6 April 2022 1:25 PM GMT
The Supreme Court observed that forcible dispossession of private property of a person without following due process of law, is violative of both their human right and constitutional right.Sukh Dutt Ratra and Bhagat Ram claim to be owners of land which was utilized for the construction of the 'Narag Fagla Road' in 1972-73. They filed a writ petition before the High Court of Himachal Pradesh...
The Supreme Court observed that forcible dispossession of private property of a person without following due process of law, is violative of both their human right and constitutional right.
Sukh Dutt Ratra and Bhagat Ram claim to be owners of land which was utilized for the construction of the 'Narag Fagla Road' in 1972-73. They filed a writ petition before the High Court of Himachal Pradesh in 2011, seeking compensation for the subject land or initiation of acquisition proceedings under the Act. They alleged that no land acquisition proceedings were initiated, nor compensation given to them or owners of the adjoining land. The High Court disposed of this writ petition, with liberty to file a civil suit in accordance with law.
Before the Apex Court, they (appellants) contended that the State had illegally usurped their lands, without following due process of law. Opposing their plea, the State submitted that the appellants had approached the High Court after an inordinate delay of 38 years in 2011, against action taken by the State in 1972-73; and a further inordinate delay of about 6 years in approaching the Supreme Court.
The bench comprising Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha observed that, in the present case, the State has, in a clandestine and arbitrary manner, actively tried to limit disbursal of compensation as required by law, only to those for which it was specifically prodded by the courts, rather than to all those who are entitled. The Court also observed that the State was unable to produce any evidence indicating that the land of the appellants had been taken over or acquired in the manner known to law, or that they had ever paid any compensation.
"The State cannot shield itself behind the ground of delay and laches in such a situation; there cannot be a 'limitation' to doing justice... In the absence of written consent to voluntarily give up their land, the appellants were entitled to compensation in terms of law.", the bench said.
The court therefore disposed the appeals by making following observations and directions:
Concluding that the forcible dispossession of a person of their private property without following due process of law, was violative of both their human right, and constitutional right under Article 300-A, this court allowed the appeal. We find that the approach taken by this court in Vidya Devi (supra) is squarely applicable to the nearly identical facts before us in the present case.In view of the above discussion, in view of this court's extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 136 and 142 of the Constitution, the State is hereby directed to treat the subject lands as a deemed acquisition and appropriately disburse compensation to the appellants in the same terms as the order of the reference court dated 04.10.2005 in Land Ref. Petition No. 10-LAC/4 of 2004 (and consolidated matters). The Respondent-State is directed, consequently to ensure that the appropriate Land Acquisition Collector computes the compensation, and disburses it to the appellants, within four months from today. The appellants would also be entitled to consequential benefits of solatium, and interest on all sums payable under law w.e.f 16.10.2001 (i.e. date of issuance of notification under Section 4 of the Act), till the date of the impugned judgment, i.e. 12.09.2013
Sukh Dutt Ratra vs State of Himachal Pradesh | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 347 | 6 April 2022
Coram: Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and PS Narasimha
Counsel: Adv Mahesh Thakur for appellant, Adv Abhinav Mukerji for respondent-State
Constitution of India, 1950 ; Article 300A - Forcible dispossession of a person of their private property without following due process of law, was violative of both their human right, and constitutional right under Article 300-A - High threshold of legality that must be met, to dispossess an individual of their property, and even more so when done by the State. (Para 25,15)
Rule of law - Nobody can be deprived of liberty or property without due process, or authorization of law - Rather than enjoying a wider bandwidth of lenience, the State often has a higher responsibility in demonstrating that it has acted within the confines of legality, and therefore, not tarnished the basic principle of the rule of law. (Para 14)
Land Acquisition - Need for written consent in matters of land acquisition proceedings - contention of 'oral' consent to be baseless [Referred to Vidya Devi v. State of Himachal Pradesh (2020) 2 SCC 569] (Para 22-23)
Summary - Appeal against Himachal Pradesh HC judgment which disposed a writ petition challenging dispossession and seeking compensation - Allowed - In the absence of written consent to voluntarily give up their land, the appellants were entitled to compensation in terms of law - State directed to treat the subject lands as a deemed acquisition and appropriately disburse compensation to the appellants.
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