Unlawful Deprivation Of Property: Kerala High Court Orders Compensation For Land Acquired Under Kottayam Development Corridor Project

Update: 2024-05-13 10:08 GMT
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The Kerala High Court stated that landowners who surrendered their property for the 'Kottayam Development Corridor Project' would be paid adequate compensation by assessing the land value by initiating proceedings under the LARR Act by issuing gazette notification and not based on the property's market value as on the date of surrender of the property back in 2015. It stated that...

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The Kerala High Court stated that landowners who surrendered their property for the 'Kottayam Development Corridor Project' would be paid adequate compensation by assessing the land value by initiating proceedings under the LARR Act by issuing gazette notification and not based on the property's market value as on the date of surrender of the property back in 2015. 

It stated that landowners surrendered their lands in 2015 by believing the various assurances given by the Government. It observed that no compensation has been paid to date and the Government has retracted from its promises by stating that compensation would be paid solely based on the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARR Act) by fixing the land value as per market rates as on the date of surrender of the property.

Justice Viju Abraham observed that it would not be adequate compensation since the land value has increased now. It stated that in a democracy governed by the rule of law, citizens cannot be deprived of their land without sanction of law.

“I am of the opinion that the same will not be adequate compensation in view of the fact that petitioners will not be able to purchase now even a small extent of land which the petitioners could have purchased had the compensation amount been given at the time of taking possession itself. Therefore, the decision to pay compensation based on the land value as on the date of taking possession, which was almost a decade back, is absolutely arbitrary and unjust…”

Background

The petitioners have approached the Court seeking a declaration from the Court that the action taken by the State Government and official authorities in acquiring their land for the 'Kottayam Development Corridor Project' was arbitrary and illegal. The land acquisition was challenged for not following due process of law, non-payment of adequate compensation and violative of fundamental rights under Articles 14, 19, 21 and 300A of the Constitution of India.

The petitioners submitted that they were absolute owners of lands in Kottayam district which were acquired for the town expansion and development. The government had acquired land from the petitioners on the assurance that they would be permitted to convert an equal extent of their remaining lands for construction purposes. Additionally, the government promised that petitioners who surrendered the full extent of land would be offered alternate lands. This was unilaterally modified by the government stating that petitioners would only be allowed to convert 50% of the surrendered land for construction purposes.

Contrary to this, the Government retracted from their promise and stated that the remaining lands of petitioners could not be converted since it would be violative of the Kerala Conservation of Paddy Land and Wet Land Act, 2008. It was also stated that alternate land cannot be given to persons who have surrendered their full extent of land since there was no sufficient land for giving as alternate lands. The Government decided that landowners who surrendered their lands would receive compensation as per the LARR Act fixing the land value as per market rates as on the date of surrender of the property.

Observations

The Court observed that the petitioners surrendered their lands in 2015 based on the assurances given by the Government without paying any compensation till this date.

The Court stated that even though the right to property under Article 300A is not a fundamental right, it remains both a constitutional right and a human right. In Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd. v. Darius Chennai (2007), the Apex Court stated that the State can interfere with the right to property only for public purposes and on payment of reasonable compensation.

Referring to the Apex Court decision in K. Krishna Reddy & Ors. v. The Special Dy. Collector, Land Acquisition Unit II LMD Karimnagar Andhra Pradesh (1988), the Court examined the difficulties faced by citizens due to delayed payment of compensation.

Relying upon D.B.Basnett(D) through L.Rs. v. The Collector, East District, Gangtok, Sikkim and Others (2020), the Court stated that the Government should either retain the land by giving proper compensation after issuing notification under the LARR Act or surrender possession of the land back to the petitioners.

Further, in Tukaram Kana Joshi and Ors. v. M.I.D.C and Ors. (2013), the Apex Court stated that the right to property can be deprived of an individual resorting to the procedure of law prescribed by statute and cannot be done arbitrarily.

The Court observed that the right to property under Article 300A continues to be an important constitutional right and no person could be deprived of his property except by authority of law.

It stated that authorities are bound to follow the procedure of law prescribed under the LARR Act.

The Court thus ruled that the stance of the Government that compensation would be paid based on land value on the date of the original surrender of land cannot be accepted after retracting from their promises and without paying any compensation amount till date. “I am of the view that the Government is bound to proceed for the acquisition of land as per the provisions of the LARR Act 2013 for determining adequate compensation due to the petitioners, if not, the Government will be playing fraud on the citizens,” added the Court.

Accordingly, the writ petition was disposed of and the Court ordered that the petitioners would be paid adequate compensation by initiating proceedings under the LARR Act.

Counsel for Petitioner: Advocates P.A.Mohammed Shah, Renoy Vincent, Shahir Showkath Ali, Chelson Chembarathy, Abee Shejirik Fasla N.K ,Muhamed Junaid V., Adith Krishnan.U., Fathima Afeeda P.

Counsel for Respondents: Government Pleader N Sudhadevi

Citation: 2024 LiveLaw Ker 288

Case Title: R Asokan v State of Kerala

Case Number: WP(C) NO. 26234 OF 2023

Click here to read/download Judgment

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