10 May 2023 6:37 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the Tamil Nadu Highways Act 2001 cannot be invalidated on the ground that is provisions are at variance from the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition; Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Since the Tamil Nadu Act has received the assent of the President under Article 254(2) of the Constitution of India, there is no basis...
The Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the Tamil Nadu Highways Act 2001 cannot be invalidated on the ground that is provisions are at variance from the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition; Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. Since the Tamil Nadu Act has received the assent of the President under Article 254(2) of the Constitution of India, there is no basis in challenging the Act on the ground that is repugnant to the RFCTLARR Act.
The court noted that though the State Act did not provide fixed timelines for acquiring land as compared to the new Land Acquisition Act (a central Legislature), the same would not vitiate the State Act.
"The Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001, is not liable to be invalidated on the ground that its provisions manifest discrimination or arbitrariness when compared with the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition; Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013", the Court held.
The bench of Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice PV Sanjay Kumar held that the State Act stood protected after receiving the Presidential assent under Article 254(2) of the Constitution. The bench further pointed out that the whole purpose of Article 254(2) was to protect a State enactment when it ran contrary to central legislation.
The very foundation and basis of Article 254(2) of the Constitution is that a particular State enactment runs contra to the provisions of a Central legislation on the same subject, but despite the same it would stand protected after it receives the assent of the President of India thereunder. Therefore, it is a foregone conclusion that disparity and discrimination would be writ large between the two enactments and aspects relating to their implementation. In such a situation, the question of comparing the two legislations, for the purpose of making out a case under Article 14 of the Constitution, would not arise. Such an exercise would be akin to comparing chalk with cheese, i.e., two essentially unequal entities.
The court was dealing with the appeals preferred against a Madras High Court judgment wherein the court had held that the act was not irrational, capricious, or without adequate determining principles. The High Court however also held that the Act had become void on the date when the new Land Acquisition Act received the presidential assent. The High Court had noted that, for an act to come within the purview of Article 254(2) of the Constitution, it must be re-enacted by the State and reconsidered by the President.
During the pendency of the appeal before the Supreme Court, the Tamil Nadu government enacted The Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, which sought to revive the State Act. A challenge to this Validation Act was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2019 in the case G. Mohan Rao vs. State of Tamil Nadu holding it to be a legitimate legislative exercise that was consistent with Article 254 of the Constitution.
The Apex Court noted that while seeking Presidential Assent for the Validation Act, it was made clear by the State of Tamil Nadu that the impugned Acts were made for the purpose of speedy acquisition. The court noted that the purpose of the Highway Act was not to delay the acquisition process. Thus, the court held that though the Land Acquisition Act 2013 provided for timely measures which benefited land owners, the absence of the same in the Highways Act would not invalidate the Act when the State’s intention was to expedite the proceedings.
No doubt, the scheme of the new LA Act advocates timely measures being adopted in implementation of the acquisition and such general temporal restrictions would benefit the land owners, but the absence of such restrictions in the Highways Act may not be reason enough to invalidate it, as the very premise on which the Highways Acts was enacted by the State of Tamil Nadu was to cut down on time-consuming processes.
The court further noted that individual cases involving delay in the acquisition of land under the Highways Act would have to be dealt on merits and that itself would not invalidate the Act. The court also noted that some individual acquisition proceedings where already under challenged before the Madras High Court and would be unaffected by the present proceedings.
Thus, finding no merit, the court dismissed the appeals.
Case Title: CS Gopalakrishnan etc. v. The State of Tamil Nadu and others
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 413
Counsel for Appellants: Mr. Suhrith Parthasarathy, Mr. N. Subramaniyan
Counsel for Respondent: Senior Counsel Mr. K.K. Venugopal
Click here to read the judgment