However, the court said that this period of five years or more would exclude the time consumed on account of interim orders passed by a court.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday said that the land acquisition proceedings would be “deemed” to have lapsed if the proceedings for acquiring those lands under the 1894 law had resulted neither in taking over the possession of land nor payment compensation due to the “inaction” of authorities for five years or more prior to 2013 land acquisition law coming into force from January 1, 2014.
The 2013 Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilita-tion and Resettlement Act, that is tilted in favour of the farmer and came into force from January 1, 2014, had repealed antiquated 1894 land acquisition law. The 2013 law was enacted by Congress led UPA government.
“The deemed lapse of land acquisition proceedings under Section 24(2) of the Act of 2013 takes place where due to inaction of authorities for five years or more prior to commencement of the said Act (2013), the possession of land has not been taken nor compensation has been paid”, said a five judge constitution bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra in its judgment.
However, the court said that this period of five years or more would exclude the time consumed on account of interim orders passed by a court. “The period of subsistence of interim orders passed by court has to be excluded in the computation of five years”, judgment said.
Besides Justice Mishra, other judges on the constitution bench are Justice Indira Banerjee, Justice Vineet Saran, Justice M. R. Shah and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat.
Elaborating on it, Justice Mishra said, “In other words, in case possession has been taken, compensation has not been paid then there is no lapse. Similarly, if compensation has been paid, possession has not been taken then there is no lapse (of the acquisition proceedings).”
The court said this interpreting Section 24(2) of the 2013 Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilita-tion and Resettlement Act, that provides for situation for the acquisition of land under the 2013 law afresh after terminating the proceedings earlier initiated under 1894 new repealed law.
The Section 24(2) of the 2013 land acquisition law says that if an award for acquiring land under 1894 land acquisition law has been made five years or more prior to the commencement of 2013 law but physical possession of the acquired land has not been taken or compensation for the same has not been paid then same would stand lapsed. And if government still wants to acquire that land then fresh proceedings under the2013 land law had to be initiated.
In its conclusion, the court said that under the provisions of Section 24(1)(a) in case the award is not made as on January 1, 2014, “there is no lapse of proceedings. Compen-sation has to be determined under the provisions” of the 2013 law.
The court further said that in case compensation has not been deposited in case of the majority of the land holdings, the landowners on the date of notification for acquiring land under 1894 law, shall be entitled to compensation under the 2013 law.
In another important elaboration of Section 24(2) of the 2013 law, the court said, “Section 24(2) of the Act of 2013 does not give rise to new cause of action to question the legality of concluded proceedings of land acquisition. Section 24 applies to a proceeding pending on the date of enforcement” of the 2013 law that came into force from January 1, 2014.
“It does not revive stale and time-barred claims and does not reopen concluded proceedings nor allow landowners to question the legality of mode of taking possession to reopen proceedings or mode of deposit of compensation in the treasury instead of court to invalidate acquisition” said the constitution bench interpreting the Section 24(2) of the 2013 land acquisitoio0n law. .
Dissecting the section 24 of the 2013 land acquisition law, the court said that expression “paid” in the section does not include deposit of compensation in court.
In a clarification, the court said, in case a person has been “tendered” the compensation as provided under Section 31(1) of the, now repealed, 1894 law. it is not open to him to claim that acquisition has lapsed under Section 24(2) due to non-payment or non-deposit of compensation in court.
“The obligation to pay is complete by tendering the amount under Section 31(1)”, .
“Landowners who had refused to accept compensation or who sought reference for higher compensation, cannot claim that the acquisition proceedings had lapsed under Section 24(2) of the Act of 2013”, the court.