and mechanical
construction of the words "six months from the date of the Collector's
award" occurring in the second part of cl. (b) of the proviso would not be
appropriate an and "the knowledge of the party affected by the award,
either actual or constructive, being an essential requirement of fair play and
natural justice, the expression...... used in the proviso must mean the date
when the award is either communicated to the party or is known by him either
actually or constructively." Admittedly the award was never communicated
to the respondents. Therefore the question before us boils down to this. When
did the respondents know the award either actually or constructively ? Learned
counsel for the appellant has placed very strong reliance on the petition which
the respondents made for interim payment of compensation on December 24, 1954.
He has pointed out that the learned Subordinate judge relied on this petition
as showing the respondents' date of knowledge and there are no reasons why we
should take a different view. It seems clear to us that the ratio of the
decision in Raja Harish Chandra's case (1), is that the party affected by the
award must know it, actually or constructively and the period of six months
will (1)  1 S.C.R. 676.
978 run from the date of that knowledge. Now,
knowledge of the award does not mean a mere knowledge of the fact that an award
has been made. The knowledge must relate to the essential contents of the
award. These contents may be known either actually or constructively. If the
award is communicated to a party under s. 12 (2) of the Act, the party -must be
obviously fixed with knowledge of the contents of the award whether he reads it
or not. Similarly when a party is present in court either personally or through
his representative when the award is made by the Collector, it must be presumed
that he knows the contents of the award. Having regard to the scheme of the Act
we think that knowledge of the award must mean knowledge of the essential
contents of the award. Looked at from that point of view, we do not think that
it can be inferred from the petition dated December 24, 1954 that the
respondents had knowledge of the award. One of the respondents gave evidence
before the learned Subordinate Judge and she said "The application marked
as Ex. D-1 was given by me but the amount of compensation was not known to me,
nor did I know about acquisition of the land. Chaudhari Mohd. Sadiq, my karinda
had told me on the day I filed the said application that the land had been
acquired by the Government." This evidence was not seriously contradicted
on behalf of the appellant and the learned Subordinate judge did not reject it.
It is worthy of note that before the Collector also the appellant did not
seriously challenge the statement of the respondents that they came to know of
the award on July 22, 1955 the date on which the compensation was paid.
In the reply which the appellant filed before
the learned Subordinate judge there was no contradiction of the averment that
the respondents had come to 979 know of the award on July 22, 1955. That being
the position we have come to the conclusion that the date of knowledge in this
case was July 22, 1955. The application for a reference was clearly made within
six months from that date and was not therefore barred by time within the meaning
of the second part of cl. (by of the proviso to s. 18 of the Act.
In the view which we have taken on the
question of limitation, it is unnecessary for us to decide the other question
as to whether the civil court, on a reference under s. 18 of the Act, can go
into the question of limitation.
We have already stated that there is a
conflict of judicial opinion on that question. There is on one side a line of
decisions Following the decision of the Bombay High Court in re. Land
Acquisition Act (1), which have held that the civil court is not debarred from
satisfying itself that the reference which it is called upon to hear is a valid
reference. There is, on the other side, a line of decisions which say that the
jurisdiction of the civil court is confined to considering and pronouncing upon
any one of the four different objections to an award under the Act which may
have been raised in the written application for the reference. The decision of
the Allahabad High Court in Secretary of State v. Bhagvan Prasad (1), is
typical of this line of decisions. There is thus a marked conflict of judicial
opinion on the question. This conflict, we think, must be resolved in a more
appropriate case on a future occasion.
In the case before us the question does not really
arise and is merely academic and we prefer not to decide the question in the
For the reasons given above, we would dismiss
the appeal with costs.
(1) (1905) I.L.R. 30 Bombay 275.
(2) (1929) I.L.R. 32 Allahabad 96.