Published: 19th January 2015 06:00 AM

The Hyderabad High Court has termed the land acquisition proceedings initiated by the authorities as highly iniquitous, unreasonable, preposterous, arbitrary, illegal and opposed to the very spirit and object of the Land Acquisition Act.

It has set aside the impugned proceedings as there is no evidence on record to show that the authorities taken possession of land in accordance with the provisions of Section 16 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.

“The manner in which the impugned proceedings went on is highly iniquitous, unreasonable, preposterous, arbitrary, illegal and opposed to the very spirit and object of the Land Acquisition Act. The  proceedings do not stand judicial scrutiny.” it observed.

Justice AV Sesha Sai made this observation on a writ petition filed by Jagannadha Industries and another in Srikakulam district of Andhra Pradesh seeking declaration of the notification issued by the district collector in August 2000 and the consequent declaration under Section 6 of the Land Acquisition Act and award passed by the land acquisition officer-cum-revenue divisional officer, Tekkali in respect of the petitioner’s land situated at Bellupada village in Ichhapuram mandal in Srikakulam district as illegal, unconstitutional and against the principles of natural justice.

According to the petitioners, they are the absolute owners and possessors of the lands admeasuring 3.42 acres in survey numbers 33/5 & 6 and 0.90 acre in survey number 32/1 situated at Bellupada Village, and purchased the same by way of registered sale deeds in 1983 to establish industries. Earlier in 1994, the authorities had invoked the Land Acquisition Act and issued a draft notification for acquiring land for agricultural market yard and issued a notice. On receipt of objections from the petitioners in 1997, the local MRO informed the petitioners that their lands were deleted from the acquisition and a proposal for acquiring alternative lands was being made.

But, in 2001, the petitioners came to know that the lands had been acquired and name boards were erected on their lands. The proposals for acquiring these lands were once again mooted and the names of the petitioners were clearly mentioned in relevant forms. However, in the notification that was published, the name of one Nirmala Devi Gupta was shown though the petitioners are shown as owners of the land in the revenue records. The petitioners said the authorities had failed to adhere to the mandatory procedure  under Section 4(1) of the Act as no local publication of Section 4(1) notification was made and there was absolutely no justification on the part of the authorities in invoking Section 17(4) of the Act for dispensing with the enquiry under Section 5-A of the Act. They cannot act arbitrarily as per their whims and fancies giving the established principles of law a go-bye.

The relevant revenue records show that the petitioner firms are the pattadars and possessors of the said lands and the respondents cannot now show the name of a wrong person as owner of the land and contend that no one came forward to claim the ownership or to object to the land acquisition proceedings. The petitioners have been in possession and enjoyment of the subject land ever since the date of purchase and the statement of the respondents that they took possession of the property in September 2000 was absolutely false and the authorities cannot take possession of the land without notice. There is plenty of alternative land in the village and, as such, the acquisition of lands of the petitioners was impermissible, he argued.

The government pleader contended that the impugned proceedings were in conformity with the Act. Only after following the due procedure did the authorities take possession of the land. There was neither illegality nor irregularity in the. Besides, there was illegality in invoking Section 17(4) for dispensing with enquiry under Section 5-A of the Act.

Justice Sesha Sai said that even though it was the case of the respondents that they took possession of the subject property in September 2000, there was absolutely no evidence to show that the authorities took possession of the property in accordance with Section 16 of the Act by holding panchanama. “The record produced before this court also discloses that the authorities did not take possession of the property according to law,” the judge said. He pointed out that the MRO had entered the name of one Nirmala Devi Gupta in the Adangal just four months before the issuance of draft notification. There was no reasonable explanation from the authorities as to why the change of name had been effected and the basis for the  action.

The proposed acquisition for establishment of a market yard, the judge said, cannot be a purpose for which authorities invoke Section 17 of the Act dispensing with  enquiry. It is not the part of the authorities in dispensing with such a valuable right. Parliament enacted the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 which came into effect on January 1, 2014. That was relevant to the present case, the judge opined.

“This petition is a typical example of non-transparency and callousness in discharging the sacred statutory duties on the part of the authorities,” he remarked.

While allowing the petition, justice Sesha Sai said the proceedings in the petition suffered from multiple infirmities and did not stand judicial scrutiny. He, however, granted liberty to the authorities to initiate proceedings afresh, if the subject lands were still required, in accordance with provisions of the 2013 Act.