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The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that a state law even if it runs contrary to the provisions of the central law on a subject can't be invalidated on the ground of manifest arbitrariness and discrimination after receiving assent of the President.
The top court rejected a plea against the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001 for being repugnant to central law of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
"The Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001, is not liable to be invalidated on the ground that its provisions manifest discrimination or arbitrariness when compared with the provisions of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013," a bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sanjay Kumar said.
The court cited Article 254(2) of the Constitution, to point out that the very foundation and basis of it is, even if a particular state enactment runs contrary to the provisions of a central legislation on the same subject, it would stand protected after receiving the assent of the President of India.
"Therefore, it is a foregone conclusion that disparity and discrimination would be writ large between the two enactments and aspects relating to their implementation. In such a situation, the question of comparing the two legislations, for the purpose of making out a case under Article 14 of the Constitution, would not arise. Such an exercise would be akin to comparing chalk with cheese, i.e., two essentially unequal entities," the bench said.
"We are, therefore, not inclined to entertain the attack launched against the Highways Act on the strength of the so-called disparity and discrimination in the norms and procedures prescribed therein when compared with the new LA Act," the bench added.
The court further said that the Highways Act in the State of Tamil Nadu stood protected even at the time the old LA Act was in force and effect, owing to the Presidential assent that it had received under Article 254(2) of the Constitution.
The state law continued to operate and provide altogether different yardsticks for acquisition of land and payment of compensation till the advent of the new LA Act, the bench added.
"No doubt, the scheme of the new LA Act advocates timely measures being adopted in implementation of the acquisition and such general temporal restrictions would benefit the land owners, but the absence of such restrictions in the Highways Act may not be reason enough to invalidate it, as the very premise on which the Highways Acts was enacted by the State of Tamil Nadu was to cut down on time-consuming processes," the bench pointed out.
The bench also rejected a contention on possibility of the state government exercising arbitrary discretion in adopting one legislation or the other for the purpose of acquiring lands.
"Sections 3, 7 and 11 of the Validation Act of 2019 expressly exclude the operation of the new LA Act for the purposes contained in the State Acts which stood revived owing to the assent of the President of India. Therefore, the State of Tamil Nadu would be bound to apply only the Highways Act for acquiring lands for the purposes reserved thereunder," the bench said.
The court also noted during the pendency of the instant special leave petitions, the State of Tamil Nadu again attempted to revive the three State Acts by enacting ‘The Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Laws (Revival of Operation, Amendment and Validation) Act, 2019’, which received the assent of the President, under Article 254(2) of the Constitution, on December 02, 2019. The law came into effect retrospectively from September 26, 2013.
The Validation Act of 2019 was challenged before this court in a batch of writ petitions. By its judgement on June 29, 2021, 'G Mohan Rao and others Vs State of Tamil Nadu and others', this court held that the said enactment was a legitimate legislative exercise which was consistent with and fell within the four corners of Article 254 of the Constitution, the bench said.
Case Title: CS Gopalakrishnan Vs State of Tamil Nadu
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