Lapse of Acquisition Proceedings Cannot Be Pressed Where Ownership Not On Record At Time Of Acquisition And Passing Of Award: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court in its judgment dated May 1, 2023 held that one cannot take advantage of Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act which provides for lapse of acquisition proceedings for non-payment of compensation, where the ownership itself is not on record.

The Court further took cognizance of the fact that the amount of compensation had already been deposited with the Reference Court, post-acquisition, since the rightful owner of the land was not on record.

Reliance was placed on Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal and Others, (2020) 8 SCC 129 in this regard.

A Division Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Rajesh Bindal while allowing the appeal by the Delhi Development Authority, observed,

“it is evident that Respondent no.1 was admittedly not the recorded owner of the land at the time of acquisition thereof or pronouncement of Award by the Land Acquisition Collector. The amount of compensation was deposited with the Reference Court in term of Section 30/31 of the 1894 Act as the same could not be paid to Respondent no.1. Hence, one of the conditions being satisfied, in our view the order passed by the High Court cannot be legally sustained whereby the acquisition has been held to have lapsed in terms of Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act.”

Brief Facts

The subject matter of the present acquisition was a 100 square yards land situated in the Revenue Estate of Village Dichaun Kalan Delhi, which was purchased by Respondent no.1. The notification commencing acquisition under Section 4 was issued on 07.04.2006 followed by a notification under Section 6, specifiying the purpose of the acquisition.

In 2016, a Writ Petition was filed before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi invoking Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act claiming that neither the compensation has been paid to the Respondent nor the possession of the land had been taken by the acquiring authority, hence, the acquisition stood lapsed. The Land Acquisition Collector in its deposition before the Court, said that the possession was taken on 10.02.2012 and because respondent no. 1 was not the recorded owner of the land, the compensation was submitted with the Reference Court on 27.12.2013.

It was held by the High Court that one of the conditions laid down under Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act had not been complied with regarding payment of compensation to the respondent, hence, the acquisition lapsed.

The statutory mandate of Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act and the pronouncement in Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal and Others, (2020) 8 SCC 129.

As per Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act, where physical possession of the land has not been taken OR compensation has not been paid for any land as per Section 11 of the 1894 Act, for 5 years or more prior to the commencement of the 2013 Act, the entire proceedings shall be deemed to have lapsed with respect to such acquisition.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal and Others, (2020) 8 SCC 129, under Para 366.5 held,

“In case a person has been tendered the compensation as provided under Section 31(1) of the 1894 Act, it is not open to him to claim that acquisition has lapsed under Section 24(2) due to non-payment or non-deposit of compensation in Court. The obligation to pay is complete by tendering the amount under Section 31(1). The landowners who had refused to accept the compensation or who sought reference for higher compensation, cannot claim that the acquisition proceedings had lapsed under Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act.”

Further, Para 366.3 of the judgment interprets the applicability of “OR” observing that the deemed lapse occurs where due to inaction of authorities for five years or more prior to commencement of the 2013 Act, the possession of land has not been taken nor compensation has been paid – In other words, where possession is taken and compensation is not paid, there is no lapse, and, where compensation has been paid and possession is not taken, there shall be no lapse as well. Either of the one is a must to curtail lapse of acquisition proceedings.

Case Title: Delhi Development Authority v. Anita Singh & Ors., CIVIL APPEAL No. 2994 of 2023