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Satya Narain & Others v. State Of U.P. & Another - WRIT - C No. 16347 of 2007  RD-AH 5524 (28 March 2007)
Court No. 29
Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 16347 of 2007
Satya Narain and others Vs. State of U.P. and others
Hon. Anjani Kumar, J.
Hon'ble Dilip Gupta, J.
This petition has been filed for quashing the orders dated 1.5.2006 and 28.5.2002 passed by the Additional Collector, Land Acquisition Officer, Agra rejecting the applications filed by the petitioners for referring the matter to the Reference Court under Section 18 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act').
A perusal of the averments made in the writ petition indicates that pursuant to the notification issued under Section 4 of the Act and the declaration issued under Section 6 of the Act, the land in dispute was acquired for the purposes of developing the 'Green Belt' surrounding the precincts of 'Taj Mahal'. The award was made by the Land Acquisition Officer on 21.6.2000. The petitioner No.1 moved an application dated 20.12.2000 before the Land Acquisition Officer for referring the matter to the Reference Court while petitioner Nos. 2 to 6 filed the application on 19.2.2001 for referring the matter to the Reference Court under Section 18 of the Act. Both these applications remained pending before the Land Acquisition Officer as a result of which the petitioners filed Writ Petition No. 15721 of 2006 for a direction upon the Land Acquisition Officer to refer the matter to the Reference Court under Section 18 of the Act. This Court, by means of the judgment and order dated 10.1.2006, disposed of the writ petition with a direction to the Land Acquisition Officer to decide the application within three months from the date of filing of a certified copy of the order according to law. The Land Acquisition Officer, by means of the order dated 1.5.2006, rejected the application filed by petitioner No.1 on the ground that it was not maintainable. As regards the application filed by the petitioner Nos. 2 to 6, the Land Acquisition Officer pointed out that the application had earlier been rejected by the order dated 28.5.2002. A perusal of the order dated 28.5.2002 shows that the application filed under Section 18 of the Act was rejected on the ground that the same was time barred.
We have heard Sri Madhav Jain, learned counsel for the petitioners and the learned Standing Counsel appearing for the respondents.
Learned counsel for the petitioners submitted that under Section 18 of the Act, the Special Land Acquisition Officer has no jurisdiction to reject the application as either being time barred or not maintainable as it is only the Reference Court that can decide the matter. According to him the Special Land Acquisition Officer should have forwarded these applications to the Reference Court along with his note/comments or recommendation and the Reference Court should have decided the matter.
Learned Standing Counsel appearing for the respondents has not disputed this position and since only a legal question is involved, he had suggested that the petition may be decided without calling for any counter-affidavit from the respondents.
We have carefully considered the submissions made by the learned counsel for the petitioners.
Section 18 of the Act provides that any person interested who has not accepted the award may, by written application to the Collector, require that the matter be referred by the Collector for the determination of the Court, whether his objection be to the measurement of the land, the amount of the compensation, the persons to whom it is payable, or the apportionment of the compensation among the persons interested. It is, therefore, clear that the application has to be submitted to the Collector who is required to refer for determination by the Reference Court.
A Division Bench of this Court in Writ Petition No. 44080 of 2003 (Smt. Savitri Devi Vs. State of U.P. and others) decided on 30.9.2003 examined almost a similar controversy. In this case the Special Land Acquisition Officer rejected the application filed under Section 18 of the Act on the ground that it was time barred. The contention raised by the petitioner therein was that she had no knowledge of the award. The Court held that " the date of the award" under Section 18 of the Act would mean " the date when the award is either communicated to the party or is known by him either actually or constructively". In this context the Court further observed:-
" The first issue required to be adjudicated is when the applicant acquired knowledge of the award and whether he acquired knowledge of the said award on a particular date. This will require supporting material/evidence and adjudication. Section 18 of the Act as such does not contemplate passing of an order by Special Land Acquisition Officer on the reference petition or to decide it either way. Over all scheme of the Act and Rules framed thereunder go to show that Special Land Acquisition Officer is not authorised/competent to adjudicated and finally decide the reference petition. District Magistrate/S.L.O. has to, as the Act and Rules exists today, ensure that it contains requisite information and particulars and that it conforms to the requirement of Act and Rules before referring the matter to the court under Section 18 of the Act. This may require concerned authority to determine the question whether reference petition is in order or not and place his note/comment or recommendation and then refer the reference petition to the court to decide relevant issues, including the question-whether reference petition is time barred or not.'
In our opinion if such question arises, the Special Land Acquisition Officer while submitting statement to the court by recommending the reference should also point out the said question to the concerned court which shall have jurisdiction and competence to determine, in case said finding of the Special Land Acquisition Officer is disputed by the aggrieved persons, to be adjudicated under Section 18 of the Act. The said contingency did not arise before the Supreme Court in the case of Raja Harish Chandra Raj Singh Vs. The Deputy Land Acquisition Officer and another, AIR 1961 SC , 1500.
The above view taken by us is reasonable and logical as well as to advance public convenience. Aggrieved persons are unnecessarily harassed by compelling them to rush to this Court by filing writ petitions for redressal of their grievances.
In our considered opinion, the said question cans be properly adjudicated by the court if the matter is referred to it along with reference application by the Special Land Acquisition Officer who shall be in a position to have original record and other material before it.
In view of the above, we issue a general mandamus directing State of Uttar Pradesh through concerned Secretary and District Magistrate/Special Land Acquisition Officers and all concerned to comply with our order/direction, namely, whenever there is a dispute regarding limitation, such authority shall adjudicate the same and refer it to the court as contemplated under Section 18 of the Act even if such authority comes to the conclusion that it is time barred and/or beyond six months' limitation."
It is, therefore, clear from the aforesaid decision that the Land Acquisition Officer can only make recommendation to the Reference Court and it is the Reference Court which has to decide the matter. In the present case, the Special Land Acquisition Officer rejected one application seeking reference under Section 18 of the Act on the ground that it was time barred and the other application for seeking reference under Section 18 of the Act on the ground that it was not maintainable. The Special Land Acquisition Officer could not have decided these applications in view of the aforesaid decision of this Court in Smt. Saviti Devi (supra). He was obliged to refer these applications to the Court along with his comments and the Reference Court alone could have passed an order on these applications.
We, accordingly, set aside the orders dated 1.5.2006 and 28.5.2002 passed by the Additional Collector/Land Acquisition Officer, Agra and remit the matter to the Special Land Acquisition Officer to refer these applications to the Reference Court under Section 18 of the Act along with his comments.
The writ petition succeeds and is allowed to the extent indicated above.
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