The Supreme Court while dealing with a case having a history of repeated litigation by the land owners has restored the order of the Reference Court that enhanced the compensation to the owners of the land which was utilised 40 years ago.

The Division Bench of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice J.K. Maheshwari stated –

"In absence of having any material on record, in our view, the Reference Court rightly relied on Exb. A¬1 sale deed of adjacent Village Bahadurpur. The acquired land may have been situated in Village Attapur but it is adjacent to Village Bahadurpur, where the land value was fixed as Rs. 200 per sq. yard."

The Bench observed that the High Court has committed an error in computing the compensation @ Rs. 100 per sq. yard ignoring the documents produced by the land owners.

The Bench further held that "Considering the aforesaid and, taking note of the date of acquisition i.e. 1981 which is about 40 years ago, the value of the said land cannot be computed at the rate less than Rs. 250/- per sq. yard which is supported by the evidence brought on record by the land owners."

Venkat Palwai Law Associates appeared for the appellant while Advocate Venkateswara Rao Anumolu appeared on behalf of the respondents.

Facts of the Case –

The land owners were having land in a village that was sought to be acquired for the purpose of the extension of the Nehru Zoological Park. The Notifications under Sections 4(1) and Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 were issued for the same. However, the award was not passed and no amount of compensation was paid despite taking possession of the land. Hence, the land owners filed a writ petition before the Andhra Pradesh High Court that directed the appellant i.e., the Revenue Department to pass an award, and thereafter compensation @ Rs. 6 per sq. yard was awarded. The land owners then approached the High Court which directed the Land Acquisition Officer to make a reference but the same was not made. The reference was made when the contempt notice was issued to the officer.

The Reference Court directed the appellants to pay compensation @ Rs. 250 per sq. yard with solatium and interest to the land owners. Such an enhancement was questioned by the Revenue Department before the High Court by filing appeals. The High Court directed to refer the appeals for Mediation and during the mediation proceedings, the parties entered into a Joint Memorandum of Compromise in which the Revenue Department agreed to pay compensation @ Rs. 350/- per sq. yard. However, the compensation was still not paid to the land owners. The High Court after allowing the Recall Petitions and appeal filed by the Revenue Department reduced the compensation @ Rs. 100/- per sq. yard. and dismissed the appeal filed by the land owners.

Therefore, the matter was before the Supreme Court.

The Apex Court after hearing both parties noted –

"The development of the city has already taken place. The land owners, whose land has been utilized 40 years back, now cannot be compelled to pay the development charge for the development which has already taken place, only for a parcel of land to which they have not given compensation up to decades. Therefore, the plea taken by the Revenue Department sans merit."

The Court further directed and held that "In view of the foregoing, the appeals filed by the land owners are allowed and the appeals filed by the Revenue Department are dismissed. The impugned judgment passed by the High Court stands set¬aside, restoring the order of the Reference Court. The amount of compensation, as determined by the Reference Court, be calculated and be paid now within a period of two months from the date of this judgment."

Accordingly, the Court allowed the appeals filed by the land owners, restored the order of the Reference Court, and set aside the judgment passed by the High Court.

Cause Title – The Revenue Divisional Officer & Anr. v. Ismail Bhai and Others

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