Office of the Collector, Panchayat Office, Office of Tehsildar, Office of municipality, railway station and bus stand, etc conspicuous places : Supreme Court

Office of the Collector, Panchayat Office, Office of Tehsildar, Office of municipality, railway station and bus stand, etc conspicuous places : Supreme Court

The Apex Court dealt with a very interesting question as to what is a conspicuous place for posting of a Public Notice under land acquisition law which if not read might affect rights of several persons. It has held that Office of the Collector, Panchayat Office, Office of Tehsildar, Office of municipality, railway station and bus stand, etc. of the local area are public places and are expected to be visited by general public, so they can safely be assumed as conspicuous places for making a declaration under an Act.

The Bench comprising of Justices Sudhanshu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya and Vikramajit Sen allowed the appeal filed by Karnataka State whereby it has upheld the provision of Section 9 of the Karnataka Municipalities Act, 1961 and the notification issued in reference to that.

The brief facts are that the Government of Karnataka initially proposed to alter the existing limits of Town Municipal Council, Sedam for inclusion of Survey No. 630-642 within the municipal limits of town municipality. It invited objections and suggestions to the proposal from persons likely to be affected therein.  It then notified that having received no objection from persons likely to be affected within the said period of 30 days from the date of publication of notification, Governor of Karnataka specified the smaller urban area and further specified it to be called Town Municipal Council Area of Sedam.

The case of the 1st respondent was that the notice has to be posted in area sought to be added or deleted in smaller urban areas, but it was not posted in the area of his factory which is a large area of around 1235.03 acres and is an inhabited area with housing for workmen, management, etc and has mini townships. It has not even been posted in any other area sought to be included.

The appellant  while  assailing the  impugned  judgment,  submitted  that  the  procedure  prescribed  under Section 9 of the Act is substantially followed and  complied  with  in  this case and notice had posted announcing the inclusion of the  local  area  within  the existing municipal  limits  in  all  the  conspicuous  places,  calling  for objection from the public within 90 days but  no  objections  were  received within the time stipulated.

Court held that Section 9 of the Act has to be read in the light of  Article  243Q  of the Constitution of India and that the Provision of Section 9 is somewhat similar to  Section  4  of  the Land  Acquisition  Act,  1894  where under  the  posting  of  the  notice  in conspicuous/convenient places is mandatory.

It held that if the argument advanced by the 1st respondent is accepted, in that case every affected  person  whose  land  is sought to be included for the purpose of alteration of  the  limits  of  the smaller urban area would claim that such notice must be posted in his land. That the notice was posted in the Office of the Collector, Panchayat Office, Office of Tehsildar, Office of  municipality, railway station and bus stand,  etc. of  the  local area which are  public places and are expected to be visited by general  public for one or the other reason and can  be  safely  expected  to  be conspicuous/convenient places for posting  a  notice  about  such a declaration. If notice was posted within the township of 1st respondent, then other affected persons might not have any access to such notice, as posted not on a  public  place.  In such case, every individual/affected persons will claim posting of such notice at their land which will amount to giving individual notice to all affected persons.

The judgment undeclaredly goes hand in hand with the relative criminal law jurisprudence for posting of wanted posters for proclaimed offenders, history sheeters etc at public places. Such places have to be chosen tactfully so that more views are recorded in less time. In land acquisition jurisprudence, for such public notices, even more caution needs to be taken care of as it involves huge amount of money and basic rights of citizens at large are involved. This also dates back to the doctrine of individual responsibility for collective conscience under common law designed to address issues for public at large.

Read the Judgment here