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The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice in the appeal filed against the Gujarat High Court verdict on Section 24(2) of Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Act, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
The appeal filed by land owners was heard by a Bench of Justices Arun Mishra and M Shantanagoudar, which issued notice to the Centre, Gujarat and Reliance. Senior Advocates Gopal Subramanium and Meenakshi Arora and advocate Prashant Bhushan appeared for the appellants. Senior Advocate P Chidambaram appeared for Reliance.
The case has its genesis in the acquisition of land by the Gujarat government for Reliance under Part-VII of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which relates to acquisition of land for companies.
Pursuant to the consent award and the contested awards, Reliance was handed over actual and physical possession to the extent of 95% of the lands notified.
Meanwhile, the 1894 Act was replaced by the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
As per Section 24 of the new Act, if land was acquired under the 1894 Act, five years or more prior to the coming into force of the new Act, and if physical possession was not taken or compensation not paid, then the acquisition will be deemed to be lapsed.
This threatened the acquisition of the remaining 5 percent land prompting Reliance to challenge Section 24.
The Gujarat High Court held that when while applying the provision under Section 24(2) of the Act of 2013, a distinction has to be drawn for acquisition of land by the government for its own purpose, and the acquisition of land covered by Part-VII of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, where acquisition is for companies.
“…, in its application to the acquisition of lands covered by Part-VII of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, which provided acquisition of lands for companies, it is to be noticed that the company cannot take possession on its own of the acquired land. Even after the deposit of compensation as determined in the awards, it is an obligation on the part of the State to take possession from the owners of the land and to hand over the same to the beneficiary company in terms of the agreement…. In such event, its application to the acquisition covered by Part-VII of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 is to be held arbitrary and unreasonable and is required to be read down”
The High Court had, therefore, read down Section 24(2) holding that the said provision cannot be applied to the acquisition of lands covered by Part-VII of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, where award is passed and compensation is deposited by the beneficiary Company as per the terms of the award.
This judgment has now been challenged before the Supreme Court.
Read the Supreme Court order and Gujarat High Court judgment below.