Controversy Over Conflicting Judgments On Land Acquisition: CJI Constitutes Five Judge Bench To Settle The Issue

To put an end to the controversy about the conflicting Judgments of three judge Benches of Supreme Court regarding the interpretation of Section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 , the Chief Justice of India has constituted a Five Judge Bench to settle the issue.

The Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AK Sikri, AM Khanwilkar, DY Chandrachud and Ashok Bhushan will hear the matter on March 6.

On February 8, 2018 a three Judge Bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, AK Goel and Mohan M Shantan Gowder by a 2:1 majority declared that Pune Municipal Corporation & Anr. v. Harakchand Misirimal Solanki,  is per incuriam.

Although, in his judgment, Justice Mishra quotes contention raised on behalf of the landowners that since the decision of Pune Municipal Corporation is of Three Judges bench then propriety requires that the case should be referred to a Larger Bench, the same issue does not seem sufficiently addressed.

On February 21, 2018 another three judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur, requested the other SC benches and the High Courts to not to deal with any cases relating to the interpretation of or concerning Section 24 of the Land Acquisition Acts. The Bench asked the question "How can a three Judge Bench declare the Judgement of another bench of equal strength as 'per-incurium'"

On February 22, 2018 Justice Arun Mishra who had headed the 3 judge bench that held the decision in ‘Pune Municipality case’ as per incuriam, taking note of the order Justice Madan B. Lokur’s bench, which virtually stayed the order, has referred the issue to the Chief Justice of India to constitute a larger bench to decide the issue.

'Whether it is judicial indiscipline or not has to be decided by a larger bench', said Justice Mishra while requesting the CJI to constitute another bench to decide whether the verdict on land acquisition matter should be enforced or not.

Another bench headed by Justice AK Goel, who was also part of the bench in Indore Development Authority case, have also referred the matter to CJI observing that the ‘issues need to be resolved by a larger Bench at the earliest’.