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SC dismissed plea challenging Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws Act 2019

Having understood the material basis of the High Court judgment and basic essence of the concept of repugnancy in light of Article 254, the fundamental question now is whether the 2019 Act qualifies as sufficient compliance of Article 254(2). For, Article 254(2) is the only mode of revival as per the High Court judgment…;(Para 36)

G. MOHAN RAO & ORS VS STATE OF TAMIL NADU & ORS.

Writ Petition (Civil) No. 1411 Of 2020

With

Writ Petition (C) No. 173 Of 2021

Writ Petition (C) No. 174 Of 2021

Decided on 29th June 2021.


Counsel for Petitioners - Shri P. Wilson and Shri Suhrith Parthasarthy.

Counsel for Respondents -Shri K.K. Venugopal learned Attorney General for India and Shri Aman Sinha


The bench of Supreme Court consisting of Justice A.M. Khanwilkar and Dinesh Maheshwari dismissed the Civil Appeal No. 1411 of 2020 along with Civil Appeal No. 173 Of 2021 and Civil Appeal No. 174 Of 2021.


In the present case, the letter seeking assent clearly demonstrates that the three State enactments were made for the purpose of speedy acquisitions. It further states that the law made by the Parliament rendered the three enactments repugnant and out of operation owing to the Madras High Court judgment. (Para 52)


Also, the Parliament enacted the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (the 2013 Act) for matters relating to compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement. Later on, the State Government, in 2019, reviewed all three acts related to land acquisitions in The Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019 (the 2019 Act).


The petitioners, as landowners whose lands were sought to be acquired under the 1997 Act and 2021 Act, had filed the present suit with an appeal that the State legislature needs to review and revive unconstitutional enactments adopted by the legislative tool, which is a direct attempt to overrule and nullify the judgment of the High Court and the same is impermissible in the constitutional scheme as it violates the doctrine of separation of powers. (Para 9)


In light of the aforesaid facts and grounds urged by the parties, the following issues arise for our consideration:

(i) Whether the State legislature had legislative competence to enact the 2019 Act, a retrospective validating Act?

(ii) Whether the State legislature transgressed the limits of its legislative competence having the effect of nullifying/overruling the judgment of the High Court by enacting the 2019 Act?

(iii) Whether the 1997 Act and 2001 Act again fall foul of Article 254 on account of being repugnant to the 2013 Act, owing to the date of retrospective commencement of the 2019 Act? (Para 24)


The petitioner submitted that the enactments were unconstitutional due to repugnancy and out of operations; the only option available to the State legislature was to re-enact the repugnant enactments after removing the offensive areas and pass it afresh in the Assembly, followed by a fresh Presidential assent. It urged that the acceptable method is to remove the material basis of a judgment by correcting the anomalies pointed out by the Court and re-enact the legislation.


It submitted that amending an unconstitutional enactment cannot be an acceptable revival method because the moment an execution is declared unconstitutional, there remains nothing to amend. It claimed that the 2019 Act is still disgusting to the 2013 Act. It fails to incorporate material provisions relating to social impact assessment, timelines for various steps involved in the acquisition, and other provisions relating to fair procedure. Thus, it cannot be termed as remedial legislation and would again fall foul of Article 254.


The petitioners have emphasized on the meaning of the word “made” as used in Article 254 to assert that retrospectivity in the 2019 Act is actually fatal to its own validity. It is stated that the 2019 Act was made on 26.09.2013 (date of retrospective commencement) and not on 02.12.2019 (date of Presidential assent), whereas the 2013 Act was made on 27.09.2013. Thus, there was no Act made by the Parliament in force on 26.09.2013 and the moment the 2013 Act was made on the next day, the 2019 Act again became repugnant. (Para 11)


The petitioners have attempted a comparative analysis of the State enactments and the Act made by the Parliament to illustrate discrimination and unequal treatment with equally placed persons merely on the basis of purpose of acquisition. It is urged that despite incorporating provisions relating to compensation from the 2013 Act, the State enactments do not provide the same amount of compensation due to absence of fixed timelines for acquisition and a lapse provision in case of undue delay. Placing reliance upon P.Vajravelu Mudaliar & Anr. vs. The Special Deputy Collector for Land Acquisition, West Madras & Anr AIR 1965 SC 1017, it is submitted that the State enactments violate Articles 14, 19, 21 on account of unreasonable classification between those persons whose lands are acquired for industrial purposes and those whose lands are acquired for other purposes thereby impacting their right to trade and occupation coupled with right to livelihood. It is further submitted that deprivation of property without complying with due procedure is also violative of Article 300A of the Constitution. (Para 13)


It is submitted that the 2019 Act is an acceptance on the State that the previous measure of enacting Section 105A to do away with repugnancy did not commend the High Court. Therefore, the State adopted another legislative standard of passing a validating/curative Act following its legislative competence under List III of the Seventh Schedule. Placing reliance upon State of Tamil Nadu vs State of Kerala & Anr [(2014) 12 SCC 696], it submitted that the Supreme Court has laid down twin tests for testing the constitutionality of validating enactments, namely— the presence of legislative competence and removal of defect found by the Court.


It is submitted that Article 254 does not contemplate striking down an entire enactment due to repugnancy between some provisions of the Act made by the Parliament and State enactments. Therefore, there is no need for the State legislature to re-enact the entire legislation to rectify the repugnancy between some provisions. The respondents have urged that to determine the constitutionality of independent legislation, as the 2019 Act, there can be no comparative analysis between provisions of the Act made by the Parliament and the impugned State Acts. It is added that the State is well within its competence to deviate from the Parliament’s law and obtain the president’s consent to such deviation.


The Supreme Court addressed:

Even within the State list, the legislative power of the State cannot be said to be absolute and can be subjected to intervention of the Parliament under certain circumstances such as national emergency, national interest, desire expressed by legislatures of two or more States etc., as delineated by Articles 249 to 253. It is crystal clear from this constitutional scheme that the balance of power tilts in favour of the Union in multiple circumstances. An example of this tilt is manifested in Article 254 of the Constitution which is a subject of debate in the present case. (Para 25)


As the name suggests, the impugned Act is in the nature of a validation Act i.e., an Act which validates something invalid in the eyes of law and to make such validation effective, it has been given a retrospective effect by the State. Whereas the subject matter legislative competence is manifest from List­III of the VII Schedule read with Article 246. Despite that, an in ­principle question has been raised on the competence of the State legislature to pass a revival Act with retrospective effect. (Para 26)


In light of the aforesaid discussion, we hold the 2019 Act to be a legitimate legislative exercise and find it to be consistent with and within the four corners of Article 254 of the Constitution of India and also of the High Court judgment. (Para 56)


Thus, the writ petition was dismissed.



Akshata Pai

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