NEW OKHLA INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY / NOIDA vs YUNUS

NEW OKHLA INDUSTRIAL DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY / NOIDA vs YUNUS - Supreme Court Case 2022

CA No. 901/2022 (@ SLP (C) No.9927/2020 etc.)
 REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.901 OF 2022
(Arising out of SLP (C) No. 9927 of 2020)
NEW OKHLA INDUSTRIAL
DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY (NOIDA) APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
YUNUS & ORS. RESPONDENT(S)
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO.905 OF 2022
(Arising out of SLP(C) No.9931 of 2020)
CIVIL APPEAL NO.904 OF 2022
(Arising out of SLP(C) No.9928 of 2020)
CIVIL APPEAL NO.903 OF 2022
(Arising out of SLP(C) No.9929 of 2020)
CIVIL APPEAL NO.906 OF 2022
(Arising out of SLP(C) No.9932 of 2020)
CIVIL APPEAL NO.902 OF 2022
(Arising out of SLP(C) No.9930 of 2020)
J U D G M E N T
K. M. JOSEPH, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. In these batch of cases, the question which arises is
whether the Award passed by a Lok Adalat under Section 20 of
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the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 (hereinafter
referred to as the ‘1987 Act’) can form the basis for
redetermination of compensation as contemplated under
Section 28A of the the Land Acquisition Act, 1894
(hereinafter referred to as ‘Act’). By the impugned
judgment, the High Court has taken the view that the Award
passed by the Lok Adalat can indeed form the foundation for
exercising power under Section 28A of the Act.
3. A notification came to be issued under Section 4(1) of
the Act on 21.03.1983 in respect of villages situated in
Tehsil Dadri (Situation in District Ghaziabad) for planned
industrial development contemplated by the Appellant. By the
Award of the Land Acquisition Officer, which was passed on
28.11.1984, compensation was fixed for the lands belonging
to the respondents herein inter alia at the rate of
Rs.24,033 per bigha. The respondents did not seek
enhancement under Section 18 of the Act. One Fateh Mohammed
filed an application seeking reference against the Award
dated 28.11.1984. The said reference was made over to a Lok
Adalat. The reference is seen numbered as No. 6/02. The Lok
Adalat passed an Award on 12.03.2016. We may set out the
terms of the said award:
“Today, the matter has been placed before the
Lok Adalat. Claimant Fateh Mohammed s/o Ummed Khan
with his learned Counsel Sri Jitendra Mathur and on
behalf of respondents the learned D.G.C. Civil are
present in the court. The case file of this L.A.R.
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case has already been clubbed/consolidated with the
files of other L.A.R. Cases, namely, L.A.R. No. 07 of
2002 Jawal Hussain Vs. State of U.P. and Ors; L.A.R.
No. 08 of 2022 Salimuddin Vs. State of U.P. and Ors.
and L.A.R. No. 9 of 2002 Mohakkam Singh Vs. State of
U.P. and Ors., was passed by the concerned Court on
268.2010 and the file of LAR No. 6/2002 had been made
as Leading Case. In course of hearing, both the
parties have collectively filed application for
placing all the clubbed LARs before the Lok Adalat
vide application paper no. 59Ga2 with
Settlement/Compromise Agreement and photocopy of the
order of Hon’ble High Court. Besides this, the
learned District Government Counsel Civil appearing
on behalf of the respondents has filed photocopy of
letters (Paper no. 61Ga2 and 62Ga2) of concerned
party State Government and Noida Development
Authority whereby the learned District Government
Counsel Civil has been authorized to enter into the
compromise/settlement in the matter on behalf of the
Authority and State Government.
Heard and perused the case file. It is
evident from available record that the present
Reference has been filed against the Award dated
28.11.1984 and the Hon’ble High Court, while
clubbing/consolidating all the appeals together, has
disposed them off thereby directing the concerned
Authorities to determine the compensation at the rate
of Rs.297.50 per sq.yard. On the basis of the said
order, both parties have voluntarily executed, signed
and verified the Settlement/Compromise Agreement
Paper No. 60Ka1 and submitted the same before the
court.
In such a situation, it is just and proper to
decide the case by passing the following order on the
basis of the settlement/compromise agreement Paper
no. 60Ka1 which shall form part of the decree: -
ORDER
Instant Reference No. 6/2002 is hereby decided
on the basis of Settlement/Compromise Agreement Paper
No. 60Ka1 filed by the parties. The
Settlement/Compromise Agreement shall form part of
the Decree and in the circumstances of the case, each
party to bear their own costs. One copy each of this
judgment shall be kept in the file of LAR No. 7/2002,
LAR No. 8/2002 and LAR No. 9/2002.
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4. As is evident, compensation was fixed at Rs.297 per
square yard as against Rs.20 per square yard which was fixed
by the Land Acquisition Officer by his Award dated
28.11.1984. This led to the respondents filing applications
before Additional District Magistrate seeking shelter under
Section 28A of the Act. The Additional District Magistrate
rejected the applications on the basis that the Award dated
12.03.2016 passed by the Lok Adalat was on the basis of the
compromise. This led to the writ petitions being filed by
the respondents before the High Court. It is in the said
writ petitions that the impugned judgments have been passed
by the High Court finding that the Award of the Lok Adalat
would be deemed to be decree of the Civil Court and,
consequently, the respondents would be entitled to invoke
Section 28A of the Act.
5. We have heard Shri Anil Kaushik, learned counsel for the
appellant. We have also heard Shri Dhruv Mehta and Shri V.
K. Shukla, learned senior counsel on behalf of the
respondents.
6. Learned counsel for the appellant would point out that
Section 28A is not available to be applied when there is no
determination by the Court in terms of the Act. He referred
us to the definition of the word ‘Court’ in the Act to
contend that what Section 28A contemplates is an Award
passed by such a Court. Lok Adalats, it is his contention
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are constituted under Section 19 of the 1987 Act. They have
no adjudicatory or judicial function. The object of the 1987
Act is inter alia to bring about settlement of dispute. The
function of the Lok Adalat under Section 19 is essentially
to bring about a compromise. An award of the Lok Adalat, in
other words, merely sets out a compromise reached between
the parties. Therefore, it cannot be treated as an Award by
a Court under the Act. He further contended that the deeming
fiction in Section 21 of the 1987 Act must be confined to
the purpose for which the fiction was created. In other
words, the deeming provision must be appreciated as a
legislative device to clothe the Award with enforceability
as if it were a decree. On its own terms, in other words, an
Award passed by the Lok Adalat is not a decree as
contemplated in Section 28A of the Act. He relied on
judgments in State of Punjab and Another. v. Jalour Singh
and Others1, Government of India v. Vedanta Limited and
Others2 and Attar Singh and Another v. Union of India and
Anr.3 in support of his arguments.
7. He further pointed out that there is a divergence of
judicial opinion on this subject among the High Courts. He
commended for our acceptance the view taken by the High
Court of Bombay in the decision reported in Umadevi Rajkumar
1 (2008) 2 SCC 660
2 (2020) 10 SCC 1
3 (2009) 9 SCC 289
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Jeure and Others v. District Collector and Others4. He would
submit that view taken by the High Courts which have held
contrary do not represent the correct position in law.
8. He has further a case on merits. He points out that the
High Court in the First Appeal No. 1100/04 titled as Mangu
and others v. State of U.P., awarded compensation at the
rate of Rs.297 per square yard. However, it is his
contention that while the case of Mangu arose out of the
notification of the year 1991, cases arising out of the
earlier notification issued under Section 4 came to be
tagged and heard as a common batch. He points out that the
review petition is already filed by the appellant. He
further contends that in the year 1982, the compensation was
fixed at Rs.20 per square yard. This computation of
compensation was upheld by the High Court and what is more,
this view of the High Court was further approved by this
Court by dismissal of the special leave petition filed
against the same. However, on the basis of the facts which
were not properly appreciated the Award came to be passed by
the Lok Adalat.
9. Per contra, the learned senior counsel for the
respondents would point out, in the first place, that a
perusal of the Award by Lok Adalat would show that it would
be wholly unfair on the part of the appellant to wriggle out
4 2021 SCC OnLine Bom 917
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of a rate which, in fact, was based on a decision of the
High Court (apparently the decision in Mangu and Others).
It is further pointed out by Shri Dhruv Mehta, learned
senior counsel, that full effect must be given to the legal
fiction. The oft quoted admonition that the Courts must not
allow their imagination to be boggled by the prospect of
stretching a legal fiction to its logical culmination was
invoked. In other words, it is the contention of Shri Dhruv
Mehta that given the fact that an Award passed by the Lok
Adalat is to be treated as a decree, it matters little that
what led to the Award is not analogous to the procedure that
is ordinarily contemplated in a reference under Section 18
of the Act. The fiction must have full play. Thus, being a
decree of a Civil Court, the Award of the Lok Adalat would
provide firm foundation for similarly circumstanced persons
to claim benefit of Section 28A. In this regard, he would
point out that the Court must not be oblivious to the grand
command of equality to achieve which sublime goal it is that
the legislature introduced Section 28A in the first place.
In other words, having regard to the above object of making
available just compensation to those persons, who, by their
ignorance, which for the large part, is fostered by
illiteracy, poverty, and backwardness, do not follow up with
the remedies open to them under the Act, are given a window
of opportunity on the basis of an Award passed enhancing the
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compensation at the instance of similarly circumstanced
persons. He points out there is no dispute that the
respondents are persons whose lands have been acquired under
the same notification as was of Fateh Mohammed. He would
further highlight that Section 21 provides that said Award
of a Lok Adalat is inter alia to be treated ‘as the case may
be’ as an order of any other Court. The argument appears to
be that Section 21 is wide enough to embrace within its
scope the Award of a Lok Adalat as an order of the Court
under Section 18 of the Act. In other words, the award of
the Lok Adalat would become an order of the Court enhancing
the compensation awarded by the Land Acquisition Officer.
He would finally contend, at any rate, that should this
Court be inclined to hold against the respondents, while
this Court may declare the law, it may still not exercise
the discretionary jurisdiction in favour of the appellant
under Article 136 of the constitution. In this regard, he
drew support from the decision of this Court reported in
Tahera Khatoon (D) by LRs. v. Salambin Mohammad5.
10. Shri V.K. Shukla, learned senior counsel essentially
advanced similar submissions. He would, in particular,
highlight the facts which led to the passing of the Award by
the Lok Adalat, namely that, it was accepted by the
appellant that compensation can be fixed at Rs. 297 per
5 (1999) 2 SCC 635
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square yard on the basis of the judgment of the High Court
which prevailed. This fact, he points out, may not be
overlooked by this Court. He would also submit that the
Award passed by the Lok Adalat would satisfy the requirement
of an application under Section 28A of the Act. He further
drew upon the powers of the Lok Adalat.
ANALYSIS
11. We may advert to the scheme of the 1987 Act, Section
2(a) defines ‘case’:
(a) 'Case' includes a suit or any proceeding before a
court.
Section 2(aaa) defines ‘Court’:
(aaa) 'Court' means a civil, criminal or revenue court
and includes any tribunal or any other authority
constituted under any law for the time being in force
to exercise judicial or quasi-judicial functions.
Section 2(d) defines Lok Adalat as meaning a Lok
Adalat organized under Chapter VI.
12. Chapter VI contains Sections 19 to 22. Section 19(1)
contemplates Lok Adalats being organised at such intervals
and places and for exercising such jurisdiction and for such
areas as is thought fit by the relevant bodies mentioned
therein. Section 19(2) is significant as it provides for the
composition of the Lok Adalat. It reads as follows:
(2) Every Lok Adalat organised for an area shall
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consist of such number of :-
(a) Serving or retired judicial officers and
(b) Other persons, of the area as may be specified by
the State Authority or the District Authority or the
Supreme Court Legal Services Committee or the High
Court Legal Services Committee, or as the case may be,
the Taluk Legal Services Committee, organising such
Lok Adalats.
Sub-section (3) goes on to deal with the experience
and qualification of the persons mentioned in clause (b).
Sub-section (5) is again relevant as it indicates the
jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat:
(5) A Lok Adalat shall have jurisdiction to determine
and to arrive at a compromise or settlement between the
parties to a dispute in respect of:-
(i) Any case pending before or
(ii) Any matter which is falling within the
jurisdiction of, and is not brought before, any court
for which the Lok Adalat is organized.
Provided that the Lok Adalat shall have no jurisdiction
in respect of any case or matter relating to an offence
not compoundable under any law.
13. Section 20 must be read with Section 19(5) and
Section 21. Section 20 reads as follows:
Section 20. Cognizance of Cases by Lok Adalats
(1) Where in any case referred to in clause (i) of
sub-section (5) of Section 19-(i)
(i) (a) The parties thereof agree or
(i) (b) One of the parties thereof makes an
application to the court, for referring the case to
the Lok Adalat for settlement and if such court is
prima facie satisfied that there are chances of such
settlement or
(ii) The court is satisfied that the matter is an
appropriate one to be taken cognizance of by the Lok
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Adalat, the court shall refer the case to the Lok
Adalat: Provided that no case shall be referred to the
Lok Adalat under sub-clause (b) of clause (i) or
clause (ii) by such court except after giving a
reasonable opportunity of being heard to the parties.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in any other
law for the time being in force, the Authority or
Committee organising the Lok Adalat under sub-section
(1) of Section 19 may, on receipt of an application
from any, one of the parties to any matter referred to
in clause (ii) of sub-section (5) of Section 19 that
such matter needs to be determined by a Lok Adalat,
refer such matter to the Lok Adalat, for
determination; Provided that no matter shall be
referred to the Lok Adalat except after giving a
reasonable opportunity of being heard to the other
party.
(3) Where any case is referred to a Lok Adalat under
sub-section (1) or where a reference has been made to
it under sub-section (2), the Lok Adalat shall proceed
to dispose of the case or matter and arrive at a
compromise or settlement between the parties.
(4) Every Lok Adalat shall, while determining any
reference before it under this Act, act with utmost
expedition to arrive at a compromise or settlement
between the parties and shall be guided by the
principles of justice, equity, fair play and other
legal principles.
(5) Where no award is made by the Lok Adalat on the
ground that no compromise or settlement could be
arrived at between the parties, the record of the case
shall be returned by it to the court, from which the
reference has been received under sub-section (1) for
disposal in accordance with law.
(6) Where no award is made by the Lok Adalat on the
ground that no compromise or settlement could be
arrived at between the parties, in a matter referred
to in sub-section (2), that Lok Adalat shall advice
the parties to seek remedy in a court.
(7) Where the record of the case is returned under
sub-section (5) to the court, such court shall proceed
to deal such reference under sub-section (1).”
14. Section 21 provides for the final decision by the Lok
Adalat and it reads as follows:
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Section 21. Award of Lok Adalat
(1) Every award of the Lok Adalat shall be deemed to
be a decree of a civil court or, as the case may be,
an order of any other court and where a compromise or
settlement has been arrived at, by a Lok Adalat in a
case referred to under sub-section (1) of Section 20,
the court-fee paid in such case shall be refunded in
the manner provided under the Court Fees Act, 1870 (7
of 1870).
(2) Every award made by a Lok Adalat shall be final
and binding on all the parties to the dispute, and no
appeal shall lie to any court against the award.
15. Shri V. S. Shukla also pointed out Section 22 of the
1987 Act under which the Lok Adalats have the power vested
in the Civil Court as are mentioned therein.
 Section 22:
Section 22. Powers of Lok Adalat or Permanent Lok
Adalat
(1) The Lok Adalat shall, for the purposes of holding
any determination under this Act, have the same powers
as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil
Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908), while trying a suit in
respect of the following matters, namely: -
(a) The summoning and enforcing the attendance of any
witness and examining him on oath.
(b) The discovery and production of any document.
(c) The reception of evidence on affidavits.
(d) The requisitioning of any public record or document
or copy of such record or document from any court or
office and
(e) Such other matters as may be prescribed.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the powers
contained in sub-section (1), every Lok Adalat shall
have the requisite powers to specify its own procedure
for the determination of any dispute coming before it.
(3) All proceedings before a Lok Adalat shall be deemed
to be judicial proceedings within the meaning of
Sections 193, 219 and 228 of the Indian Penal Code (45
of 1860) and every Lok Adalat shall be deemed to be a
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civil court for the purpose of Section 195 and Chapter
XXVI of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973(2 of
1974).”
16. It will be interesting to note that Chapter VI(A) came
to be inserted by the Act 37 of 2002 with effect from
11.06.2002. Thereunder, permanent Lok Adalats have been
contemplated in respect of certain public utility services.
Suffice is only to note that unlike a Lok Adalat, Section
22C sub-section (8) contemplates that when the parties fail
to reach an agreement, the permanent Lok Adalat is duty
bound, if the dispute does not relate to any offence, to
decide the dispute.
SCHEME OF THE ACT
17. The Act provides for acquisition of land and for
compensation to be provided thereunder.
The proceedings are commenced by a notification under
Section 4. Compensation is determined with reference to the
date of the said notification. After the procedures are
undergone, an Award is passed. While Section 18 provides for
a right with a person dissatisfied with the amount inter
alia awarded by the Land Acquisition Officer to seek
enhancement, Section 28A contemplates situations where a
person has not availed of the right under Section 18 but any
other person has utilized the provisions of Section 18 and
obtained an enhancement. Other conditions obtaining in
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Section 28A being present, a person who has not filed
application under Section 18 inter alia is entitled to claim
redetermination of the compensation. Section 28A may be
noticed:
28A. Re-determination of the amount of compensation on
the basis of the award of the Court.-(1) where in an
award under this part, the court allows to the
applicant any amount of compensation in excess of the
amount awarded by the collector under section 11, the
persons interested in all the other land covered by
the same notification under section 4, sub-section (1)
and who are also aggrieved by the award of the
Collector may, notwithstanding that they had not made
an application to the Collector under section 18, by
written application to the Collector within three
months from the date of the award of the Court require
that the amount of compensation payable to them may be
re-determined on the basis of the amount of
compensation awarded by the court:
Provided that in computing the period of three
months within which an application to the Collector
shall be made under this sub-section, the day on which
the award was pronounced and the time requisite for
obtaining a copy of the award shall be excluded.
(2) The Collector shall, on receipt of an application
under sub-section (1), conduct an inquiry after giving
notice to all the persons interested and giving them a
reasonable opportunity of being heard, and make an
award determining the amount of compensation payable
to the applicants.
(3) Any person who has not accepted the award under
sub-section (2) may, by written application to the
Collector, required that the matter be referred by the
Collector for the determination of the Court and the
provisions of sections 18 to 28 shall, so far as may
be, apply to such reference as they apply to a
reference under Section 18.
‘Court’ as defined under the Act reads as follows:
(d) the expression “Court” means a principal Civil
Court of original jurisdiction unless, the appropriate
Government has appointed (as it is hereby empowered to
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do) a special judicial officer within any specified
local limits to perform functions of the Court under
this Act;
DIVERGENCE IN THE VIEWS OF THE HIGH COURTS
18. In Vasudave v. The Commissioner and Secretary
Government, Revenue Department & Ors.6, learned Single Judge
of the Karnataka High Court took the view that was guided by
Section 89 of the Code of Civil Procedure and the fact that
the award of the Lok Adalat is to be deemed to be a decree
of the Civil Court. Learned Single Judge also considered the
intention of introducing Section 28A and took the view that
the provision is in consonance with the equality clause.
The Court took the view that the Award passed by the Lok
Adalat by consent fell under Section 28A.
19. However, another Learned Single Judge of the very same
Court in the decision reported in Chanabasappa & Anr. v.
Special Land Acquisition Officer7 took the view that to apply
Section 28A(3) of the Act, there must be an Award under
Section 28A(2). He further took the view that the existence
of an Award passed by a Court under Part III of the Act was
a condition precedent to apply under Section 28A. The award
passed by the Lok Adalat was found to be by consent. In the
decision reported in Namdev v. State of Maharashtra8 2014 SC
Online Bombay 4091, a Division Bench of the Bombay High
6 ILR 2007 KAR 4533
7 ILR 2011 KAR 4276
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 (2014) SCC OnLine Bom 4091
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Court on 03.11.2014 only notes that the Award passed by the
Lok Adalat has a force of decree and an application under
Section 28A can be founded on such an Award. It is further
stated that this view has been confirmed by the High Court
in number of matters.
20. A learned Single Judge of the Kerala High Court in the
decision reported in Thankamma Mathew v. State of Kerala and
Anr9. did consider the provisions of the 1987 Act in greater
detail. The learned Single Judge was guided by the scope and
effect of the deeming provision under Section 21 of the 1987
Act. He referred to the judgment of this Court reported in
K.N. Govindan Kutty Menon v. C. D. Shaji10.
21. Primarily based on the award being a deemed decree of a
Civil Court, he found that Section 28A applies in all cases
where in an Award, the Court allows to the applicant any
compensation in excess of what is awarded by the collector
and that there is no difference between a decree passed by
the Civil Court and the Award of the Lok Adalat in view of
the pronouncement of this Court. In a recent decision,
however, in Umadevi Rajkumar Jeure and others v. District
Collector and others11, a Division Bench of the Bombay High
Court has had an occasion to consider the matter in great
detail. In the said case there was an award made by a Lok
9 (2017) 2 KLT 1023
10 (2012) 2 SCC 51
11 (2021) 4 AIR Bom R 626
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Adalat in a reference under Section 18 of the Act. Based on
the said award the application was filed under Section 28A.
The Division Bench referred to both the Acts in considerable
detail. The Court found that the object of the Lok Adalats
was to arrive at a settlement and that it had no
adjudicatory or judicial functions. We find it apposite to
refer to the following observations:
“15. All this indicates that determination of a
dispute by a Lok Adalat has consequences
exclusively for the parties to the dispute. The
referring court or the court for which such Lok
Adalat is organised does not come into the picture
so far as such determination is concerned. In fact,
in the case of a reference under clause (ii) of
Section 19(5) of the LSA Act, it is the authority
or committee organising the Lok Adalat, which
itself refers the case or matter to the Lok Adalat.
The court, for which such Lok Adalat is organised,
is not concerned even at the stage of the
reference. The award made by the Lok Adalat does
not have to go back to that court to enable it to
make it a part of its decree. The award itself is
final and binding (and not appealable) as between
the parties. It is deemed to be a decree of a civil
court and executable as such. There is nothing in
this scheme of things for treating an award passed
by a Lok Adalat as a deemed decree of that court
which made the reference to the Lok Adalat or for
which the Lok Adalat was organised. In the context
of the LA Act, and particularly for the purposes of
Section 28A, the fiction of “decree of a civil
court” will not only have to be to be extended to a
decree of the court referring the matter to Lok
Adalat or for which such Lok Adalat is organised,
but such court having passed it under Part III of
the LA Act, so as to have consequences for third
parties. There is nothing to suggest that if the
award is in a compensation dispute in a land
acquisition matter, any third party should thereby
be entitled to apply for re-determination of its
compensation under Section 28A of the LA Act. As a
matter of principle, it is not possible to say that
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that eventuality (i.e. entitlement of a third party
to apply for re-determination of its own
compensation after passing of the award by the Lok
Adalat) inevitably follows as a corollary or
consequence from such award.
xxx xxx xxx
20. If this consequence, namely, the award of Lok
Adalat having to be treated as an award of the
reference court under Part III, does not follow as
an inevitable sequitur, to come to such consequence
the legal fiction contained in Section 21 of the
LSA Act will have to be actually extended to import
two other fictions, namely, that the award of Lok
Adalat should be deemed (i) “a decree of the court
which has referred the matter to the Lok Adalat”,
and (ii) “a decree passed under Part III of the
Land Acquistion Act, 1894”. That, we are afraid, is
impermissible under the law stated by the Supreme
Court in Sadan K. Bormal's case (supra). It would
be an artificial extension of the legal fiction and
not a necessary corollary of the original statutory
fiction; it would be extending the original fiction
beyond its statutory purpose.”
22. The Court distinguished the judgment of the Andhra
Pradesh High Court in Singirkonda Surekha v. G. V. Sharma
and Others12 by taking the view that it was distinguishable
on the basis that, in the said case, the Reference Court had
passed an Award based on a compromise arrived at between the
parties before the Lok Adalat and it was, therefore, a case
of an Award made by the Reference Court under Part III of
the Act.
23. It is only, therefore, appropriate to notice the
decision of the Andhra Pradesh High Court reported in
Singirkonda Surekha (supra). In the said case, we notice
12 2003 SCC Online AP 21
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that there was a reference under Section 18 of the Act. The
Sub-Court, Gudur, enhanced the market value by its judgment
dated 31.07.1995 and fixed the market value at the rate of
Rs.60,000 per acre of that land inter alia excluding all the
statutory benefits. A Lok Adalat was held at Sriharikota
wherein the market value fixed at above rates was
recommended but denying statutory benefits. It is further
stated that decree was passed enhancing the rates as
recommended by the Lok Adalat on 31.07.1995. It is thereupon
that the applications were filed by the petitioner therein
under Section 28A. The Court referred to Section 19(5), 21
and 22 of the 1987 Act inter alia and found the respondents
could not defeat the legal right of the petitioner to claim
the benefit of Section 28A by resorting to the method of
arriving at a settlement or compromise before the Lok Adalat
on the strength of which the decree was passed. It was
further found that the mere fact that the Court had made
such an Award only on the strength of a compromise would not
alter the situation in any way.
24. In Thomas Job v. Thomas13, a learned Single Judge of the
Kerala High Court took the view that by no stretch of
imagination, it could be held that an Award passed by the
Lok Adalat despite the legal fiction created in Section 21
could be treated as a compromise decree passed by a Civil
13 2003 (3) KLT 936
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Court. It is further found that a Lok Adalat is not a Court;
the Lok Adalat only certifies an agreement. It is further
found that the Civil Court cannot vary the terms of the
Award or extend the time agreed to between the parties to an
Award.
25. Having set out the provisions and referred to the
judgments, we may consider the respective arguments that are
raised before the Court.
FINDINGS
26. The object of the 1987 Act inter alia as can be noticed
from the preamble to the Act, also is the organisation of
Lok Adalats. It is clear beyond the shadow of any doubt that
the jurisdiction of the Lok Adalat under Section 20 is to
facilitate a settlement of disputes between the parties in a
case. It has no adjudicatory role. It cannot decide a lis.
All that it can do is to bring about a genuine compromise or
settlement. Sub-Section (4) of Section 20 is important
insofar as the law giver has set out the guiding principles
for a Lok Adalat. The principles are justice, equality, fair
play and other legal principles. The significance of this
provision looms large when the Court bears in mind the
scheme of Section 28A of the Act.
27. The scheme of Section 28A of the Act is unmistakably
clear from its very opening words. What section 28A
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contemplates is a redetermination of compensation under an
award passed under Part III. Part III takes in Section 23.
Section 23 deals with the matters to be taken into
consideration. Various aspects including the market value on
the date of the notification under Section 4(1) are
indicated. What we wish to emphasise is that elements of
Section 23 are not in consonance as such with the guiding
principles set out in Section 19(4) of the ‘1987 Act’ which
are to guide a Lok Adalat. When the Court deals with the
matter under Section 18, in other words, it is bound to look
into the evidence and arrive at findings based on the
evidence applying the legal principles which have been
enunciated and arrive at the compensation. While it may be
true that there is reference to ‘other legal principles’ in
Section 19(4) of the 1987 Act, the Lok Adalat also can seek
light from the principles of justice, equity, and fair play.
The Lok Adalat by virtue of the express provisions is only a
facilitator of settlement and compromise in regard to
matters which are referred to it. It has no adjudicatory
role (See State of Punjab & Anr. v. Jalour Singh & Ors
(supra)). In Union of India v. Ananto (Dead) & Anr.14, this
Court inter alia held as follows:
“7. The specific language used in sub-section (3) of
Section 20 makes it clear that the Lok Adalat can
dispose of a matter by way of a compromise or
settlement between the parties. Two crucial terms in
14 (2007) 10 SC 748
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sub-sections (3) and(5) of Section 20 are "compromise"
and "settlement". The former expression means
settlement of differences by mutual concessions. It is
an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or
opposing claims by reciprocal modification of demands.
As per Termes de la Ley, "compromise is a mutual
promise of two or more parties that are at
controversy". As per Bouvier it is "an agreement
between two or more persons, who, to avoid a law
suit,amicably settle their differences, on such terms
as they can agree upon".The word "compromise" implies
some element of accommodation on each side. It is not
apt to describe total surrender. [See Re NFU
Development Trust Ltd. [1973] 1 All ER 135(Ch.D)]. A
compromise is always bilateral and means mutual
adjustment. "Settlement" is termination of legal
proceedings by mutual consent. The case at hand did
not involve compromise or settlement and could not
have been disposed of by Lok Adalat. If no compromise
or settlement is or could be arrived at, no order can
be passed by the Lok Adalat. Therefore, question of
merger of Lok Adalats order does not arise.”
28. An argument was raised by Shri Dhruv Mehta, learned
senior counsel for the respondents, that the Lok Adalat
insofar as it manifests the stand of the appellant and it
being consensual based on the consent of the NOIDA, NOIDA is
estopped. In this regard, he drew our attention to the
judgment of this Court in P.T. Thomas v. Thomas Job15.
29. We see no merit in this argument. What has been laid
down by this Court may be noticed in this regard in the
aforesaid judgment:
“In Sailendra Narayan Bhanja Deo vs. The State
of Orissa, AIR 1956 SUPREME COURT 346, (CONSTITUTION
BENCH) held as follows:
A Judgment by consent or default is as effective an
estoppel between the parties as a judgment whereby the
15 AIR 2005 SC 3575
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court exercises its mind on a contested case. (1895) 1
Ch.37 & 1929 AC 482, Rel. on;
In - ’In re South American and Mexican Co., Ex.
Parte Bank of England’, (1895) 1 Ch 37(C), it has been
held that a judgment by consent or default is as
effective an estoppel between the parties as a
judgment whereby the Court exercises its mind on a
contested case. Upholding the judgment of Vaughan
Williams,J Lord Herschell said at page 50 :-
"The truth is, a judgment by consent is intended to
put a stop to litigation between the parties just as
much as is a judgment which results from the decision
of the Court after the matter has been fought out to
the end.
And I think it would be very mischievous if one were
not to give a fair and reasonable interpretation to
such judgments, and were to allow questions that were
really involved in the action to be fought over again
in a subsequent action."
To the like effect are the following observations of
the Judicial Committee in - ’Kinch v. Walvott’, 1929
AC 482 at p.493 (D):-
"First of all, their Lordships are clear that in
relation to this plea of estoppel it is of no
advantage to the appellant that the order in the libel
action which is said to raise it was a consent order.
For such a purpose an order by consent, not discharged
by mutual agreement, and remaining unreduced, is as
effective as an order of the Court made otherwise than
by consent and not discharged on appeal.”
What this Court has laid down is that when there is a
consent decree, the parties to the consent decree would be
estopped by its terms from resiling from its impact. There
can be no quarrel with the said proposition. It is, however,
a far cry therefrom to hold that the fact that parties to
such a consent decree would be estopped as against each
other, can yet form the premise for a redetermination of the
compensation qua persons who are not parties to an award
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which is the offspring of a compromise between the parties.
In other words, when Section 28A provides for what
undoubtedly is a benefit to those who have not availed of
their right under Section 18 of the Act, a beneficial view
can be taken, the Court cannot shut its eyes to the command
of the law giver.
30. It is the province and duty of the Court in the ultimate
analysis to give effect to the will of the legislature. The
golden rule of interpretation of statutes along with other
principles came to be discussed, as it may be indeed set out
by the Constitution Bench of this Court reported in Union of
India and Another v. Hansoli Devi and Others16 and which also
arose under Section 28A of the Act. One of the questions
which pointedly arose was whether the dismissal of an
application filed beyond time under Section 18 of the Act
would entitle a person to invoke Section 28A:
“9. Before we embark upon an inquiry as to what would
be the correct interpretation of Section 28-A, we think
it appropriate to bear in mind certain basic principles
of interpretation of a statute. The rule stated by
Tindal, C.J. in Sussex Peerage case [(1844) 11 Cl & Fin
85 : 8 ER 1034] still holds the field. The aforesaid
rule is to the effect: (ER p. 1057)
“If the words of the statute are in themselves precise
and unambiguous, then no more can be necessary than to
expound those words in their natural and ordinary
sense. The words themselves alone do, in such case,
best declare the intention of the lawgiver.”
It is a cardinal principle of construction of a
statute that when the language of the statute is plain
and unambiguous, then the court must give effect to
16 (2002) 7 SCC 273
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the words used in the statute and it would not be open
to the courts to adopt a hypothetical construction on
the ground that such construction is more consistent
with the alleged object and policy of the Act. In
Kirkness v. John Hudson & Co. Ltd. [(1955) 2 All ER
345 : 1955 AC 696 : (1955) 2 WLR 1135] Lord Reid
pointed out as to what is the meaning of “ambiguous”
and held that : (All ER p. 366 C-D)
“A provision is not ambiguous merely because it
contains a word which in different contexts is capable
of different meanings. It would be hard to find
anywhere a sentence of any length which does not
contain such a word. A provision is, in my judgment,
ambiguous only if it contains a word or phrase which
in that particular context is capable of having more
than one meaning.”
It is no doubt true that if on going through the plain
meaning of the language of statutes, it leads to
anomalies, injustices and absurdities, then the court
may look into the purpose for which the statute has
been brought and would try to give a meaning, which
would adhere to the purpose of the statute. Patanjali
Sastri, C.J. in the case of Aswini Kumar Ghose v.
Arabinda Bose [AIR 1952 SC 369 : 1953 SCR 1] had held
that it is not a sound principle of construction to
brush aside words in a statute as being inapposite
surplusage, if they can have appropriate application
in circumstances conceivably within the contemplation
of the statute. In Quebec Railway, Light Heat & Power
Co. Ltd. v. Vandry [AIR 1920 PC 181] it had been
observed that the legislature is deemed not to waste
its words or to say anything in vain and a
construction which attributes redundancy to the
legislature will not be accepted except for compelling
reasons. Similarly, it is not permissible to add words
to a statute which are not there unless on a literal
construction being given a part of the statute becomes
meaningless. But before any words are read to repair
an omission in the Act, it should be possible to state
with certainty that these words would have been
inserted by the draftsman and approved by the
legislature had their attention been drawn to the
omission before the Bill had passed into a law. At
times, the intention of the legislature is found to be
clear but the unskilfulness of the draftsman in
introducing certain words in the statute results in
apparent ineffectiveness of the language and in such a
situation, it may be permissible for the court to
reject the surplus words, so as to make the statute
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effective. Bearing in mind the aforesaid principle,
let us now examine the provisions of Section 28-A of
the Act, to answer the questions referred to us by the
Bench of two learned Judges. It is no doubt true that
the object of Section 28-A of the Act was to confer a
right of making a reference, (sic on one) who might
have not made a reference earlier under Section 18
and, therefore, ordinarily when a person makes a
reference under Section 18 but that was dismissed on
the ground of delay, he would not get the right of
Section 28-A of the Land Acquisition Act when some
other person makes a reference and the reference is
answered. But Parliament having enacted Section 28-A,
as a beneficial provision, it would cause great
injustice if a literal interpretation is given to the
expression “had not made an application to the
Collector under Section 18” in Section 28-A of the
Act. The aforesaid expression would mean that if the
landowner has made an application for reference under
Section 18 and that reference is entertained and
answered. In other words, it may not be permissible
for a landowner to make a reference and get it
answered and then subsequently make another
application when some other person gets the reference
answered and obtains a higher amount. In fact in
Pradeep Kumari case [(1995) 2 SCC 736] the three
learned Judges, while enumerating the conditions to be
satisfied, whereafter an application under Section 28-
A can be moved, had categorically stated (SCC p. 743,
para 10) “the person moving the application did not
make an application to the Collector under Section
18”. The expression “did not make an application”, as
observed by this Court, would mean, did not make an
effective application which had been entertained by
making the reference and the reference was answered.
When an application under Section 18 is not
entertained on the ground of limitation, the same not
fructifying into any reference, then that would not
tantamount to an effective application and
consequently the rights of such applicant emanating
from some other reference being answered to move an
application under Section 28-A cannot be denied. We,
accordingly answer Question 1(a) by holding that the
dismissal of an application seeking reference under
Section 18 on the ground of delay would tantamount to
not filing an application within the meaning of
Section 28-A of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894.”
31. We would think that, therefore, a plea founded on
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estoppel arising out of a consent decree or from an Award
passed by a Lok Adalat which can perhaps be even likened to
a consent decision cannot be the basis for redetermination
of the compensation. What Section 28A indeed insists is on
decision by a Civil Court as defined in Section 2(l). In
other words what is made the only basis for invoking Section
28A of the Act is an adjudication by the Court as defined in
the Act. The plea of estoppel which, ordinarily, arises from
a consent decree or Award passed by the Lok Adalat which, as
already noticed, does not involve any adjudication by a
Court, would hardly suffice. The estoppel which is referred
to by this Court applies as between the parties to the
consent decree.
32. This brings us to the next question, i.e., the
implication of Section 21 of the 1987 Act under which the
Award of the Lok Adalat is to be treated as a decree. The
High Court in the impugned judgment has drawn upon Section
21 to uphold the contention of the respondents. The
reasoning runs as follows:
An Award passed by the Lok Adalat is to be taken as a
decree of a Civil Court under Section 21 of the 1987 Act.
What Section 28A requires is redetermination of compensation
by the Civil Court. Therefore, the Award of the Lok Adalat,
in this manner of reasoning, is to be conflated to the
adjudication contemplated under Section 28A of the Act.
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33. In K.N. Govindan Kutty Menon v. C.D. Shaji17, this Court
was concerned with the question as to whether under Section
21 of the 1987 Act, when a case is referred to the Lok
Adalat in a criminal case under Section 138 of the
Negotiable Instruments Act and the matter is settled and an
award is passed, whether it could be treated as a Decree of
a Civil Court and, thus, executable. The Court held:
“23. A statutory support as evidenced in the
Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Act would
not only reduce the burden of arrears of work in
regular courts, but would also take justice to the
doorsteps of the poor and the needy and make justice
quicker and less expensive. In the case on hand, the
courts below erred in holding that only if the
matter was one which was referred by a civil court
it could be a decree and if the matter was referred
by a criminal court it will only be an order of the
criminal court and not a decree under Section 21 of
the Act. The Act does not make out any such
distinction between the reference made by a civil
court and a criminal court. There is no restriction
on the power of Lok Adalat to pass an award based on
the compromise arrived at between the parties in a
case referred by a criminal court under Section 138
of the NI Act, and by virtue of the deeming
provision it has to be treated as a decree capable
of execution by a civil court. In this regard, the
view taken in Subhash Narasappa Mangrule [(2009) 3
Mah LJ 857] and Valarmathi Oil Industries [AIR 2009
Mad 180] supports this contention and we fully
accept the same.”
34. Thereafter the Court concluded as follows:
“26. From the above discussion, the following
propositions emerge:
(1) In view of the unambiguous language of
Section 21 of the Act, every award of the Lok
Adalat shall be deemed to be a decree of a civil
court and as such it is executable by that court.
17 (2012) 2 SCC 51
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(2) The Act does not make out any such
distinction between the reference made by a civil
court and a criminal court.
(3) There is no restriction on the power of the
Lok Adalat to pass an award based on the
compromise arrived at between the parties in
respect of cases referred to by various courts
(both civil and criminal), tribunals, Family
Court, Rent Control Court, Consumer Redressal
Forum, Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal and other
forums of similar nature.
(4) Even if a matter is referred by a criminal
court under Section 138 of the Negotiable
Instruments Act, 1881 and by virtue of the deeming
provisions, the award passed by the Lok Adalat
based on a compromise has to be treated as a
decree capable of execution by a civil court.”
35. There can be no quarrel with principle that the purpose of the
fiction being properly appreciated, even in a case under Section
138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, when following a Reference,
an award is passed under the 1987 Act, it is in accord with the
purpose to treat the award as a decree for the purpose of enforcing
the award as a decree.
36. When a legal fiction is employed by the legislature, it
becomes a duty of the Court to interpret it and to give it
meaning. In gleaning its meaning, the Court is duty bound to
ascertain the purpose of this legislative device. The Court
cannot allow its mind to be boggled undoubtedly as contended
by the learned senior counsel for the respondent, in the
matter of carrying the legal fiction to its logical end. But
this is not the same as holding that the Court will not look
to the object of the Act and, in particular, the fiction in
question. In this regard, we notice the judgment of this
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Court in State of Karnataka v. State of Tamil Nadu and
Others18:
“75. In this context, we may usefully refer to the
Principles of Statutory Interpretation, 14th Edn. by
G.P. Singh. The learned author has expressed thus:
“In interpreting a provision creating a legal
fiction, the court is to ascertain for what purpose
the fiction is created [State of Travancore-Cochin
v. Shanmugha Vilas Cashewnut Factory, AIR 1953 SC
333; State of Bombay v. Pandurang Vinayak, AIR 1953
SC 244 : 1953 Cri LJ 1094] , and after ascertaining
this, the Court is to assume all those facts and
consequences which are incidental or inevitable
corollaries to the giving effect to the fiction.
[East End Dwellings Co. Ltd. v. Finsbury Borough
Council, 1952 AC 109 : (1951) 2 All ER 587 (HL); CIT
v. S. Teja Singh, AIR 1959 SC 352] But in so
construing the fiction it is not to be extended
beyond the purpose for which it is created [Bengal
Immunity Co. Ltd. v. State of Bihar, AIR 1955 SC
661; CIT v. Amarchand N. Shroff, AIR 1963 SC 1448] ,
or beyond the language of the section by which it is
created. [CIT v. Shakuntala, AIR 1966 SC 719;
Mancheri Puthusseri Ahmed v. Kuthiravattam Estate
Receiver, (1996) 6 SCC 185 : AIR 1997 SC 208] It
cannot also be extended by importing another
fiction. [CIT v. Moon Mills Ltd., AIR 1966 SC 870]
The principles stated above are ‘well-settled’.
[State of W.B. v. Sadan K. Bormal, (2004) 6 SCC 59 :
2004 SCC (Cri) 1739 : AIR 2004 SC 3666] A legal
fiction may also be interpreted narrowly to make the
statute workable. [Nandkishore Ganesh Joshi v.
Commr., Municipal Corpn. of Kalyan and Dombivali,
(2004) 11 SCC 417 : AIR 2005 SC 34] ”
76. In Aneeta Hada v. Godfather Travels and Tours
[Aneeta Hada v. Godfather Travels and Tours, (2012)
5 SCC 661 : (2012) 3 SCC (Civ) 350 : (2012) 3 SCC
(Cri) 241] , a three-Judge Bench has ruled thus :
(SCC p. 681, paras 37-38)
“37. In State of T.N. v. Arooran Sugars Ltd.
[State of T.N. v. Arooran Sugars Ltd., (1997) 1
SCC 326] the Constitution Bench, while dealing
with the deeming provision in a statute, ruled
18 (2017) 3 SCC 362
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that the role of a provision in a statute
creating legal fiction is well settled. Reference
was made to Chief Inspector of Mines v. Karam
Chand Thapar [Chief Inspector of Mines v. Karam
Chand Thapar, AIR 1961 SC 838 : (1961) 2 Cri LJ
1] , J.K. Cotton Spg. and Wvg. Mills Ltd. v.
Union of India [J.K. Cotton Spg. and Wvg. Mills
Ltd. v. Union of India, 1987 Supp SCC 350 : 1988
SCC (Tax) 26] , M. Venugopal v. LIC [M. Venugopal
v. LIC, (1994) 2 SCC 323 : 1994 SCC (L&S) 664]
and Harish Tandon v. ADM, Allahabad [Harish
Tandon v. ADM, Allahabad, (1995) 1 SCC 537] and
eventually, it was held that when a statute
creates a legal fiction saying that something
shall be deemed to have been done which in fact
and truth has not been done, the Court has to
examine and ascertain as to for what purpose and
between which persons such a statutory fiction is
to be resorted to and thereafter, the courts have
to give full effect to such a statutory fiction
and it has to be carried to its logical
conclusion.
38. From the aforesaid pronouncements, the
principle that can be culled out is that it is
the bounden duty of the court to ascertain for
what purpose the legal fiction has been created.
It is also the duty of the court to imagine the
fiction with all real consequences and instances
unless prohibited from doing so. That apart, the
use of the term “deemed” has to be read in its
context and further, the fullest logical purpose
and import are to be understood. It is because in
modern legislation, the term “deemed” has been
used for manifold purposes. The object of the
legislature has to be kept in mind.””
37. In the light of the principles which have been laid
down, we are inclined to take the following view.
An Award passed by the Lok Adalat under 1987 Act is the
culmination of a non-adjudicatory process. The parties are
persuaded even by members of the Lok Adalat to arrive at
mutually agreeable compromise. The Award sets out the terms.
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The provisions contained in Section 21 by which the Award is
treated as if it were a decree is intended only to clothe
the Award with enforceability. In view of the provisions of
Section 21 by which it is to be treated as a decree which
cannot be challenged, undoubtedly, by way of an appeal in
view of the express provisions forbidding it, unless it is
set aside in other appropriate proceedings, it becomes
enforceable. The purport of the law giver is only to confer
it with enforceability in like manner as if it were a
decree. Thus, the legal fiction that the Award is to be
treated as a decree goes no further.
38. The further argument of Shri Dhruv Mehta is that apart
from the Award of the Lok Adalat being treated as a decree,
it is also capable of being treated as an order of the
Court, as the case may be. In this regard, we have already
noticed the scheme of the 1987 Act. We have considered the
definition of the word ‘Case’ and the word ‘Court’. We have
also noticed the provisions of Section 19(5) and Section
20(1). The conspectus of these provisions would yield the
following result:
 The Lok Adalat as constituted under Section 19(2)
would have jurisdiction inter alia to determine and to
arrive at a compromise or settlement between the parties to
a dispute in respect of any case pending before any Court
for which the Lok Adalat is organized. The word ‘Court’ in
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this context would mean the court as defined in section
2(aaa), viz., a civil, criminal or revenue court. The word
‘Court’ also includes any tribunal or any authority
constituted under any law for the time being in force which
for exercising judicial or even quasi-judicial functions.
Thus, the word ‘Court’ in the 1987 Act in the context of
Section 19(5) embraces the bodies referred to in Section
2(aaa) of 1987 Act. The manner of taking cognizance by Lok
Adalats is provided in Section 20(1) read with Section
19(5). The Court as defined in Section 2 (aaa) can refer the
case to the Lok Adalat. Such court, as already noticed, can
be civil, criminal or a revenue court. It can be even a
tribunal or authority. When success is achieved as a result
of the holding of the Lok Adalat culminating in an award,
the words, as the case may be, in Section 21 predicates that
it may be instead of a decree of a Civil Court, an order of
any other Court. Learned counsel for the appellant would
point out that if a Criminal Court were to refer a matter
under Section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act to the
Lok Addalat and the Lok Adalat passes an Award then such an
Award would be treated as an order of the Court. However, in
this regard, we have noticed the judgment of this Court
reported in K.N. Govindan Kutty Menon (supra). Even when the
Criminal Court refers the matter under Section 138 of the
Negotiable Instruments Act in order to make it executable,
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this Court has taken the view that it will be treated as if
it were a decree.
39. If a Revenue Court or a Tribunal which, undoubtedly,
fall under Section 2(aaa) of the 1987 Act were to refer a
case to the Lok Adalat under Section 20(1) and an award is
passed it may become the order of the court/tribunal. In
other words, if the matter were finally concluded on a
regular basis, that is, without reference to the Lok Adalat,
it would be an order which would be passed.
40. The argument, however, according to Shri Dhruv Mehta,
learned senior counsel, appears to be that by virtue of this
legislative device, the award of the Lok Adalat passed in
these cases by the Reference Court under Section 18
executing the Lok Adalat must be treated as an order passed
by the Court under Section 28A of the Act. We will answer
this question after considering the requirement under
Section 28A now.
41. Section 28A, undoubtedly, has been introduced by
parliament in the year 1984 to bring solace to those land
owners or persons having interest in land to claim the just
amount due to them even though they have omitted to file
application under Section 18 of the Act seeking enhancement.
In fact, in Jose Antonio Cruz Dos R. Rodriguese and Another
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v. Land Acquisition Collector and Another19, this Court, in a
Bench of three learned Judges, has held that the period of
limitation of three months for invoking Section 28A of the
Act would commence from the date of passing of the order by
the original court answering the reference under Section 18
and not from the date of the appellate court. In Union of
India and Another v. Hansoli Devi and Others (supra), the
Constitution Bench of this Court has held that the right
under Section 28A is available even to the person who has
unsuccessfully filed a time barred application under Section
18, the fact that a land owner has received the compensation
awarded by the Land Acquisition Officer with or without
protest will not take away his right under Section 28A.
42. Can the Court be oblivious to the plain language of the
statute? Can we ignore the voice of the legislature when it
is clear and unambiguous? Section 28A figures in Part III of
the Act. It has a heading. The heading reads as ‘Redetermination of the amount of compensation on the basis of
the award of the Court’. The very opening words in our view
deal a fatal blow to the very premise of the respondent’s
contention. An award under Part III of the Act commences
with a reference under Section 18. The Court proceeds to
adjudicate the reference in particular by bearing in mind
19 (1996) 6 SCC 746
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CA No. 901/2022 (@ SLP (C) No.9927/2020 etc.)
the matters which are to be considered under Section 23 of
the Act.
43. Section 24 declares matters which are to be neglected in
determining compensation. Section 26 deals with the form of
the award. Section 26(2) reads as follows:
“26. Forms of awards
……………………………………………………………………………………………….
……………………………………………………………………………………………….
(2) Every such award shall be deemed to be a decree
and the statement of the grounds of every such award a
judgment within the meaning of section 2. clause (2),
and section 2, clause (9), respectively of the Code of
Civil Procedure 1908 (5 of 1908).”
44. The award which is passed by the Lok Adalat cannot be
said to be an award passed under Part III. It is the
compromise arrived at between the parties before the Lok
Adalat which culminates in the award by the Lok Adalat. In
fact, an award under Part III of the Act contemplates
grounds or reasons and therefore, adjudication is
contemplated and Section 26(2) of the Act is selfexplanatory.
45. The next aspect is even more fatal to the case of the
respondents. Not only must it be an award passed as a result
of the adjudication but it must be passed by ‘the Court’
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CA No. 901/2022 (@ SLP (C) No.9927/2020 etc.)
allowing compensation in excess of the amount awarded by the
collector. The word ‘Court’ has been defined in the Act as
the Principal Civil Court of original jurisdiction unless
the appropriate Government has appointed a Special Judicial
Officer to perform judicial functions of the court under
this Act. We have noticed the composition of a Lok Adalat in
Section 19(2) of the ‘1987 Act’. The Court is not the same
as a Lok Adalat.
46. The Award passed by the Lok Adalat in itself without
anything more is to be treated by the deeming fiction to be
a decree. It is not a case where a compromise is arrived at
under Order XXIII of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908,
between the parties and the court is expected to look into
the compromise and satisfy itself that it is lawful before
it assumes efficacy by virtue of Section 21. Without
anything more, the award passed by Lok Adalat becomes a
decree. The enhancement of the compensation is determined
purely on the basis of compromise which is arrived at and
not as a result of any decision of a ‘Court’ as defined in
the Act.
47. An Award passed by the Lok Adalat is not a compromise
decree. An Award passed by the Lok Adalat without anything
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more, is to be treated as a decree inter alia. We would
approve the view of the learned Single Judge of the Kerala
High Court in P.T. Thomas (supra). An award unless it is
successfully questioned in appropriate proceedings, becomes
unalterable and non-violable. In the case of a compromise
falling under Order XXIII Code of Civil Procedure, it
becomes a duty of the Court to apply its mind to the terms
of the compromise. Without anything more, the mere
compromise arrived at between the parties does not have the
imprimatur of the Court. It becomes a compromise decree only
when the procedures in the Code are undergone.
48. An Award passed under Section 19 of the 1987 Act is a
product of compromise. Sans compromise, the Lok Adalat loses
jurisdiction. The matter goes back to the Court for
adjudication. Pursuant to the compromise and the terms being
reduced to writing with the approval of the parties it
assumes the garb of an Award which in turn is again deemed
to be a decree without anything more. We would think that it
may not be legislative intention to treat such an award
passed under Section 19 of the 1987 Act to be equivalent to
an award of the Court which is defined in the Act as already
noted by us and made under Part III of the Act. An award of
the Court in Section 28A is also treated as a decree. Such
an Award becomes executable. It is also appealable. Part III
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of the Act contains a definite scheme which necessarily
involves adjudication by the Court and arriving at the
compensation. It is this which can form the basis for any
others pressing claim under the same notification by
invoking Section 28A. We cannot be entirely oblivious to the
prospect of an ‘unholy’ compromise in a matter of this
nature forming the basis for redetermination as a matter of
right given under Section 28A.
49. We would, therefore, approve the view taken by the
Bombay High Court in Umadevi Rajkumar Jeure (supra) and the
learned single Judge of the Karnataka High Court in Vasudave
(supra) and hold that an Award passed under Section (20) of
the 1987 Act by the Lok Adalat cannot be the basis for
invoking Section 28A.
50. As far as the argument of the respondents that the award
dated 12.3.2016 can be treated as the order of the Court
within the meaning of Section 18 of the Act read with
Section 28A of the Act, we are of the view such an argument
cannot be accepted. Unlike in the facts of the case decided
by the Andhra Pradesh High Court reported in 2003 SCC ONLINE
AP 21 (supra) which has been distinguished by the Bombay
High Court in Umadevi (supra) on the score that in the case
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from Andhra Pradesh, the Reference Court has passed an award
based on a compromise arrived at between the parties before
the Lok Adalat, in this case, the award dated 12.3.2016 is
the award passed by the Lok Adalat. This is clear from the
judgment of the High Court, the case of the parties before
it and the terms of the award dated 12.3.2016. In other
words, this is a case whereas as noted in the impugned
judgment LAR 6 of 2006 (Fateh Mohammaed v. State of U.P.)
was referred to the Lok Adalat, that is the Additional
District and Sessions Judge/FTC No.2, Gautam Buddh Nagar,
U.P. Thus, the proceedings dated 12.3.2016 which is relied
on by the respondents is indeed an award which is passed
under Section 20 of the 1987 Act though it may appear to be
an order. In other words, the Additional District & Sessions
Judge was acting as Lok Adalat. This is so even if the
decision of the High Court in Mangu Ram was relied upon by
the parties and it is also referred to in the award. He was
not disposing of the case as ‘the Court’ within the meaning
of Act. It also cannot be treated as an award of the Court
within the meaning of Section 20 and 21 of the ‘1987 Act.
51. We have also noticed the case of the appellant that the
High Court decision in Mangu Ram (supra) which found the
rate at Rs.297.50 per square yard was erroneous in regard to
the notification under Section (4) which is relevant to the
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cases before us and that a review petition is also filed and
pending.
52. Having regard to all circumstances and the facts of
this case we deem it appropriate to pass the following
order:
(1) The appeals are allowed. We declare that an
application under Section 28A of the Act cannot be
maintained on the basis of an award passed by the Lok Adalat
under Section 20 of 1987 Act. The impugned judgments stand
set aside. Parties to bear the respective costs.
 …………………………………………………………………………J.
 [K.M. JOSEPH]
 …………………………………………………………………………J.
 [PAMIDIGHANTAM SRI NARASIMHA]
New Delhi;
February 03, 2022.
41

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