Collector of 24 Parganas & Ors Vs.
Lalit Mohan Mullick & Ors  INSC 15 (13 February 1986)
KHALID, V. (J) KHALID, V. (J) THAKKAR, M.P.
CITATION: 1986 AIR 622 1986 SCR (1) 271 1986
SCC (2) 138 1986 SCALE (1)177
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1988 SC2121 (1)
West Bengal Land Development and Planning
Act, 1948 - ss. 2(d)(i) and 4 - 'Settlement' of immigrants - Interpretation of
- Acquisition of land - For the 'resettlement' of immigrants - Construction of
hospital for crippled children - Whether 'Public purpose'.
Words and phrases - 'Rehabilitation' -
A notification was issued for the acquisition
of the land belonging to the respondents under s. 4 of the West Bengal Land
Development and Planning Act, 1948 stating that the land in question was needed
for the public purpose for the resettlement of immigrants who have migrated
into the State of West Bengal. This as followed by another notification under
s. 6 of the Act.
Later, on an inspection of the record of the
Special Land Acquisition Officer, the respondents came to know from two
letters, that the acquisition was not for the purpose mentioned in the
notification issued under s. 4, but for the Society of Experimental Medical
Science for construction of a hospital for crippled children.
Finding that the real purpose of acquisition
was different from the one mentioned in the notification, the respondents
approached the Land Acquisition Authority requesting them to cancel the
notification and the land acquisition proceedings on the ground that that were
made under colourable exercise of powers.
There being no response the respondents
approached the High Court under Article 226 to quash the notification. A Single
Judge held that the challenge to the Notification was hopelessly time barred as
the Writ Petition was filed after a 272 lapse of more than two years and two
months from the date of the Notification issued under s. 6, and since there was
no satisfactory explaination for this delay the discretionary powers under
Article 226 should not be exercised.
In appeal the Division Bench reversed the
judgment, and held that the two letters which the respondents came across
during the inspection of the land acquisition records, did not even remotely
suggest that the purpose of the acquisition was for "settlement of
immigrants" but was for the establishment of a hospital for crippled
children, and that the acquisition proceedings were consequently in bad faith
to deprive the respondents of compensation as on the date of Notification.
In appeal to this Court, on behalf of the
State- appellants, it was contended that the notification clearly indicated
that the purpose of the acquisition was to rehabilitate displaced persons which
was a public purpose and it was neither proper nor necessary to go behind the
Notification in a challenge based on bad faith. On behalf of the respondents,
the appeal was contested on the ground that 'settlement' was not 'resettlement'
and since the public purpose shown in the notification is 'resettlement' s.
2(d)(i) was not attracted.
Allowing the appeal, setting aside the
judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court and restoring that of the
HELD: 1. Section 2(d)(i) of the West Bengal
Land Development Planning Act, 1948 makes settlement of immigrants, who have
migrated into the State of West Bengal on account of circumstances beyond their
control a public purpose. Under s. 8(1)(b) of the Act determination of the
amount of compensation to be awarded for the land acquired under the Act is the
same as under s. 23 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. However, distinction is
made in the section if the land is acquired for public purpose specified in s.
2(d)(i), viz. compensation should be restricted to the market value of the land
on the first day of December, 1946 and not more. [276F-H; 277 A]
2. Section 2(d)(i) speaks of 'settlement' of
immigrants while the notification under s. 4 speaks of 'resettlement' of 273
immigrants. The intention of the section is to settle those who migrated to
West Bengal from across the border. Whether one uses the word 'settlement' or
'resettlement', the intent is clear, and that is to provide for habitation and
to extend other amenities to those who are displaced from across the border.
3. The real purpose of rehabilitation can be
achieved only if those who are sought to be rehabilitated are provided with
shelter, food and other amenities of life.
4. No detaled discussion is necessary to hold
that putting up of a hospital, and in particular one for crippled children is
one of the important facets of the concepts of 'rehabilitation' of displaced
persons and therefore to provide a hospital for disabled and crippled children
of such displaced persons comes within the concept of the idea of
'rehabilitation' and consequently of 'settlement' of the refugees. [279 C-E]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION : Civil Appeal
No. 72 (N) of 1972.
From the Judgment and Order dated 6.3.1969 of
the Calcutta High Court in Original Order No. 298 of 1968.
D.N. Mukherjee, G.S. Chatterjee and Sukumar
Basu for the Appellants.
Sankar Ghose, P.K. Mukherjee for the
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
KHALID, J. This is an appeal, by certificate, against the Judgment of a
Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court reversing the Judgment of a learned
Single Judge. The matter relates to land acquisition proceedings. The Collector
of 24 Parganas and others are the appellants.
Under Section 4 of the West Bengal Land
Development and Planning Act, 1948 (West Bengal Act XXI of 1948) (for short,
the Act), a notification dated March 28, 1957 was issued in relation to
property, being C.S. Plot Nos. 84 and 86, belonging to the respondents.
Declaration, under Section 6 of the 274 Act, dated January 4, 1962 followed.
The earlier notification stated that the above plots alongwith certain other
plots were likely to be needed for a public purpose viz. for the re-settlement
of immigrants who have migrated into the State of West Bengal on account of
circumstances beyond their control. The area involved in the proceedings is
3.85 acres, in extent. It appears that the respondents in this case; the owner
of the land, discovered after receipt of notice of acquisition, on inspection
of records at the office of the Special Land Acquisition Officer, Alipore, that
the land was required not for the purpose mentioned in the notification but for
the Society of Experimental Medical Science (India) for construction of a
hospital for crippled children at the expenses of the said Society. They then applied
for the copies of the two letters which contained this disclosure. Finding that
the real purpose of acquisition is different, from the one made in the
notification, they addressed a letter to the Land Acquisition authorities
requesting them to cancel the notification and the land acquisition proceedings
on the ground that they were made under colourable exercise of powers. There
was no response. Hence they moved the Calcutta High Court by writ petition CR
No.361(W) of 1964, to quash the notification and the subsequent proceedings, on
the ground that the notification and the acquisition proceedings were mala
fide, beyond the powers conferred by the Act in fraud of those powers.
The writ petition first came up before a
learned Single Judge of the High Court. He held that the challenge to the
notification was hopelessly barred by time. The notification under Section 4,
was published on 28.3.1957 and the succeeding declaration under Section 6 on
4th January, 1962.
The writ petition was filed only on 26.3.1964
- after lapse of more than two years and two months. Since the respondents did
not give any satisfactory explanation for this delay the learned Single Judge
felt that the discretionary powers under Article 226 should not be exercised in
The learned Single Judge also repelled the
contention based on the plea that the acquisition proceedings were mala fide
and in fraud or in excess of the powers under the Act.
The respondents took the matter in appeal. A
Division Bench of the High Court reversed the Judgment of the learned 275
Single Judge both on the question of delay and on merits. It was held that the
letters, which the respondents came across during the inspection of the
records, did not even remotely suggest that the purpose of the acquisition was
for "settlement of immigrants" but was for the establishment of a
hospital for the crippled children by the Society. It was held that the
acquisition was made in bad faith to deprive the appellants of the compensation
as on the date of notification. Hence the appeal.
The learned counsel for the appellants
pleaded before us that the approach of the Division Bench was totally
unwarranted and that the Judgment was based on wrong premises. He contended
that the notification clearly indicated that the purpose of the acquisition was
to rehabilitate displaced persons which was a public purpose and it was neither
proper nor necessary to go behind the notification in a challenge based on bad
We will now examine whether the notification
and the land acquisition proceedings are bad as found by the Division Bench of
the High Court. The Act that governs these proceedings is not the Land
Acquisition Act but the Act mentioned above. Section 2(d) of the Act defines
'public purpose' as under:- 2(d) "public purpose" includes- (1) the
settlement of immigrants who have migrated into the State of West Bengal on
account of circumstances beyond their control, (ii) the establishment of towns,
model villages and agricultural colonies, (iii) the creation of better living
conditions in urban and rural areas, and (iv) the improvement and development
of agriculture, forestry, fisheries and industries;
but does not include a purpose of the Union;
276 Section 8(1)(b) is the other section that
has to be taken into account. This reads as follows:
"8(1) After making a declaration under
Section 6, the State Government may acquire the land and thereupon the
provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (hereinafter in this section
referred to as the said Act), shall, so far as may be, apply:
Provided that- (a) ...........
(b) in determining the amount of compensation
to be awarded for land acquired in pursuance of this Act the market value
referred to in clause first of sub-section (1) of section 23 of the said Act
shall be deemed to be the market value of the land on the date of publication
of the notification under sub-section (1) of section 4 for the notified area in
which the land is included subject to the following condition, that is to say,
if such market value in relation to land acquired for the public purpose
specified in sub- clause (i) of clause (d) of Section 2, exceeds by any amount
the market value of the land on the 31st day of December, 1946, on the
assumption that the land had been at that date in the state in which it in fact
was on the date of publication of the said notification, the amount of such
excess shall not be taken into consideration.
Section 2(d)(i) makes the settlement of immigrants who have migrated into the
State of West Bengal on account of circumstances beyond their control, a public
purpose. From Section 8(1)(b) quoted above, we note that the determination of
the amount of compensation to be awarded for the land acquired under the Act is
the same as that under Section 23 of the Land Acquisition Act. However, the
section makes a distinction if the land is acquired for a public purpose
specified in Section 2(d)(i). When the land is acquired for a 277 purpose
mentioned in that section, the compensation should be restricted to the market
value of the land on the 1st day of December, 1946 and not more. It is this
restriction on the amount of compensation that is really the moving spirit
behind the writ petition and the challenge to the notification.
We may even at the outset reject a contention
made by the learned counsel for the respondents on the wording of section
2(d)(i) and the notification. Section 2(d)(i) speaks of 'settlement' of
immigrants while the notification under section 4 speaks of 're-settlement' of
immigrants. The contention raised is that 'settlement' is not the same as
're-settlement', and since the public purpose shown in this notification is
're-settlement', Section 2(d)(i) is not attracted. We wish to make it clear
that this contention is just an empty exercise on words. The intention of the
section is to settle those who migrated to West Bengal from across the border.
They are to be settled in West Bengal.
Whether one uses the word settlement or
re-settlement, the intent is clear and that is to provide for the habitation
and other amenities to those who were displaced from across the border. Nothing
therefore turns, in our view, on the use of the word 're-settlement' in the
notification, though a serious attempt is seen made in the affidavit filed by
the appellants to explain that what was really meant was 'settlement' and not
Now, what remains is the question whether the
public purpose mentioned in the notification is different from the purpose to
which it is proposed to be utilised, accepting the plea of the respondent that
the purpose is the construction of hospital for crippled children by the
Society. We will refer to the letters on which strong reliance is placed by the
respondents. The first letter is dated 6.9.1962, from the Refugee
Rehabilitation Commissioner, West Bengal, to the Assistant Secretary, R.R.
& R. Department. The subject is mentioned
as "Allotment of land in Mouza Palpara, P.S. Baranagar, Distt. 24
Parganas, to the Society of Experimental Medical Sciences, India, for
construction of a hospital for the crippled children." The letter states
that an area of 1.10 acres of land out of a total declared area of 3.85 acres
has been decided to be handed over to the Society of Experimental Medical
Sciences, India, for construction of a hospital for 278 crippled children. The
rest of the declared area will be handed over to the Society on receipt of the
same from the Collector after award. From this letter it is clear that the
proposed hospital for crippled children has something to do intimately with the
rehabilitation process and that is why the letter is written by the Refugee
Rehabilitation Commissioner to the Assistant Secretary, R.R. & R.
The second letter is dated 28.11.1962, by the
Assistant Secretary to the Government of West Bengal to the Collector, 24
Parganas. This states that the entire land measuring 3.85 acres has been
decided to be handed over to the Society for the purpose stated above. The
heading of the letter is "Government of West Bengal, Refugee Relief and
Rehabilitation Department". This letter also shows that the acquisition of
the entire land is intimately connected with the activities of the relief and
The learned counsel for the appellant invited
our attention to two other letters produced along with the Special Leave
Petition. The 1st letter is dated 3.1.1963 from the Under Secretary to the
Government of India to the Hony. General Secretary, Society of Experimental
Medical Sciences, India, Calcutta, and the subject is: ".... setting up of
a hospital for crippled children and a general hospital to develop medical
facilities in the interest of the displaced persons from East Pakistan."
From this letter it is evident that the matter was known to the Government of
India also and that the acquisition proceedings related not only to 3.85 acres
involved in this acquisition, but to a much larger area, for a hospital for
crippled children as well as a general hospital. This letter shows that the
land will be allotted to the Society on a 99 years lease and that four blocks
of 64 tenements in the colony will be allotted to the Society on rental basis
for accommodating the hospital staff. All these correspondence taken together
show that the State wanted a much bigger area for re-habilitation of displaced
persons from East Pakistan. The respondents can succeed only if they can
establlsh to the satisfaction of the Court that putting up of a hospital for
crippled children is not a public purpose connected with the rehabilitation of
displaced persons. To our pointed question to the respondent's counsel whether
the construction of a hospital for crippled children is a public purpose or
not, he admitted, after some hesitation, that it 279 was a public purpose. The
next step is to ascertain whether putting up of such a hospital has something
to do with rehabilitation of displaced persons.
In Collins Dictionary of the English
Language, the meaning for the word 'rehabilitate' is given as "to help a
person (who is physically or mentally disabled or has just been released from
prison) to readapt to society or a new job as by vocational guidance,
retraining or therepy.......". By rehabilitation what is meant is not to
provide shelter alone. The real purpose of rehabilitation can be achieved only
if those who are sought to be rehabilitated are provided with shelter, food and
other necessary amenities of life. It would be too much to contend, much less
to accept, that providing medical facilities would not come within the concept
of the word 'rehabilitation'. No detailed discussion is necessary to hold that
putting up of a hospital and in particular one for crippled children is one of
the important facets of the concept of 'rehabilitation of displaced persons'.
Displaced persons are an unenviable section of society. They bring with them
not only misery and poverty but ailments also.
Their children will be afflicted by manifold
ailments. To provide a hospital for the disabled and for the crippled children
of such displaced persons, in our Judgment, squarely comes within the concept
of the idea of 'rehabilitation' and consequently of settlement of the refugees.
The original object of acquisition
proceedings is generally termed as 'resettlement of refugees' which would mean
their rehabilitation. It would be for the authorities concerned to think of
providing various amenities for the displaced persons in the process of
rehabilitation. In this case, after the declaration notification, the
authorities concerned thought of a hospital. They may think of providing
educational institutions, shopping centres and the like. All these amenities
can be conveniently included in the public purpose generally called 'settlement
The respondent's contention can be approached
from another angle also. It is a generally accepted principle that persons
interested in lands cannot lightly question the validity of a notification
under Section 4 or under Section 6 and go behind them. When an acquisition is
proposed for a public purpose and the purpose is shown to be a public purpose,
200 Courts usually frown upon lighthearted attacks on the validity of the
notification. In this case we see an unusual method of fishing out information
by looking into the files and discovering two letters in which mention is made
of the starting of a hospital for crippled children. How can these letters help
the respondents? As we have mentioned earlier, the original notification was on
28.3.1957 and Section 6 notification was on 4.1.1962. The two letters on which
reliance is placed, came into being subsequently. This is because the idea of
providing hospital for crippled children must have occurred to the officers
There may arise further correspondence
between the department concerned suggesting starting of schools, providing
transport facility etc.. It would be idle to depend upon such internal
communication, which is normally not available to the party whose property is
acquired and to contend that the notification is bad.
Our considered view in this matter is that
establishment of a hospital for crippled children falls within the idea of
settlement and rehabilitation is displaced persons and the notification cannot
be faulted on the ground that the purpose disclosed in the letters is one different
from the public purpose disclosed in the notification. The Division Bench of
the High Court was in error in quashing the notification.
In the result, we allow the appeal, set aside
the Judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court and restore that of the
Single Judge but, in the circumstances of the case, with no order as to costs.
A.P.J. Appeal allowed.