Section 24 RFCTLARR Act- Subsequent Purchasers Cannot Seek Declaration That Land Acquisition Proceedings Have Lapsed: SC [Read Judgment]

Section 24 RFCTLARR Act- Subsequent Purchasers Cannot Seek Declaration That Land Acquisition Proceedings Have Lapsed: SC [Read Judgment]

"Subsequent purchasers cannot be said to be landowners entitled to restoration of land and cannot be termed to be affected persons within the provisions of Act of 2013. "

The Supreme Court, on Monday, held that a subsequent purchaser of the property after issuance of notification under section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 cannot invoke the provisions contained in section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

The three judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra, observed that the judgment in GNCTD vs Manav Dharam Trust is per incuriam and contrary to several binding precedents.

A Constitution bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra is currently hearing cases in which it will be settling the conflicting interpretations given to Section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act.

In Manav Dharam Trust, a two judge bench of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice R. Banumathi had held that subsequent purchaser, assignee, successor in interest, power of attorney, etc., are all persons who are interested in compensation/land owners/affected persons in terms of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCTLARR) Act, 2013, and such persons are entitled to file a case for a declaration that the land acquisition proceedings have lapsed by virtue of operation of Section 24(2) of the Act.

In Shiv Kumar vs. UoI, the Apex Court bench also comprising of Justices MR Shah and BR Gavai considered the issue whether a purchaser of the property after issuance of notification under section 4 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 can invoke the provisions contained in section 24 of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013

Justice Mishra, who authored the judgment, observed that, in Manav Dharam Trust (supra), even the provisions of the RFCTLARR Act have not been taken into consideration, which prohibits such transactions in particular provisions of section 11, including the proviso to section 24(2). The bench observed:

The intendment of Act of 2013 is to benefit farmers etc. Subsequent purchasers cannot be said to be landowners entitled to restoration of land and cannot be termed to be affected persons within the provisions of Act of 2013. It is not open to them to claim that the proceedings have lapsed under Section 24(2).

The bench also refused to refer the matter to larger bench observing that when the decisions of Larger Bench and other Division Bench are available, the case cannot be referred to a Larger Bench.

The following observations made in the judgment are relevant:

Void is, ab initio,' a nullity, is inoperative, and a person cannot claim the land or declaration once no title has been conferred upon him to claim that the land should be given back to him. A person cannot enforce and ripe fruits based on a void transaction to start claiming title and possession of the land by seeking a declaration under Section 24 of the Act of 2013; it will amount to conferment of benefit never contemplated by the law. The question is, who can claim declaration/ rights under section 24(2) for the restoration of land or lapse of acquisition. It cannot be by a person with no title in the land. The provision of the Act of 2013 cannot be said to be enabling or authorizing a purchaser after Section 4 to question proceeding taken under the Act of 1894 of taking possession as held in U.P. Jal Nigam (supra) which is followed in M. Venkatesh (supra) and other decisions and consequently claim declaration under Section 24 of the Act of 2013. What cannot be done directly cannot be permitted in an indirect method.

Granting a right to question acquisition would be against the public policy and the law which prohibits such transactions; it cannot be given effect to under the guise of subsequent legislation containing similar provisions. Subsequent legislation does not confer any new right to a person based on such void transaction; instead, it includes a provision prohibiting such transactions without permission of the Collector as provided in Section 11(4).

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