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NHAI Best Judge To Decide Which Land To Acquire: Supreme Court Dismisses Plea Against Land Acquisition For Widening NH-161

Mehal Jain
11 Jun 2022 4:50 AM GMT
NHAI Best Judge To Decide Which Land To Acquire: Supreme Court Dismisses Plea Against  Land Acquisition For Widening NH-161
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So far as construction of new highways and widening, development and maintenance of existing highways is concerned, the Supreme Court has observed that "the National Highways Authority of India can be said to be best judge to decide which land to be acquired and which not to be acquired for the purpose of construction of the Highways".

The bench of Justices M. R. Shah and Aniruddha Bose was hearing the SLPs against the
April, 2022 decision of the Division Bench of the Telangana High Court whereby it allowed NHAI's writ appeal challenging the April, 2018 judgment of the Single Bench disposing of the writ petition that opposed the action of the NHAI in acquiring the entire lands of the writ petitioners for the purpose of four laning of NH 161, allegedly without acquiring other lands as per the plan allegedly accepted by the competent authority for widening the road.
The Single Bench had allowed that the NHAI may proceed with the acquisition but in accordance with the said plan. By its decision of April, 2022, impugned in the present SLP, the Division Bench had also allowed a second writ appeal by which the NHAI had challenged the November, 2021 decision of the Single Bench to dismiss its review petition against the 2018 judgment.
In the impugned judgment of April 22, 2022, the High Court Division Bench noted that the basic objection of the writ petitioners was to the acquisition of their land under the National Highways Act, 1956; that according to the petitioners, their land was not required to be acquired and other land should have been acquired in equal proportion from both sides; and that there was deviation from the original plan i.e. the sketch relied upon.
The High Court Division Bench had observed, "The National Highways Act, 1956 lays down the procedure for acquisition of land for laying of national highways including award of compensation. Writ petitioners have their remedy thereunder...Since acquisition of land is for the purpose of four laning of national highway, which is of public interest, interference by the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India would not be justified.
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The Division Bench had also said that no materials were placed on record by the writ petitioners to prove that execution of the four laning of NH 161 project was actuated by mala fides to oust the writ petitioners from their land.
It had added, "It is for the technical experts to determine alignment of a road. Courts are not equipped to instruct the authorities how to go about laying of roads or national highways; or which lands should be acquired and which should not be acquired for such purpose. In case of national highways, a statutory framework is in place with inbuilt remedial provisions for those affected by land acquisition for construction of such road.
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The Division Bench had allowed both the writ appeals and dismissed the writ petition.
In the SLP proceedings, the bench of Justices Shah and Bose noted, "Having heard learned counsel for the respective parties and having gone through the impugned order passed by the High Court, we are of the opinion that the High Court is absolutely justified in passing the impugned order."
The bench proceeded to declare,
"It cannot be disputed that the public interest is the paramount consideration and the National Highway Authority can be said to be best judge to decide which land to be acquired and which not to be acquired for the purpose of construction of the Highways."
In that view of the matter, the Supreme Court observed that no interference is called for in exercise of powers under Article 136 of the Constitution of India and dismissed the Special Leave Petitions.

It was argued by the writ petitioners that alignment of the road from NH 9 to Mamidipalli village was finalised but a departure was sought to be made by NHAI from such alignment. It was also ontended that there was already in existence a small cart track route, and for the purpose of widening the road, there ought to be acquisition of equal extent on either side of the cart track route, but instead, entire lands of the petitioners were sought to be acquired.
The Single Bench bench had referred to the counter affidavit of the NHAI and the plan which was allegedly accepted by the competent authority for widening the road. At that stage, the advocate for the writ petitioners had submitted that writ petitioners did not have any objection to such plan. After recording the statement of the advocate for the writ petitioners, the Single Bench by the order of 27.4.2018 disposed off the writ petition giving liberty to the NHAI to proceed with the acquisition after taking note of the above observation.
By the order of 15.11.2021, the Single Bench dismissed the review petition by taking the view that order of 27.04.2018 was passed by the writ Court based upon the averments made in the counter affidavit; therefore, it was a kind of admission by the NHAI, and having admitted to the contention of the writ petitioners, it was not open to the NHAI to file the review.
Case Title: G. NARSING RAO (DIED) THR. LRS. v. THE NATIONAL HIGHWAYS AUTHORITY OF INDIA & ANR.




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