New Delhi– The Supreme Court has upheld a verdict by J&K and Ladakh High Court in November last year regarding enhanced compensation to people of Dharmunah Budgam whose land has been acquired by the authorities for construction of the prestigious Semi Ring Road around Srinagar City.
“We are not inclined to interfere with the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court,” said a bench of Justices B.R. Gavai and Ahsanuddin Amanullah while dismissing a Special Leave Petition filed by the J&K government against the High Court’s verdict on 16 November 2022.
Residents of village Dharmunah, Budgam had filed a plea before high court against a communication of the Financial Commissioner, Revenue, bearing no. FC-LS/LA-4577/2017 dated 13.08.2020 whereby the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir has been conveyed the approval of the competent authority to the adoption of rates of compensation in respect of different villages in District Budgam for construction of Semi Ring Road around Srinagar City.
The petitioners had sought initiation of fresh land acquisition proceedings in respect of the land situated in Darmunah, Budgam, strictly as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013.
Disposing of the petition, the High Court had ordered that The provisions of Section 11-B of the J&K Land Acquisition Act 1990 shall not be applicable to the cases where the Government has invoked Section 17 and the Collector has scrupulously complied with the requirements of Section 17-A by tendering and making payment of 80 per centum of estimated compensation before taking possession, for, the land needed for public purpose would vests in the Government free from all encumbrances only when pursuant to invocation of Section 17, 80% of the estimated compensation is paid to the land losers and possession is taken over.
“We need to clarify that taking over the possession need not be taking over actual physical possession and it would suffice, if acquiring authority or indenting department formally takes over the possession evidenced by record and some activity thereon is undertaken,” the court had said, adding, “The possession of land losers even after payment and tendering of 80% of the estimated compensation and formal take over by the acquiring authority/indenting department shall be treated as trespassers.”
However, the applicability of Section 11-B of the 1990 Act, the court had said, shall not stand excluded by mere resort to Section 17 of the 1990 Act unless the procedure provided therein and prerequisites contained in Section 17-A were scrupulously complied with.
“In the instant case, we have found that Section 11-B of the 1990 Act is attracted in view of the failure of the Collector to strictly comply with the provisions of Section 17-A,” the court had said, adding, “We have found no evidence on record as to the assessment of estimated compensation and its tendering and payment to the persons interested and entitled thereto. Ordinarily, we could have declared the proceedings as having lapsed, however, being guided by the judgment of Supreme Court in Delhi Airtech Services Pvt. Ltd…., we also deem it appropriate to mould the relief and instead of holding the acquisition proceedings as having lapsed, we direct the respondents (authorities) that the final award dated 11th August, 2020 insofar as it pertains to the petitioners is set aside.”
Also it had held that the Collector Land Acquisition, Budgam shall pass fresh award qua the petitioners only and for that purpose shall construe 11th August, 2020 (date of final award) as the relevant date for determination of market value but shall apply the yardsticks for assessment of compensation provided under the 1990 Act in respect of acquired land of the petitioners only.
“The Collector shall calculate other statutory benefits on such amounts including interest to be calculated and determined by taking into consideration the date of taking over possession i.e. 15th May, 2018,” the court had said, adding, “The date on which fresh award is passed in favour of the petitioners pursuant to this judgment and intimated to the petitioners shall be the date of cause of action for seeking enhancement of compensation under the 1990 Act, if the petitioners or any of them is dissatisfied with the quantum of compensation offered.”
While making payment of compensation assessed in terms of its judgment, the court had said that the amount of compensation, if any, received by the petitioners shall be taken into account.
“That the compensation determined in favour of the petitioners pursuant to this judgment shall not give cause of action to any other land loser, whose land is acquired under the same notification to seek re-determination of the compensation,” the court had said.
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