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Report No. 3

151. Article s 17 and 18.-

Article 17 provides a period of one year for recovering from Government compensation for land acquired for public purposes and time runs from the date of the determination of the amount of compensation. Under section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act, the Collector is enjoined to determine the compensation which, in his opinion, should be allowed for the land acquired. Under section 16, after the award is made under section 11, the Collector is entitled to take possession of the land which vests absolutely from that moment in the'Government free from all encumbrances. Part III of the Act provides for a reference to the court in a case where the person interested does not choose to accept the award.

On such a reference, the court determines the amount of compensation to be awarded for the land acquired and under section 26(2) of the Act the award made by the court is deemed to be a decree and a statement of the grounds of such award is a judgment within the meaning of sub-sections 2 and 9 respectively of section 2 of the Civil Procedure Code. This sub-clause, it is common knowledge, was inserted by an amending Act of 1921 as the Privy Council held in Rangoon Botatoung Co. v. Collector of Rangoon, 40 Cal 21' and Special Officer Salsette Building Sites v. Dassa Bhai, 37 Bom 50 that there was no right of appeal against the award made by the court as it was not a decree.

Section 54 of the Act which was inserted by the amending Act of 1921 confers a right of appeal to the High Court under the award and a further appeal from the appellate decree of the High Court to the Supreme Court subject to the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure. Under section 31(1) of the Act, the Collector is enjoined to pay the compensation awarded by him under section 11 to the person interested and entitled thereto according to his award. If the person refuses to receive it or if there is no person competent to alienate the land, the course the collector has to follow is indicated in the Act. In a case which does not end in a reference to a court under section 18 of the Act, the Collector's award under section 11 is final and determines the rights of the parties.

If the Collector does not choose to tender or pay the amount as required by section 31 of the Act, no machinery is provided under the Act to compel the Collector to pay the amount. But the Limitation Act (Article 17) provides that a person in such a situation can file a suit against the Government for the recovery of the amount within one year from the date of the determination of the amount of compensation. The period provided is very short and it is difficult to see why a provision is not made in the Act itself to compel the Collector to pay the amount by making the award executable against him instead of driving the aggrieved party to a suit after giving the statutory notice required by section 80 of the Civil Procedure Code.

Such a suit itself may drag on for a long time with the result that a person who has unwisely accepted the award as final would not be able to recover compensation for a long time though the property would be taken possession of by the Collector immediately after the award is made. In fact, there have been cases in which aggrieved persons have been compelled to go to court. The absence of a provision such as we have indicated appears to be a lacuna in the Land Acquisition Act. The situation should be remedied by amending that Act and making the award enforceable by treating it as a decree within the meaning of section 2(2) of the Civil Procedure Code. If this is done, the injustice to the citizen will be remedied and there will not be any need for the retention of Article 17 of the Limitation Act.

152. A similar reasoning will apply to Article 18. Under section 48 of the Land Acquisition Act, it is open to Government to withdraw from the acquisition of any land of which possession has not been taken; but sub-section 2 of that section provides that in that event the Collector shall determine the amount of compensation due for the damages suffered by the owner in consequence of the notice or of any proceedings thereunder and pay such amount to the person interested with all costs reasonably incurred by him in the prosecution of the proceedings under the Act. Sub-section 3 of that section makes the provisions of Part III of the Act applicable for the determination of such compensation.

Here again, if the Collector does not choose to pay or does not agree to determine the compensation, the only remedy of the party is to institute a suit for the recovery of such compensation within one year from the date of the refusal by the Collector to complete the acquisition. The proper course in such a contingency would be to entitle the party to have the amount of compensation determined by an application to the court and to make such determination by the court an executable decree. It may be observed that when the matter is referred to the court under section 18 of the Act, the award of the court is deemed to be a decree by reason of sub-section 2 of section 26.

The object of the Amending Act of 1921 which provided that the award was to be deemed to be adverse was merely to enable the aggrieved person to appeal to the High Court and to the Privy Council. From the form in which the court makes an award, it is not always clear whether it is an executable decree. If the award as drafted, is not executable, there may be a difficulty in realising the amount from the Collector if he does not choose to pay it. It is necessary, therefore, that the Land Acquisition Act should be suitably amended so as to fix a time-limit, say, six months within which the Collector must pay or deposit the compensation and a provision made in section 31 of the Act that on the failure of the Collector to pay or deposit an application may be made by any person interested, for a direction that the compensation be deposited in court.

If these amendments are made in the Land Acquisition Act, Articles 17 and 18 of the Limitation Act will be unnecessary. If however, it is decided not to give the person a summary and speedy remedy as suggested, there is no reason to restrict the period of limitation to one year as at present. The matter may be left to be governed by the proposed residuary Article with its period of three years. In any view, therefore, it is unnecessary to retain these Articles.

Limitation Act, 1908 Back

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