In a judgment that reflects lapses on part of the state and its impact on everyday lives of its citizens, the Bombay High Court has declared the acquisition of a piece of land in Sangli that took place 42 years ago for the purpose of building Walekhindi Irrigation Dam, as lapsed.
What is surprising is that the said piece of land is already submerged under dam water and so the question of restoration of possession does not arise. Hence, the court has now directed the respondent state to re-acquire the said piece of land and complete the acquisition within a year.
The judgment was pronounced by the bench of then Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice MS Sonak this November 14.
By an award dated October 10, 1975, the said piece of land was acquired under provisions of the Land Acquisition Act 1894. In terms of the award, compensation for the acquired land was determined at Rs.25,699.62, inclusive of 15% solatium, and compensation for the houses was determined at Rs.18,726.60, inclusive of 15% solatium.
Senior advocate Ravi Kadam appeared for the petitioners. He submitted that only Rs.3,071 was paid to their predecessor-in-title, since deceased, Maruti Tone for removing the debris situated on the acquired land. But till date, the respondent state or its Revenue and Forest Department have not paid the total compensation amount.
Thus, it was the case of the petitioners that the said acquisition proceedings stand lapsed in view of Section 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act.
In an affidavit, Tushar Thombre, District Resettlement Officer, admitted that Rs.20.735.05 was ‘kept back’ as a partition suit was pending between the representatives of the late Maruti Tone.
After examining all the material on record, the court noted: “From the material on record, therefore, it is quite clear that except for the payment of Rs.3605.25 to Late. Maruti Tone on 17th October 1975, the compensation amount for the acquired land as determined in the award has not been paid to the petitioners or their predecessor-in-title. In fact, this position is not even disputed. Such “keeping back” of compensation was not at all contemplated under the 1894 Act.”
Thus, the court concluded that the said proceedings had lapsed and allowed the prayer seeking a direction to the respondents to re-acquire the land in terms of the new Act.