The Supreme Court has observed that temporary acquisition of land cannot be continued for 20 to 25 years and if such acquisition continued for a number of years, the meaning and purpose of temporary acquisition would lose its significance.

The Bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice M.M. Sundresh observed that “To continue with the temporary acquisition for number of years would be arbitrary and can be said to be infringing the right to use the property guaranteed under Article 300A of the Constitution of India. Even to continue with the temporary acquisition for a longer period can be said to be unreasonable, infringing the rights of the landowners to deal with and/or use the land.”

In this case, the land in question was under temporary acquisition by Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. (ONGC) since 1996 for the purpose of oil exploration. The said land, which was purchased by the appellants, now falls in the city of Ahmedabad and they were being paid rent @ Rs.24/- per square meter per annum.

The Appellants approached the High Court in the year 2016 wherein the respondents said that the process would be initiated to acquire the land permanently. However, the proceedings were kept on hold as a huge cost was involved in acquiring the land on a permanent basis under the new Land Acquisition Act, 2013.

The appellants approached the High Court again for quashing the acquisition proceedings. The High Court refused to quash the same, fixed the rent @ Rs. 30 per square meter, and directed to complete the proceedings within one year. Aggrieved by the order of the High Court the appellants approached the Apex Court.

Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan appeared on behalf of the appellants and Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee appeared for the respondent.

The Apex Court noted that the land in question had been in temporary acquisition of the respondent for 26 years and observed that “Temporary acquisition cannot be continued for approximately 20 to 25 years. It cannot be disputed that once the land is under temporary acquisition and the same is being used by the ONGC for oil exploration, it may not be possible for the landowners to use the land; to cultivate the same and/or to deal with the same in any manner.”

The Court further noted that efforts were made by ONGC to acquire the land permanently and that they had been granted time by the High Court to acquire the land within twelve months of passing the impugned order i.e., on or before April 26, 2023.

“Therefore, if the land in question is not acquired as per the writ issued by the High Court within a stipulated time, necessary consequence shall follow.” said the Court.

With regard to the rent, the Court said that if the appellants were aggrieved by the amount of compensation awarded by High Court, it was open for appellants to approach the Collector.

Accordingly, the appeal was disposed of.

Cause Title- Manubhai Sendhabhai Bharwad and Another v. Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. & Others

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