A Supreme Court Bench of Justice Surya Kant and Justice Dipankar Datta has referred the question of construction, meaning and import of the term "vacant land" as under Section 2(q) of the Urban Land (Ceiling and Regulation) Act, 1976, to a larger bench.

In that context, the Court said that, "We are thus of the considered opinion that the interpretation, spirit and object of the Ceiling Act, as it was envisaged at the time of its enactment, when juxtaposed against the regressive impact experienced in different States which is indicated in the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Repeal Act, invite an authoritative determination of all the related issues by a Larger Bench. This case may, therefore, be placed before Hon’ble the Chief Justice of India for appropriate directions."

Senior Counsel Jaideep Gupta appeared for the appellants, while Senior Counsel Rakesh Dwivedi appeared for the respondents.

In this case, the appellants had acquired property in Kolkata and applied to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation for approval of their building plan. However, a portion of their property was declared as "excess vacant land" by the Competent Authority, leading to its acquisition by the State Government. The appellants challenged this decision. They asked the Supreme Court to send the case back to the Competent Authority for a reevaluation of what constituted "vacant land," excluding areas where construction was not permitted under the Building Regulations of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

The main issue before the Court was the correct interpretation of Section 2(q)(i) and (ii) of the Ceiling Act in determining what qualified as "vacant land."

The Court observed that there was discordance between the two-Judge Bench decision in State of U.P. and Others vs. L.J. Jhonson and Others and the three-Judge bench decision in State of Maharashtra and Another vs. B.E. Billimoria and others. In that context, it was said that, "Unfortunately, the lead judgement in Billimoria did not even notice Jhonson1 though apparently it was brought to the notice of the Bench. We say so for the simple reason that the concurring opinion specifically refers to Jhonson. Billimoria5 did not expressly overrule Jhonson. Whether Jhonson, to the extent it opined on Section 2(q)(i) of the Ceiling Act, has been impliedly overruled or not, is a debatable issue."

It was also observed that the words, “….in an area” as incorporated in all the sub-clauses of Section 2(g) and 2(q) also deserve special attention but have not been explicitly discussed in any of the cited decisions.

Cause Title: M/s Kewal Court Pvt. Ltd. & Anr. vs The State of West Bengal & Ors.

Click here to read/download the Judgment