The Supreme Court has set up a Constitution Bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, M R Shah and Ravindra Bhat to settle the conflicting interpretations given to Section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act.
The hearing will commence from October 15.
The matter was referred to the Constitution bench following conflicting judgments by two benches of three judges each.
The issue is interpretation of Section 24 of the Right To Fair Compensation And Transparency In Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. In 2014, a three-Judge bench interpreted this provision in Pune Municipal Corporation v Harakchand Misirimal Solanki mean those acquisition proceedings initiated under the 1894 Act five years prior to the coming into force of the 2013 Act would lapse if the acquired land was not taken possession of by the State, or compensation was not paid to the displaced farmers. This bench was presided by Justice R.M.Lodha, who has since retired, and comprised of Justices Madan B.Lokur and Kurian Joseph.
The bench held in this case that if the landholder refuses to receive the compensation, then it should be deposited with a court, rather than in the Government treasury if the proceedings were not to lapse.
The Arun Mishra-Adarsh Kumar Goel-Mohan M.Shantanagoudar bench, on February 8, in Indore Development Authority v Shailendra (D) Through LRS & Ors, overruled this ruling in Pune Municipal Corporation because it held that the landholder, cannot take advantage of his own wrong, by refusing to take the compensation under the old Act, in order to make it lapse, so that he could get the benefit of higher compensation under the 2013 Act.
The word ‘paid’ in section 24 of the Act of 2013 has the same meaning as ‘tender of payment’ in section 31(1) of the Act of 1894. They carry the same meaning and the expression ‘deposited’ in section 31(2) is not included in the expressions ‘paid’ in section 24 of the Act of 2013 or in ‘tender of payment’ used in section 31(1) of the Act of 1894. The words ‘paid’/tender’ and ‘deposited’ are different expressions and carry different meanings within their fold. In section 24(2) of the Act of 2013 in the expression ‘paid,’ it is not necessary that the amount should be deposited in court as provided in section 31(2) of the Act of 1894. Non-deposit of compensation in court under section 31(2) of the Act of 1894 does not result in a lapse of acquisition under section 24(2) of the Act of 2013. Due to the failure of deposit in court, the only consequence at the most in appropriate cases may be of a higher rate of interest on compensation as envisaged under section 34 of the Act of 1894 and not lapse of acquisition. Once the amount of compensation has been unconditionally tendered and it is refused, that would amount to payment and the obligation under section 31(1) stands discharged and that amounts to payment and the obligation under section 31(1) stands discharged and that amounts to discharge of obligation of payment under section 24(2) of the Act 195 of 2013 also and it is not open to the person who has refused to accept compensation, to urge that since it has not been deposited in court, acquisition has lapsed. Claimants/landowners after refusal, cannot take advantage of their own wrong and seek protection under the provisions of section 24(2).
The question which this raised was whether a three-Judge bench was competent to declare the law laid down by another three-Judge bench per incuriam, without consideration by a larger bench.
One three-Judge bench presided by Justice Madan B Lokur, stayed the hearing of compensation matters in the land acquisition cases in all the high courts and in the Court itself till it heard the parties on the of reference to a larger bench on the issue on March 7. However, two two-Judge benches, one presided by Justice Arun Mishra and another by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, pre-empted it, by making a reference to the CJI for constituting a larger bench, to consider the same issue.