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State Govt. need not to initiate acquisition proceedings in respect of the land already acquired: SC

Assam Industrial Development Corporation Ltd. v. Gillapukri Tea Company Limited & Ors. Etc.

Civil Appeal No(S). 251-252 of 2021 (Arising out of S.L.P. © No.14266-14267 of 2019)

28 January 2021

The Divisional Bench of Hon'ble Supreme Court consisting of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Sanjiv Khanna allowed the appeal and set aside the reliance of the High Court's on the letter dated 21.07.2012 and 06.01.2014 to nullify the original award and allow fresh acquisition proceedings of the first respondent's land which had been already acquired and has been under the possession of the appellant since 11.06.2010.

The government of Assam issued a notification under section 4. It published in the Assam Gazette under Section 6(1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 on 08.08.2008, expressing its intention to acquire Gillapukri Tea Estate's land. On 24.06.2009, the government issued a letter to appoint the appellant as a nodal agency to deal with the acquisition proceedings. On 30.01.2010, the deputy commissioner addressed a letter to the principal secretary to the government of Assam, revenue department to seek approval of award with was prescribed in Form 15 and Form 5 respectively. The approval for the was passed on 05.03.2010.

The learned counsel Shri Senthil Jagadeesan from the side of first respondent contended that (i) in letter dates 05.03.2010, only the land acquisition estimate was approved, and no award was approved (ii) after comparing both the letters dated 06.01.2014 and 05.03.2010 it clearly indicates that only estimate was approved in the order dated 05.03.2010 and not the award (iii) in the letter dated 21.07.2012 the Deputy Secretary admitted that the award was not drawn within the period of two years under the original acquisition proceedings (iv) in the letter sent by the Deputy Secretary to the Government of Assam dated 06.01.2014 suggests that no award had been approved under the original acquisition proceedings.

The learned senior counsel Shri Jayant Bhushan from the appellant side, contented that (i) the award had been passed in Form No. 15 of the Assam Land Acquisition Manuel and was approved by the state on 05.03.2010. Possession of the land was handed over to the authority on 21.05.2010 and thereafter handed over to the appellant on 11.06.2010 (ii) fresh notification under section 4 and 6 by the State Government in respect of the first respondent's land will be infructuous as the land is already vested in the State (iii) Moreover, the letters dated 21.07.2012 and 06.01.2014 relied upon the High Court could not have had the effect of re-acquiring the land in question since it already stood vested in the State Government.

The learned counsel appearing from the Sate of Assam has supported the stand of the appellant.

After hearing the contentions of the parties, the question Infront of the court is:

whether an award in respect of the first respondent’s land was approved by the State Government on 05.03.2010. Needless to say, if the award was not approved on 05.03.2010, but rather on 06.01.2014 as contended by the first respondent, then the 2013 Act will be applicable, and the first respondent will be eligible to receive compensation in accordance therewith. (Para 12)

To reach a conclusion, the Court examined the letters dated 05.03.2010 and 30.01.2010, referred to the Land Acquisitions Act's relevant provision along with various judgments such as D. Hanumanth SA & Ors. V. State of Karnataka and Ors, Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal and Ors. The Court noted that:

A combined reading of letter dated 05.03.2010 with the preceding letter dated 30.01.2010 and the subsequent conduct of the parties, including the first respondent, make it evident that the award stood approved by this letter of 05.03.2010. It is noteworthy that copies of both the letters of 30.01.2010 and 05.03.2010 were also addressed to the Industries & Commerce Department of the Government of Assam. (Para 14)

The first respondent handed over possession to the Deputy Commissioner and that on 11.06.2010 possession of the land was ultimately handed over to the appellant by the Deputy Commissioner. It clearly emerges that after the letter dated 05.03.2010, it was the common belief of the State Government, the appellant as well as the first respondent that the award had been approved and that now actions subsequent thereto viz. payment and receipt of compensation, handover of possession, seeking reassessment of the compensation were needed to be undertaken. (Para 15)

Concluding, the court held:

Therefore, for the foregoing reasons, the appeals succeed and are accordingly allowed. The orders impugned by the High Court are set aside. (Para 19)

The second proceeding was only initiated for the landowners not covered by the original award. It would not be possible for the State Government to re initiate the proceedings for those landowners whose lands are already vested in the State.

Swadheen Singh



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