Section 24 of Land Acquisition Act: Centre seeks early hearing in Supreme Court
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Section 24 of Land Acquisition Act: Centre seeks early hearing in Supreme Court

Murali Krishnan

The Central government today sought an early hearing of the case in the Supreme Court concerning Section 24 of the Land Acquisition Act.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta mentioned the matter before Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and requested that the Constitution Bench be formed at the earliest for hearing the matter, since individual disputes are pending resolution.

CJI Gogoi said that he will look into it.

In February last year, the Court, in  Indore Development Authority v. Shailendra (Dead) Through Lrs. And Ors, held by a  2:1 majority that the decision in Pune Municipal Corporation & Anr. v. Harakchand Misirimal Solanki is per incuriam.

The main issue that arose for consideration was the interpretation of Section 24 of the 2013 Act and Section 31 of the 1894 Act.

The Bench of Justices Arun MishraAK Goel and Mohan M Shantanagoudar also answered five questions in relation to the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 and the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Interestingly, though the five were decided unanimously, Justice Shantanagoudar dissented with respect to the question of correctness of Pune Municipal Corporation.

The judgment was the subject of controversy, as the Pune Municipal Corporation judgment was delivered by a Bench of equal strength. A couple of weeks after the judgment was delivered, a Bench of Justices Madan Lokur, Kurian Joseph, and Deepak Gupta took exception to it. The Pune Municipal Corporation judgement was rendered by a Bench which had Justices Lokur and Joseph on it.

“I don’t want to remain silent on this issue. There are certain virgin principles which cannot be deviated from. The system exists on these holy principles. This Court should function as one institution”, Justice Kurian Joseph had remarked.

This Bench, on February 21, also requested other Benches of the Supreme Court to defer the hearing in any matter relating to land acquisition as it was mulling over the issue of referring it to a larger bench.

The very next day, two Division Benches headed by Justices Mishra and Goel – the same judges who held that Pune Municipal Corporation was per incuriamreferred the issue to be placed before the Chief Justice for constitution of an appropriate bench.

It now remains to be seen whether CJI Gogoi will place the matter before a Constitution Bench.

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