SC:If purpose of land acquisition is defied, Govt can’t be forced to pursue it

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 26th August 2019, in the matter of M/S. Vinayak House Building Cooperative Society Ltd. v. The State Of Karnataka & Ors. pronounced that the State Government cannot be compelled to go ahead with land acquisition when the purpose of such acquisition could not be achieved.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

When possession under Section 16 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 is not taken, the government can withdraw from acquisition and the person interested would be entitled to compensation for the damage suffered in consequence of the acquisition proceedings and also to such costs of the proceedings as reasonably incurred by him. Section 48, however, will have no application when once the land has vested in the government under Section 16 of the L.A. Act.  (Para 25)

The State Government cannot be compelled to go ahead with the acquisition when the purpose of such acquisition could not be achieved. (Para 26)

A combined reading of sub­section (1) and sub­ section (2) of Section 48 of the L.A. Act makes it clear that the purpose of Section 48 was mainly to ensure that the State Government is not compelled to acquire the land when the acquisition ceases to be beneficial for the intended purpose. That is why, sub­section (2) of Section 48 provides for payment of compensation to the owner, whose land was notified for acquisition but not acquired for the reason that such an acquisition is against the public interest and public revenue.(Para 27)

When an application is made for de­notification of the land, the government has to consider the same with great care and caution. The government has to consider the application keeping in mind the subservience of public interest because the lands are being acquired for public purpose. The government should not exercise this power in an arbitrary and whimsical manner. The decision of withdrawal from acquisition should be bona fide and backed by valid reasons. (Para 28)

The government cannot withdraw land from acquisition without giving the beneficiary of acquisition an opportunity of being heard. (Para 28)

The government should refrain from de­notifying or dropping any land being acquired for the formation of a layout, under Section 48 of the L.A Act or under any other law. The courts should also be very strict while considering the plea of the landowners seeking de­notification of the lands which are being acquired or quashing of the notification on the ground of lapsing of the scheme or on any other grounds in respect of the acquired lands for the formation of the layout. It has to be kept in mind that private interest always stands subordinated to the public good. (Para 38)

Copy of judgment: Judgement_26-Aug-2019

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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