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The Allahabad High Court has held that a declaration of land acquisition under Section 3(D) of the National Highways Act, 1956 must be made within one year of the date of publication of a notification in the Official Gazette, and not the date of publication of the same in the newspapers.
The case relates to the acquisition of land on National Highway-25, the notification for which was published in the Official Gazette in December 2012. As per Section 3A(3) of the Act, the notification is required to be published in two newspapers as well, and the same was done on February 27, 2013. A declaration of acquisition under Section 3D is required to be made within one year of the notification under Section 3A.
A year later, on January 27, 2014, the Project Director of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) had sent a communication to the Additional District Magistrate (ADM) pointing out that the declaration under Section 3D(1) of the Act cannot be issued for the reason that a period of one year has already lapsed.
The petitioners, represented by Senior Advocate RK Ojha, assailed this communication in a writ filed in the High Court on February 18, 2014. In response, the NHAI, represented by Pranjal Mehrotra, preferred a writ seeking a direction to the ADM to sign off on a fresh 3A(1) notification.
Arguing before a Division Bench of Justices Dilip Gupta and Dinesh Kumar Singh-I, Ojha contended that the period of one year must be calculated from the date of publication of the notification in two newspapers. He also argued that the time period between filing the writ petition and its decision ought to be excluded, as there was no interim order staying the proceedings.
The Court, however, did not agree with Ojha. It held,
“The publication of the Section 3-A(1) notification in two Newspapers is referred to in sub-section (3) of Section 3-A. Thus, the legislature itself has drawn a distinction between the publication of Section 3-A(1) notification in the Official Gazette and its publication in the two Newspapers. The time period for issuance of a declaration under Section 3-D(1) is, therefore, one year from the date of publication of the 3-A(1) notification in the Official Gazette.”
Thus, the Court, while holding that the notification under Section 3A(1) ceased to be in operation, directed the ADM to take appropriate steps to issue the fresh notification issued by the NHAI.
Recently, the same Bench of the High Court held that the time limits fixed under the Act must be strictly adhered to.
Read the judgment: