Through a remarkable judgment on 4th Feb, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi & R.F.Nariman declined constitutional validity to Sec. 6 of the Kerala Cashew Factories (Acquisition) Act, 1974. The impugned provision enabled the State Government to acquire cashew factories in public interest under certain circumstances laid down in Sec 3.
In an interesting arena of factual matrix, from 1984 to 1986, 10 cashew factories were acquired after giving the mandatory notice. 36 more factories were further acquired similarly in 1988. The 10 cashew factories filed writ petitions before the High Court which were dismissed by a common judgment in 1994. The other bunch of 36 factories filed mandamus writ petitions u/a 32 which were disposed in 1994 in Indian Nut Products v. Union of India [(1994) 4 SCC 269] holding that the notices which had to be sent prior to transfer of factories to the government furnishing grounds of such action did not confirm to the requisite criteria and were hence declared null and void. Consequently, the factories were ordered to be returned back but kept it open to the government to exercise power u/s 3(1) whenever it is satisfied that any of the three conditions mentioned in it exist. The Court then passed directions in this regard. The SLP filed by the 10 companies was subsequently allowed following this judgment in 1995. For the 36 companies the orders were complied with, however, for the 10 companies they were not complied forcing them to file contempt petitions. Meanwhile, the State Government notified the Kerala Cashew Factories Acquisition (Amendment) Act of 1995 w.e.f 1/5/1984 so as to cover all the 46 acquisitions. The contempt petition was thus terminated in view of the new legislation.
The bench today speaking through Nariman J dealt exclusively with Sec 3A & 6 of this Act which have been quoted in Para 6 of the judgment. The main contentions of the petitioners, reply by the respondents and findings by the bench can be tabulated as –
Allowing the appeal, the bench set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court and that the cashew factories and the land appurtenant thereto that have been taken over by the State under the Amending Act must be handed back within a period of eight weeks starting from the date of judgment.
Read the Judgment here