The Bombay High Court observed that the State cannot evade its responsibility towards those from whom private property has been expropriated merely on the grounds of delay.

Condoning a 40 year delay towards approaching the Court seeking compensation for land acquisition by the State, the Bench of Justice BP Colabawalla and Justice Somasekhar Sundaresan observed that, "The State cannot, on the ground of delay and laches, evade its responsibility towards those from whom private property has been expropriated."

In that context, it was further observed that, "Apart from the length of the delay, whether the nature of the acts done during the interval has affected either party in a manner that causes an imbalance in delivering justice, is what this Court must consider. We find that denying the Petitioners an opportunity of their Writ Petition even being considered, merely on the ground of delay, to our mind, would be unjust to the Petitioners."

Senior Counsel Vishwajit Sawant, along with others, appeared for the petitioners, while Counsel Deepa Chawan, along with others, appeared for the respondents.

In this case, the Bhadani family from Thane approached the High Court seeking relief upon discovering that their land had apparently been taken over by MSEDCL in 1984 to establish a sub-station and staff quarters without proper compensation. MSEDCL claimed to have initiated land acquisition proceedings in 1986 after taking possession in 1984, with the sub-station built in 1993.

The State company argued that the compensation plea from the Bhadani family was invalid due to a nearly 40-year delay.

It was held that the petitioners had indeed made out a case for compensation for the land handed over.

The Court found that there could be no question of vacating the Subject Land and handing it over to the petitioners, as multiple stakeholders have an interest in the use to which the Subject Land had been put. With that background, the Court observed that, "it would be appropriate to direct Respondent No. 3, the Collector, Thane, to compute compensation payable to the Petitioners under the provisions of the 2013 Act and pass an Award."

Cause Title: Rajeev Kumar Damodarprasad Bhadani & Ors. vs The Executive Engineer, MSEDCL & Ors.

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