The Supreme Court said that a land owner's right to make objections under Section 15 of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 is akin to fundamental right.

The court added that compliance of this mandatory requirement would vitiate the acquisition.

The Court was dealing with civil appeals preferred against the judgment of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in a batch of writ petitions by which the same were dismissed.

The three-Judge Bench comprising Justice B.R. Gavai, Justice Satish Chandra Sharma, and Justice Sandeep Mehta observed, "…the mere fact that the final award had been issued during pendency of the petitions would not save the acquisition proceedings because the hearing of the objections is a sacrosanct act treated akin to a fundamental right as held in the case of Hindustan Petroleum Corpn. Ltd.(supra). Thus, the nonVERDICTUM.IN 16 compliance of this mandatory requirement would vitiate the acquisition."

AOR Pragati Neekhra represented the appellants while ASG K.M. Nataraj and AAG Saurabh Mishra represented the respondents.

Brief Facts -

The Madhya Pradesh State published a notification under Section 11 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act proposing to acquire lands of Village Jamodi, Tehsil Pithampur, District Dhar, Madhya Pradesh of which appellants’ lands also formed a part. The lands were sought to be acquired for the purposes of establishing a Multi-Model Logistics Park under the Bharatmala Project of the Government of India. The appellants submitted their objections to the Collector under Section 15 of LA Act but no response was forthcoming on such objections whereupon they filed fresh objections. The objections were not considered by the Collector but rather the same were taken up by the Anuvibhagiya Adhikari (Revenue) Evam Bhu Arjan Kshetra, Pithampur (SDO).

However, their objections were rejected by SDO and it was directed that the department should publish a declaration under Section 19 of LA Act. Consequently, a declaration along with summary of rehabilitation and resettlement was published and SDO published information under Section 21 and notices were issued to the appellants regarding the acquisition of their lands. Being aggrieved by the rejection of objections by an officer not having jurisdiction, the appellants preferred numerous petitions before the High Court seeking quashing of the land acquisition proceedings. But the same were dismissed and hence, the appellants approached the Apex Court.

The Supreme Court in view of the above facts remarked, “The Collector would be deemed to be the “appropriate Government” under the proviso to Section 3(e) of the Act of 2013 only when a land acquisition notification is issued by the appropriate Government that is the State Government indicating the limits of the area to be acquired for a public purpose and appointing the Collector as the authority empowered to acquire that particular area of land ‘in the district’ over which the officer holds jurisdiction. Hence, this proviso requires notification by the State Government of a particular area within the district to be acquired for public purpose and only for such limited area, the Collector would be authorised by deeming fiction to act as the appropriate Government.”

The Court noted that even if, for the sake of arguments, the SDO is treated to be an officer authorised to hear the objections made under Section 15(2) of the Act, apparently, the final decision on such objections would have to be taken by the appropriate Government as per Section 15(3) of the Act which is lacking in this case.

Accordingly, the Apex Court allowed the appeals, quashed the impugned judgment, and directed the respondents to consider and decide the objections of the appellants as per law.

Cause Title- Dinesh and Others Etc. v. State of Madhya Pradesh and Others Etc.

Appearance:

Appellants: AOR Pragati Neekhra, Advocates Aditya Bhanu Neekhra, and Aniket Patel.

Respondents: ASG K.M. Natraj, AAG Saurabh Mishra, AOR Sunny Choudhary, Advocate Manoj Kumar, AOR Pulkit Agarwal, Advocates Sudhanshu Kaushesh, Aviral Vikas Khare, Indira Bhakar, Arish Jain Choudhary, Md Anas Chaudhary, Vibhu Tandon, Raghav Sehgal, Prashant Kumar, and Avnish Chaturvedi.

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