SC upholds acquisition of land by DDA, DSIIDC, DMRC between 1957 and 2006 for public infra projects

New Delhi, May 25 (PTI) The Supreme Court has upheld the land acquisition done between 1957 and 2006 by the Delhi Development Authority, Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation, East Delhi Municipal Corporation and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation for public infrastructure projects.

The Delhi government had initiated the land acquisition process under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, for the planned development of the national capital. The beneficiaries of such acquisition processes were various state entities such as the DDA, DSIIDC and the DMRC, who needed land for different projects like housing schemes, industrial areas, flyovers and Delhi Metro.

“Accordingly, over a long span of 1957-2006, various notifications under Sections 4 and 6 of the 1894 Act were issued for acquiring these lands and awards were passed under Section 11 of the 1894 Act affixing compensation,” the top court noted.

After hearing arguments on a batch of hundreds of petitions, a bench of justices Surya Kant, Dipankar Datta and Ujjal Bhyan passed the verdict on May 17 setting aside a Delhi High Court order, which had declared the acquisition proceedings to have lapsed in terms of Section 24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.

“All such civil appeals are accordingly allowed, the impugned judgment of the high court in each case is set aside, and the acquisition of the respondents’ lands under the 1894 Act is consequently upheld,” the bench said in its 113-page verdict which was uploaded on Friday.

The bench accepted the arguments that public interest will be hampered if petitions filed by government authorities against the high court order are rejected on the ground of delay in filing.

“The analysis in the foregoing paragraphs prompts us to hold that while some of the arguments put forth by the government authorities for condonation of delay, like subsequent change of law, special leeway for government entities, or the court allegedly frowning upon filing of fresh SLPs; cannot be accepted, however, the appellants have made out sufficient cause for condonation of delay on the ground of public interest,” it said.

The top court said that most of the acquisitions here have reached finalisation as possession had been taken over or compensation stood paid.

“Additionally, development projects have also begun on many of such lands. In numerous cases, the land has been deployed for essential public projects such as hospitals, schools, expansion of the metro, etc. Hence, the effect of non-condonation of delay would go beyond mere financial loss to the exchequer, and instead extend to the public at large,” the bench said.

It added that moreover, there would also be a “significant unscrambling of the egg problem”, where compensation paid would have to be clawed back or possession taken would have to be reversed.

“Problematically, in many cases, the development projects might also have to be undone. In some instances–such as reversing the possession of one small plot lying on an under-construction metro corridor — it would be practically impossible,” the top court observed.

The bench said its verdict will not preclude the land owners from recovery of the compensation amount, if not already paid or to the extent it is not paid, along with interest and other statutory benefits under the 1894 Act.

“The Government of NCT of Delhi and its authorities are directed to take physical possession of the lands falling under this category (i.e., ‘List-E.2’), if not already taken and continue uninterruptedly to complete the public infrastructure projects,” the bench said.

List E-2 pertains to cases where compensation has been deposited in the treasury or in the reference court.

The top court noted that in some cases, the compensation amount was deposited in the treasury since the landowners did not come forward to receive the same. Similarly, possession could not be taken in some cases as the affected landowners had challenged the acquisition proceedings and had obtained an order of stay in their favour.

The bench, in cases where there were allegations of fraud against the landowners, directed the Delhi High Court to constitute a dedicated bench to decide these writ petitions.

It said that a detailed fact-finding inquiry is necessary in these cases to ascertain the rightful title-holder and the claimant of receiving the compensation. “After deciding the question of suppression of facts, the high court shall proceed to dispose of the cases on merits, in terms of our dictum in these batches of cases,” the bench said.

In cases where government entities not only failed to take possession of the acquired land but also did not pay any compensation, the bench observed that it would not subserve any public interest at large, given the unique situation at hand, if the government were to be required to fulfil all the conditions for a fresh acquisition under the 2013 Act.

Exercising its plenary powers under Article 142 of the Constitution for doing complete justice in these cases, the bench directed, “The time limit for initiation of fresh acquisition proceedings in terms of the provisions contained in section 24(2) of the 2013 Act is extended by a year starting from August, 1, 2024 whereupon compensation to the affected landowners may be paid in accordance with law, failing which consequences, also as per law, shall follow”.

Share this article
Shareable URL
Prev Post

HC seeks NTA stand on plea by NEET candidate who received torn OMR sheet

Next Post

New plant of Indian pharmaceutical company inaugurated in Bangladesh

Read next