Topics Covered in this article
- Justice Lalit Mohan Sharma
- Justice N. Venkatachala
- Justice S. Mohan
Petitioner– Ranjit Singh
Respondent– Union Territory of Chandigarh & Anr.
If we look back to history, we remember nothing but a date, that is, 15th August 1947 because that day we achieved independence from British rule. And if we look further back, we remember the period of 1612-1947 when there was so much oppression, violence, and poverty. If we start remembering, it will be really difficult to count on our fingers as there were innumerable things. Out of all these things, one was the Zamindari System. Have you ever thought about why we had to abolish this Zamindari system in India? Why do we have to bring change in the revenue system? Why was there a need to introduce land reforms in India? In India, the Land Acquisition Act, 1984 was brought by the British that governed all the land acquisitions of Independent India also. This Act allowed the government to forcefully acquire any private land in the name of ‘public purpose’. This Act was a mere cloak that did not provide any compensation or rehabilitation and resettlement to the affected people. But, after 2007, the Governments of India have looked forward to many amendments in land acquisition laws to make them favourable for the citizens. However, wistfully, until 2007, a lot of cases came into cognizance and went to courts for settlements. Here, we will discuss one of the many cases that have taken place on the matter of land acquisition.
Facts of the Case
On December 23, 1974, a notification was published under Section 4 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 in the local Gazette. This notification stated that the extent of 121.01 acres of land falling in the revenue estate of village Buterla, Chandigarh was acquired for the development of Sector 41.
The Land Acquisition Collector by an award made under Section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 categorised the acquired lands into several categories as per their agricultural utility and determined the market value of each category of lands varying between Rs. 3,000/- and Rs. 18,000/- per acre. The Court of Additional District Judge of Chandigarh, on receiving reference under Section 18 of the said Act, maintained the categories of the lands acquired and enhanced the market value to rates between Rs. 2,500/- and Rs. 4,280/- per acre.
Aggrieved by the market value of the acquired lands determined by the Additional District Judge, the Land Acquisition Collector sought a reduction in the market value by filing appeals in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. Some of the claimants filed cross-objections while others opted for separate appeals. The High Court rejected the categorisation made in respect of the lands by the Land Acquisition Collector and the Court of Additional District Judge, Chandigarh. According to the High Court, all lands were treated alike because of their potential for utility in the construction of residential and non-residential buildings. Thus, in pursuance of this view, the High Court enhanced the market value of all the acquired lands to a uniform rate of Rs. 33,000/- per acre. Subsequently, on March 28, 1979, the Court dismissed the appeals of the Land Acquisition Collector and partly allowed the appeals of the claimants by rendering a common judgement and making separate decrees.
Further, aggrieved by the decision of the High Court, the claimants filed a Special Leave Petition seeking enhanced market value for their acquired lands.
Punjab and Haryana High Court Judgment
This instant case is a petition filed by the aggrieved party in an appeal from the case of Ranjit Singh v. Union territory of Chandigarh. The principal question that arose, in this case, was concerning the market value of the claimant’s orchard land acquired under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. The case has a long history because even this case was a combined appeal of two cases decided on May 21, 1981. The two cases are Nanak Singh v. Union Territory of Chandigarh and Gurucharan Singh v. State of Haryana. In these cases, the Court expressed the view that the fruit growing in those lands has to be evaluated as timber. This was held by referring to another judgement, Matu v. State of Haryana. In this case, the Punjab & Haryana High Court decided to send the case back to the Land Acquisition Courts to re-determine the market prices of the trees of the claimants. The Court further clarified that since there was no proper trial and since the parties were not aware of the principles relating to the determination of the market value of trees, the Court gave them time to lead further evidence.
Issues of the Case
- Whether there should be an increase in the market value for their acquired lands determined at a rate of Rs. 35,000/-?
- Whether there should be an increase in the market value for their acquired lands determined at a rate of Rs. 33,000/-?
Provisions and Principles used
The provisions used in this case are as follows:
- Section 4 (1) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894
- Section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894
- Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894
- Section 136 of the Constitution of India, 1950
Special Leave Petition
In this case, a special leave petition was filed by the claimants under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution. Now, what is this special leave petition? The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has been given an extraordinary jurisdiction through this Article. Through this, the Court can grant special leave to appeal from any judgement, decree, sentence, or order in any matter dealt by the Court or any Tribunal in India. The principles for granting special leave to appeal were laid down in the case of Kapildeo Singh v. King Emperor. Thus, in the cases where the Apex Court feels that some injustice has been done to a party, it would grant special leave and interfere.
Arguments on behalf of the Petitioner
The petitioners, being the claimants have filed a Special Leave Petition under Article 136 of the Constitution of India. The petitioners have submitted the following contentions:
- That the petitioners were entitled to get enhanced market value for their acquired lands because of the pronouncement of the High Court rendered on May 10, 1979. In this judgement, the market value of the lands in the revenue estate of Mohali village acquired in the year 1971 for industrial purposes more than any residential purpose had been determined at an amount of Rs. 35,000 per acre.
- That when the market value of Mohali lands which were acquired in the year 1971 had been determined at an amount of Rs. 35,000, then the market value of lands of Buterla village belong to the claimants in the instant case, laying between Chandigarh and Mohali acquired in 1974 requires to be determined at a higher rate.
- That the High Court had disapproved the categorisation that was made in respect to the acquired lands by the Land Acquisition Collector and the Additional District Judge, and had treated all the lands alike.
Arguments on behalf of the Respondent
The learned counsel on behalf of the respondents have contended the following points:
- That the High Court of Punjab & Haryana has enhanced the market value of all the acquired lands to a uniform rate of Rs. 33,000/- an acre.
Judgment of the Case
A three-judge bench pronounced the judgement. The Court stated that the petitioners had not adduced any evidence that could show that their acquired lands for which they were seeking compensation of enhanced market value were similar to the lands whose market value was determined by the High Court at an amount of Rs. 35,000 an acre. The Court, further, stated that if still, they decide to consider this point, then they will have to proceed on the basis of their own surmises and conjectures because of want of evidence in that context. Thus, the Court ruled out that making such a decision will give an opportunity of making an arbitrary and fanciful decision in the future in matters of land acquisition. Henceforth, the Apex Court dismissed the special leave petition.
On the other issue regarding the market value of the acquired lands at the rate of Rs. 33,000 an acre, the Court said that the claimants have rightly pointed out the market value of their acquired lands published in the notification dated December 3, 1975, could not have been rigid at the same market value fixed for similar lands under another notification dated December 23, 1974. The Court added that the appellants are correct when they are referring to the elapse of the time period of more than one year, from earlier acquisition to subsequent acquisition and the general increase in prices of land during the period of that one year. The Court, thus, ruled out that the market value of the appellants should be increased by Rs. 3,000, and therefore, the final rate amounts to Rs. 36,000 an acre as the market value of Rs. 33,000 determined by the High Court. Hence, the Court partially allowed the Civil Appeal by the claimants.
The Court further concluded by dismissing all other petitions as they have already dealt with them in collaboration with this judgement.
Analysis of the Judgment
This case was a long-going case. It consisted of many appeals, many writ petitions, and many other things, but finally, it landed up to a judgement. This case consisted of around twelve special leave petitions, filed by various claimants and this judgement is a combination of all of them. This was a rational judgement because the parties were waiting for so long to get through relief and the Court finally ruled out by declaring the increased prices of the market value of the land. Though the Court partially allowed the appeal and at least the claimants got a benefit from the same. In all, the case went for quite a long time, starting from the Land Acquisition Courts to the Supreme Court, which was a long period and delayed justice.
“Law and order exists for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose, they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.”
The preamble and the fundamental rights are key that embodies the fundamental values and percept of the Constitution. Justice is a term that is inclusive of the Constitution and is continuously heard. Even our judiciary recognises this word universally and has always repeated ‘Justice and speedy trial are the facets of Right to Life under Article 21 of the Constitution’. This should be secured by every Court in India and must be applicable in all situations. One of the important diversifications of law is the land law and is a very controversial issue in our country. Thousands of land cases are filed every year in India but such cases take a long time to get resolved. Parliament has tried to come up with new laws in this aspect but has been unable to implement the same due to many obstructions. The Land Acquisition Act, 1894 was very coercive and contrary to the common people. Some parts of this Act have resulted in non-compliance with the rule of law. However, there is an urgent need to bring new laws or make amendments to the original one, to make it favourable for the common people, including the resolved issues of higher compensation, consent of affected families, comprehensive rehabilitation, and resettlement. The Government has passed the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 that regulates land acquisition in India and lays down the procedure for granting compensation, rehabilitation, and resettlement to the affected.
 The Land Acquisition Act, 1894, s.4 (1).
 The Land Acquisition Act, 1894, s. 11.
 The Land Acquisition Act, 1894, s.18.
 AIR 1983 P H 308.
 R. F. A. No. 1375 of 1977.
 R. F. A. No. 1137 of 1979.
 R. F. A. No. 658 of 1978.
 (1950) 52 BOMLR 512.