Farmers Association Takes Objection To Justice Arun Mishra Heading Constitution Bench For Land Acquisition Matters
The All India Farmer Association has written a letter, dated October 14, to the Chief Justice of India, Ranjan Gogoi, requesting that the newly constituted Constitution Bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, may not hear the matters regarding the interpretation of Section 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCTLARR Act).
Through their President, the Association has requested that Justice Mishra may not head the bench as he has already expressed his views about the issue in the 2018 decision by doubting the correctness of 2014 decision. One of the five matters before the constitution bench was referred by J Madan Lokur, who was part of the 2014 judgment, after he stated that he did not agree with the 2018 judgment. Citing this as a reason, along with the principle that justice must not only be done but seem to be done, the Association has prayed that Justice Mishra should not hear the matter.
"Now, applicant comes to know that newly constituted bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra is going to hear the matter related to Section 24 of the Act. Applicant most respectfully prays that Justice Arun Mishra's judgment (was) doubted by Justice Madan B Lokur and thereafter matter was referred to the five judges (bench). Therefore, Justice Arun Mishra cannot hear the matter on the principle that justice not only be done, but it's seen also (to be done) (sic)"
On October 12, the Supreme Court notified that a 5-judge constitution bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, and comprising of Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Ravindra Bhat would begin hearing five matters related to the Land Acquisition Act from October 15.
As per Section 24(2), acquisition proceedings initiated as per the Land Acquisition Act 1894 will lapse, if "compensation has not been paid" to the land owners within five years.
In the 2014 decision Pune Municipal Corporation v Harakchand Misiramal Solanki, a 3-judge bench comprising of then CJI Justice RM Lodha and Justices Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph held that mere deposit of compensation in government treasury cannot be regarded as payment made to the land owner and acquisition proceedings under the 1894 Act will lapse in such cases. If there is refusal of land owner to accept compensation, the amount should be deposited in Court as per Section 31 of the Land Acquisition Act, the bench held.
This decision was declared per incuriam and overruled by another three judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra in the 2018 decision Indore Development Authority vs Shailendra and others by 2:1 majority. The majority held that deposit of award in treasury should be regarded as payment to the land owner who is refusing to accept compensation. Justice Shantanagoudar dissented.
Later, a three-Judge bench presided by Justice Madan B Lokur, stayed the hearing of compensation matters in the land acquisition cases in all the high courts till the issue was settled. This bench took objection to the bench in Indore Development Authority case overruling a precedent laid down by a coordinate bench.
Following this, two two-Judge benches, one presided by Justice Arun Mishra and another by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel (who were part of the bench which decided Indore Development Authority case), made a reference to the CJI for constituting a larger bench, to settle the controversy.