Govt Must Compensate Promptly For Land Expropriation: SC [Read Judgment]

Govt Must Compensate Promptly For Land Expropriation: SC [Read Judgment]


It is high time that the State realizes that persons whose property is expropriated need to be paid immediately so as to rehabilitate themselves, the Bench observed.


The Supreme Court in Delhi Development Authority vs. Sukhbir Singh & Ors., has observed that persons whose property is expropriated by the state need to be paid immediately so as to enable them to rehabilitate.

This observation was made by a Bench comprising Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice RF Nariman while dismissing an appeal by the Delhi Development Corporation seeking a revisit to the dictum laid down in Pune Municipal Corporation vs. HM Solanki.

In Pune Municipal Corporation case, the Supreme Court had held that acquisition would be deemed to have lapsed and would be covered under the 2013 law entitling the landowners to higher compensation, if compensation for land acquired under the 1894 Act has not been paid to the land owner or deposited with a competent court and retained in the treasury. Read the said judgment and Live Law report here.

Refusing to revisit the said judgment, the court observed: “It is important to note that a notice of award under Section 12(2) to persons interested can only be issued after money is received by the Land Acquisition Collector, and that the said Collector shall not take possession of land unless and until compensation amount is received by him. Further, actual payment to land owners must be made latest within 60 days. It is high time that the state realises that persons whose property is expropriated need to be paid immediately so as to rehabilitate themselves. Also, it cannot be forgotten that the amount usually offered by way of an award of a Land Acquisition Collector under the 1894 Act is way below the real market value, which is only awarded and paid years later when the reference proceedings culminate in judgments of the high courts and of this court.”

The court also observed: “The picture that therefore emerges on a reading of Section 24(2) is that the State has no business to expropriate from a citizen his property if an award has been made and the necessary steps to complete acquisition have not been taken for a period of five years or more. These steps include the taking of physical possession of land and payment of compensation. What the legislature is, in effect, telling the executive is that they ought to have put their house in order and completed the acquisition proceedings within a reasonable time after pronouncement of award. Not having done so even after a leeway of five years is given, would cross the limits of legislative tolerance, after which the whole proceeding would be deemed to have lapsed. It is important to notice that the Section gets attracted if the acquisition proceeding is not completed within five years after pronouncement of the award. This may happen either because physical possession of the land has not been taken or because compensation has not been paid, within the said period of five years. A faint submission to the effect that ‘or’ should be read as ‘and’ must be turned down for two reasons. The plain natural meaning of the sub-section does not lead to any absurdity for us to replace language advisedly used by the Legislature. Secondly, the object of the Act, and Section 24 in particular, is that in case an award has been made for five years or more, possession ought to have been taken within this period, or else it is statutorily presumed that the balance between the citizen’s right to retain his own property and the right of the State to expropriate it for a public purpose gets so disturbed as to make the acquisition proceedings lapse. Alternatively, if compensation has not been paid within this period, it is also statutorily presumed that the aforesaid balance gets disturbed so as to free such property from acquisition.”

Read the Judgment here.