Landowners Not Entitled To Compensation Under RFCTLARR Act If No Award Declared U/s. 11 Of 1894 Act Due To Interim Orders – SC
A two-judge bench of Justice M. R. Shah, and Justice B. V. Nagarathna has held that landowners would not be entitled to receive compensation under Section 24(1) of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 when an award under Section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894 could not be made owing to the pendency of writ petition before the Court and/or Interim Stay issued by the Court.
Facts & History of the Case
Aggrieved by the Order of the Allahabad High Court directing the Development Authorities (Appellants) to pay compensation to the original landowners as per the Land Acquisition Act, 2013, on grounds that when the Act came into force, no award was issued under Section 11 of the Act, the Development Authorities approached the Supreme Court.
In this regard, 4 appeals were presented before the Court, which were heard together and disposed of.
The Original landowners challenged the acquisition of three plots via a Writ Petition filed before the High Court. The High Court initially granted an interim stay, restricting the Faizabad Development Authority from taking over said properties. The possession of the remaining properties was taken over in 2005 and an award under Section 11 of the 1894 Act was issued in 2007. In 2010, the High Court disposed of the Writ Petition, directing the State Government to consider the application filed by the landowners under Section 48(1) of the 1894 Act. However, the appropriate authority rejected the application of the landowners and they filed a Writ Petition before the High Court, again. While the Writ Petition was pending before the High Court, the 2013 Land Acquisition Act came into force and the landowners submitted that they would be entitled to compensation based on Section 24(1) of the 2013 act, as no award was issued under Section 11 of the 1894 Act.
On that, the High Court allowed the Writ Petition and held that the landowners would be entitled to compensation under Section 24(1) of the 2013 Act.
The Moradabad Development Authority (Appellant) was directed by the High Court to declare an award towards compensation under Section 24(1) of the 2013 Act to the original landowners. The petitioners had challenged the acquisition proceedings citing that the award was not made within 2 years of publication of the declaration under Section 6 of the 1894 Act, which had led to the lapse of acquisition under Section 11A of the 1894 Act. The Appellant argued that the declaration of the award could not be made in view of the Writ Petition that was pending before the High Court.
Issue – Whether in the case where an award under Section 11 of Land Acquisition Act, 1894 could not be declared due to pendency of writ petition and/or interim stay and post the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 coming into force, no award being declared under Section 11 of the Act of 1894, the original landowners shall be entitled to compensation under Section 24(1) of the Act of 2013.
Shri V.K. Shukla, Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the Development Authorities (Appellants) contended that the Land Acquisition Officer could not declare the award due to the pendency of the respective Writ Petitions before the High Court. Shukla further argued that in certain cases, 80% of the compensation was already deposited, but the award under Section 11 of the 1894 Act could not be declared due to the pendency of the Writ Petitions before the High Court and as such there was no inaction on the part of the Land Acquisition Officer and/or the Development Authority. Relying on Indore Development Authority Vs. Manoharlal and Ors., (2020) where it was observed, that the act(s) that the law does not compel a person to perform an impossible act(s) and that where the law creates a duty or charge and the party obliged to carry out such a duty is disabled to perform it, without any default or remedy, the law will excuse him from carrying out such duty. It was also held that the 2013 Act does not intend to work in favor of litigators to enable them to receive higher compensation under Section 24 of the 2013 Act.
Shri S.R. Singh Senior Advocate representing the original landowners – original writ petitioners also relied on Indore Development Authority Vs. Manoharlal and Ors., (2020) to argue that when no award is declared under Section 11 of the 1894 Act, the landowner becomes entitled to compensation under Section 24(1) of the act of 2013, upon its commencement. Further, Singh also argued that no special provision was made in Section 24(1) of the 2013 Act to exclude the period of interim stay and/or pendency of writ petition.
Upon close examination, the court noted that Section 11A(1) of the Act of 1894 provides for the computation of the period during which any action or proceeding is pending before a court by order to be excluded while calculating lapse of land acquisition proceedings.
The Bench also observed that – " the land owner cannot, on the one hand, assail the acquisition and seek interim orders restraining the authorities from proceeding further in the acquisition, and on the other hand, contend that since no award has been made under Section 11 of Act, 1894 on 01.01.2014, the provisions of the Act, 2013 should be made applicable in determining the compensation."
Applying the principle of restitution as applied by the court in Indore Development Authority Vs. Manoharlal and Ors., (2020), the Apex Court has held that – the landowners shall not be entitled to compensation under Section 24(1) of the Act of 2013, in the case where an award under Section 11 of Land Acquisition Act, 1894 could not be declared due to pendency of writ petition and/or interim stay and post the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 coming into force.