The Calcutta High Court has recently observed that since the right to property is a valuable right guaranteed under Section Article 300A of the Constitution of India, merely on the ground of delay the State cannot deny its obligation to provide compensation for land acquisition.
A Bench comprising Justice Arijit Banerjee and Justice Kausik Chanda was adjudicating upon an appeal preferred against a decision by a Single Judge bench wherein the writ petition of the appellants had been dismissed. The appellant had prayed for a direction that the concerned land acquisition case stood lapsed and thus sought a direction to be put in possession of their respective plots of land.
In the alternative, it was prayed that the respondent authorities be directed to acquire the land of the appellants and to pay compensation in terms of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.
Taking cognisance of the grievance raised, the Bench observed,
"We are, however, of the opinion that there might be some delay on the part of the petitioners in approaching this Court, but since the right to property is a valuable right flowing from Article 300A of the Constitution of India, merely on the ground of delay the State cannot deny its obligation to compensate the petitioners."
The Court further noted that the State in its affidavit had admitted that the appellants are the "patta" holders in respect of the vested land of the State and that the land belonging to the appellants had been acquired.
It was further opined that it is immaterial that the possession of lands in question was taken in the year 1993 without any acquisition as the acquisition proceeding was revived only in the year 1999 by the issuance of a notice under Section 9(3A) of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 as amended by the West Bengal State Amendment Act.
The Court also noted that the appellants had approached the Court in the year 2005 and thus any delay in this case is not as fatal so as to frustrate a claim for compensation which is guaranteed under Article 300A of the Constitution of India.
Reliance was also placed on the Supreme Court decision in Sukh Dutt Ratra v. State of Himachal Pradesh wherein the Apex Court had directed to pay compensation to the appellants who filed the writ petition after 38 years against the State.
Accordingly, the Court ruled,
"We are of the opinion that justice will be sub-served if the State is directed to pay compensation to the appellants as has been paid to the similarly circumstanced persons whose lands have been acquired and who have been paid compensation following the L.A. Case No. 4/34 of 1999-2000."
Thus, the Court directed the State to to verify as to whether the appellants have interest in the lands in question and whether the said lands have been acquired and utilised for the purpose of the Calcutta Leather Complex project.
It was further ordered that if the answers are found in the affirmative, the State shall pay compensation to the appellants along with all statutory benefits within a period of two months from the date of communication of this order treating it as a case of deemed acquisition.
Case Title: Ajet Ali Baidya v. State of West Bengal
Case Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Cal) 211