The Bombay High Court last Monday ruled that proceedings under the land acquisition act cannot be held to be null and void simply because notice was not issued to the new purchaser of the property in question, whose name was not reflected in the revenue records.
Justice Sadhna S Jadhav heard State of Maharashtra's second appeal against a judgement by District Judge, Kolhapur wherein original plaintiff's appeal was allowed and it was held that the state's acquisition was not valid as embargo of Section 22A of the Maharashtra Private Forests (Acquisition) Act, 1975 would apply as the land that was acquired, was less than 12 hectare.
Court observed that the appellate court had exceeded its jurisdiction in trying a case under the Land Acquisition Act.
Justice Jadhav examined and answered two substantive questions of law, which are the following-
Whether the acquisition of property under the Land Acquisition Act could be said to be vitiated for failure to give notice to a purchaser, whose name was not reflected in the Revenue records?
Whether a Civil Suit challenging the award passed under the Land Acquisition Act is maintainable ?
On April 15, 1982 Suryakant Rane (since deceased) filed a civil suit seeking a declaration that the acquisition of the land situated at Mouje Shepawadi, Taluka Gaganbawada, District Kolhapur and award passed on November 16, 1978, and acquiring the suit land is illegal on the ground that no notice was served upon the plaintiff although he is a purchaser of the said property by virtue of registered sale deed dated January 27, 1975. It was contended in the plaint that the plaintiff had received a notice of encroachment sent by the Collector dated July 1, 1981 and therefore, he was constrained to file suit seeking declaration as a owner of the suit property. The plaintiff had also prayed for perpetual injunction.
The plaintiff purchased said suit property from one Raghunath Dhavalikar (who was defendant no.4 in regular civil suit filed by plaintiff). Dhavalikar was shown as a kabjedar (person residing in or using a property as its owner) in the revenue records and therefore, notice was issued to the Dhavalikar, who had received the compensation by virtue of the award that was passed on November 16, 1978 towards acquisition of the said land.
It was also a matter of record that Dhavalikar had earlier purchased the said property by a registered sale deed and had sold the property to the plaintiff. Court recorded that the name of the plaintiff was not entered into the revenue record till January, 1980. The entry No. 365 in the mutation record was taken on January 3, 1980 i.e. practically after more than one and half years of passing of award of acquisition by the state government.
The first Court had dismissed the said suit on the ground that there was no reason for the Government authorities to know that title has devolved upon the plaintiff by virtue of a sale deed since the Government had perused the revenue record and issued notice to the person who was in possession of the said land at the time of issuance of notice under section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act.
Thereafter, Civil Judge, Senior Division, Kolhapur in his judgment dated March 2, 1988 had also observed that there is no claim in this suit as against Dhavalikar, who had, in fact, received the compensation from the Government, without bringing it to the notice of the Government, that he had sold the said property to the plaintiff.
Being aggrieved by the judgment dated March 2, 1988 the plaintiff had filed an appeal the same year before the District Judge at Kolhapur. Appellate Court observed that the judgment of the Civil Judge, Senior Division, Kolhapur deserved to be set aside on the ground that illegal and undue weightage was given to the fact that the name of the appellant was not recorded in the village record at the time of acquisition proceedings.
The state filed an appeal before the High Court against the above judgement.
AGP YY Dabke appearing for the State placed heavy reliance upon the judgement of Supreme Court in Laxmi Chand v/s. Gram Panchayat, Kararia wherein following observations were made regarding a civil court's jurisdiction over cases under the Land Acquisition Act-
"It would thus be clear that the scheme of the Act is complete in itself and thereby the jurisdiction of the civil court to take cognisance of the cases arising under the Act, by necessary implication, stood barred. The Civil Court thereby is devoid of jurisdiction to give declaration on the invalidity of the procedure contemplated under the Act."
High Court's judgement in Dadu Rama Patil and ors vs. Bapu Krishna Kurane (since deceased) through legal heirs Sugana Bapu Kurane & ors. Was also relied upon.
After considering all the materials and submissions placed before the Court, Justice Jadhav noted-
"It is more than clear that the trial Court has therefore, assumed jurisdiction not vested in it. In view of the above observations, it can be said that the acquisition proceedings cannot be held to be null and void only because notice was not issued to the plaintiff. It was incumbent upon the defendant No. 4 to bring it to the notice of the authorities that land has been sold in favour of the plaintiff in 1975.
It is further pertinent to note that the plaintiff had not sought any claim against the defendant No. 4, although he was fully aware that the defendant No. 4 had received the compensation. Accordingly, it has to be held that the acquisition proceedings were in accordance with law and therefore, cannot be held to be null and void."
Court noted that the suit itself was not maintainable and therefore, the Appellate Court had no authority to set aside the Judgment as it would be a judgment without jurisdiction. Thus, the second appeal was allowed and the appellate court's order passed over 31 years ago was set aside.