26 April 2022 12:24 PM GMT
The Supreme Court observed that the burden to prove that there was a voluntary surrender of land is on the panchayat/municipality which raises such a claim.In this case, the owners of the land in dispute measuring 1.7078 hectares situated within the territorial limits of Sulthan Bhathery Grama Panchayat (later on declared a Municipality) had approached the High Court of Kerala claiming that...
The Supreme Court observed that the burden to prove that there was a voluntary surrender of land is on the panchayat/municipality which raises such a claim.
In this case, the owners of the land in dispute measuring 1.7078 hectares situated within the territorial limits of Sulthan Bhathery Grama Panchayat (later on declared a Municipality) had approached the High Court of Kerala claiming that they had surrendered the land to the Panchayat for construction/widening of Sulthan Batheri Bypass Road on an assurance that they would be given adequate compensation for their land utilized for the said purpose. That the road was constructed but no compensation was paid and that they made various representations but authorities did not respond to it. In the counter affidavit, the stand taken by the Panchayat was that the land had been voluntarily given without any claim for compensation. The single bench of the High Court held that the writ petitioners would be entitled to compensation for the land utilized for the construction/widening of the road. However, allowing the writ appeal filed by the Panchayat, the Division bench of the High Court set aside the single bench judgment.
While considering the appeal filed by the writ petitioners, the Apex Court bench comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Vikram Nath noted that, in this case, Panchayat/Municipality as also the PWD failed to produce any evidence to prove that there was a voluntary surrender.
What is being alleged is that it was a voluntarily surrender of rights for no consideration. This is the stand taken by Panchayat/Municipality. If the Panchayat/Municipality is taking this stand, the burden would be on the Panchayat/Municipality to establish such voluntary surrender. A memorandum or an agreement or a written document ought to have been executed by the appellants stating their free will to surrender for no consideration in favour of the Panchayat/Municipality....
The court further noted that in this case there was no scheme for road development by giving price of the land acquired.
"If there was no scheme, then it was the fault of the State or the Panchayat. To say that there was no scheme is one thing and owner of the land surrendering his land voluntarily without payment of compensation would be different. If there was no such scheme then all the more it was necessary to get the surrender, if any, documented, by the Panchayat/Municipality or the State or the PWD, as the case may be.", the court added.
The court observed that the construction/widening of road would be a public purpose but there is no justification for not paying compensation and the the action of the authority would be arbitrary, unreasonable and clearly violative of Article 300-A of the Constitution. The court further noticed that the appellants/writ petitioners are farmers and thus cannot be treated as the persons conversant with intricacies of law.
"Article 300A clearly mandates that no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law. In the present case, we do not find, under which authority of law, the land of the appellants was taken and they were deprived of the same. If the Panchayat and the PWD failed to produce any evidence that appellants have surrendered their lands voluntarily, depriving the appellants of the property would be in violation of Article 300-A of the Constitution.", the bench said.
Kalyani (D) vs Sulthan Bathery Municipality | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 410 | CA 3189 OF 2022 | 26 April 2022
Coram: Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Vikram Nath
P.S.Sudheer, Advocate appeared for the petitioner
Voluntary surrender - If the Panchayat/Municipality is taking a stand that a land was voluntarily surrendered, the burden would be on the Panchayat/Municipality to establish such voluntary surrender. (Para 12-13)
Constitution of India, 1950 ; Article 300A - Requirement of public purpose is a pre-condition and right to claim compensation is also inbuilt in Article 300-A. (Para 21)
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