The Allahabad High Court, last week, upheld the acquisition of land by the State for the purpose of building the Delhi Meerut Expressway.
The land for the Expressway had been identified by a notification issued in August, 2011 under Section 3A of the National Highways Act, 1956. A declaration was subsequently issued in August, 2012, in accordance with Section 3D of the Act. Compensation was then issued in June, 2013, in compliance with Section 3G of the Act. The Petition filed by Gram Niyojan Kendra had now challenged the notification, declaration as well as the award.
The Petition had contended that the impugned notification did not specify the exact portion of land that was likely to be acquired. It had further alleged that the land plans and other such details were not made available, despite such declaration in the notification. It blames this for not having filed any objections to the notification.
The Petition had been challenged by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), which had contended that the Petitioners cannot feign ignorance about the issuance of the notification, as the same was sufficiently advertised.
At the outset, the Bench comprising Justice Dilip Gupta and Justice Jayant Banerji opined that the Petitioner had not offered satisfactory explanation for the delay of 6 years in challenging the proceedings. The Petition, it then observed, deserved to be dismissed on the ground of latches alone.
The Court, however, nevertheless considered it appropriate to examine the contentions raised by the Petitioners. It noted that the Petitioners had made a vague assertion as to the unavailability of the land plans with the concerned authorities and observed, " Only a vague denial has been made in the writ petition. There is nothing on the record to indicate that the petitioners contacted the ADM (LA) within 21 days to find out the details. In fact, the petitioners have stated that it was only in February 2013 that they came to know about the acquisition and, therefore, on their own admission they did not visit the office within the stipulated time.
It has, therefore, to be held that the land plans and other details of the land were available in the office of the Competent Authority and the petitioners could have ascertained whether their portion of the land situated in Plot No.1221 was being acquired."
The Court further refused to set aside the award, noting that the Petitioners had become aware of the proceedings in February, 2013 and the award was issued only in June. "Nothing prevented the petitioners from placing material in support of their claim for compensation," it opined.
It also refused to accept the contention that the disputes regarding compensation would render the declaration or the award invalid, observing, "In any view of the matter if the petitioners are not satisfied with the amount of the compensation that has been determined under Section 3G(1) of the Act, they can always take recourse to arbitration proceedings as contemplated under Section 3G(5) of the Act. This, however, cannot be made a ground to set aside the award."