DELHI DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY VS SUNIL KHATRI & ORS Case

DELHI DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY VS SUNIL KHATRI & ORS Case

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3862 OF 2022
(ARISING OUT OF SLP (CIVIL) NO. 21353 OF 2015)
DELHI DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY .....APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
SUNIL KHATRI & ORS. .....RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
HEMANT GUPTA, J.
1. The challenge in the present appeal is to an order dated
22.12.2014 passed by the High Court of Delhi whereby an
application filed in the pending writ petition was allowed, holding
that the acquisition proceedings stand lapsed in view of Section
24(2) of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land
Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 20131
.
2. The land of the respondents2
 measuring 14 Bigha 8 Biswa
comprising in Khasra No. 1883 (4-16), 1884 (4-16) and 1885 (4-16)
at village Chattarpur was notified under Section 4 of the Land
Acquisition Act, 18943
, as required for the planned development of
Delhi vide notification dated 25.11.1980. The notification was in
1 For short, the ‘2013 Act’
2 For short, the ‘land owners’
3 For short, the ‘Act’
1
respect of lands situated at Village Chattarpur, Satbari
Maidangarhi, Sayoorpur and Rajpur Khurd. The declarations under
Section 6 of the Act were published on 27.5.1985, 6.6.1985,
7.6.1985 and 26.2.1986, and the award was announced on
05.06.1987.
3. The process of acquisition initiated vide notifications dated
5.11.1980 and 25.11.1980 was challenged in a number of writ
petitions before the High Court and an interim order of stay of
dispossession was granted. In the first bunch of writ petitions, the
challenge was to the notification under Section 4 of the Act inter
alia on the ground that the notification was not for a public
purpose. Such challenge was remained unsuccessful on
15.11.1983 by a judgment reported as Munni Lal v. Lt. Governor
of Delhi
4
.
4. Various writ petitions were thereafter filed to challenge the
notification under Section 6 of the Act on the ground that such
notification has been published after the time limit provided by
Central Act No. 68 of 1984. The Full Bench of the High Court in a
judgment dated 27.5.1987 reported as Balak Ram Gupta v.
Union of India
5
 held that the stay of dispossession in one or the
other writ petition is required to be taken into consideration for
determining the period of three years in publication of the
notification. The High Court held as under:
“39. We have, for the reasons stated above, come to the
conclusion that the period during which stay orders were in
4 1983 SCC OnLine Del 321
5 For short, the ‘Balak Ram-I’, 1987 SCC OnLine Del 227 : AIR 1987 Del 239
2
force should be excluded in computing the validity of the
declaration under S. 6. So far as the notification dated 25-
11-80 is concerned, we find that the latest of the S. 6
declarations was on 26-2-86. The stay order (in C.M.P.
668/81) was in operation from 18-3-81 to 15-11-83 i.e. for a
period of 2 years, 7 months and 27 days. They are therefore
in time having been issued within three years plus 2 years 3
months, i.e., 5 years 3 months of the S. 4 notification. So far
as the notification dated 5-11-1980 is concerned, we find
that the latest of the S. 6 declaration was issued on 7-6-
1985, i.e., 4 years 7 months after the S. 4 notification. They
stay order (in CMP 4226/81) was operative from 30-9-1981
to 15-11-1983, i.e., for 2 years and 11/2 months. If this
period is excluded the declaration is within time. We answer
the principal issue debated before us accordingly.”
5. After deciding the question of law, the matter was ordered to be
placed before the appropriate Division Bench. The writ petitions
were decided by the Division Bench on 14.10.1988, when the
operative order was passed stating ‘reasons to follow’. The High
Court upon recording the reasons in a judgment reported as
Shri B.R. Gupta v. Union of India & Ors.
6 on 18.11.1988, set
aside the notification issued under Section 6 of the Act as the
writ petitioner was neither given an opportunity of personal
hearing, nor was he actually heard in the objections filed by the
land owners under Section 5A of the Act and since there was no
record maintained for consideration of large number of objections filed by the writ petitioners/land owners, it was held that
the writ petitioner whose land is being taken by the Government without his consent has a right to know the reasons as to
why his claim for exemption was being declined. It was held as
under:
6 For short, the ‘Balak Ram-II’, 1988 SCC OnLine Del 367 : (1989) 37 DLT 150 (DB)
3
“16. We may note that there are number of other
contentions raised by the petitioner in the writ petition apart
from the ones that are mentioned and considered above.
We need not go into all of them and given any finding, since
we have already come to the conclusion that reports under
Section 5A and orders under Section 6 cannot be sustained
in law on the basis of the contentions already noted by us.”
6. In C.W.P. No. 2657/85 (Abhey Ram v. Union of India), an order of
status quo was passed by the High Court on 29.10.1985. The writ
petition was dismissed later on 2.9.1987 in view of the judgment in
Balak Ram-I. The land owners filed an appeal before this Court
whereby the order of status quo as to dispossession was passed on
25.3.1988. In the final order, reported as Abhey Ram & Ors. v.
Union of India & Ors.
7
, the judgment in Balak Ram-I was
maintained. This Court referred to Balak Ram-II wherein it was
found that the writ petitions were allowed on 14.10.1998 by an
operative order that ‘reasons to follow’. This Court noticed that
unfortunately, in Delhi Development Authority v. Sudan Singh
& Ors.
8
, the operative part of the judgment was not been brought
to the notice of this Court. Therefore, the ratio therein has no
application to the facts in this case. A three judge Bench of this
Court held as under:
“12. It is true that a Bench of this Court has considered the
effect of such a quashing in Delhi Development
Authority v. Sudan Singh [(1997) 5 SCC 430 : (1991) 45 DLT
602] . But, unfortunately, in that case the operative part of
the judgment referred to earlier has not been brought to the
notice of this Court. Therefore, the ratio therein has no
application to the facts in this case. ................”
7 (1997) 5 SCC 421
8 (1997) 5 SCC 430
4
7. The judgment in Sudan Singh was directed against an order of
the Delhi High Court in a judgment reported as Balbir Singh v.
Union of India & Ors.
9
. The High Court restrained the
respondents on 6.1.1989 in Civil Writ Petition No. 51 of 1989 from
dispossessing the petitioner from the land in dispute or demolition
of the building. The writ petition was allowed on 21.4.1989 and
the notification under Section 6 was quashed as a whole. There
was also a direction to handover physical possession of the land to
the land owners on their depositing the compensation amount
disbursed to them along with interest.
8. In Brig. Gurdip Singh Uban v. Union of India
10
, the Delhi High
Court was examining the acquisition of land in Village Chattarpur
vide notification dated 25.11.1980 under Section 4 of the Act. The
High Court quashed the notification under Section 6 of the Act. It
was held as under:
“27. The petitioners have urged before us that the
judgement in Balak Ram Gupta's case has received the seal
of approval of the Supreme Court in 45 (1991) DLT (11) 602
(SC) (Delhi Development Authority v. Sudan Singh) in para 4,
wherein the Supreme Court has also said that the
notifications with respect not to 11 villages, but 12 villages
have been quashed.
28. In the light of the specific seal of approval by the
Supreme Court in the aforesaid judgment, it is difficult to see
how the Full Bench judgement of the High Court in Balak
Ram Gupta's case and Division Bench judgement in Balak
Ram Gupta's case is not applicable to the instant case,
particularly in view of the fact that “notification”, are
specifically treated as “law”, as contemplated by Article
13(3)(a) of the Constitution of India. It has been so held in
(1985) 1 SCC 641. (Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay)
Private Ltd. v. Union of India). The notifications being law,
9 1989 SCC OnLine Del 211 : (1989) 39 DLT 233 (DB)
10 1996 SCC OnLine Del 879
5
law having been quashed, and made nugatory it enures for
the benefit of all persons who are likely to be affected by
such law/notification.”
9. Furthermore, this Court in Delhi Administration v. Gurdip Singh
Uban & Ors.
11
 allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of
the High Court and it was held as under:
“7. We may state that it is true that in Sudan Singh's case a
two Judge Bench of this Court confirmed another judgment of
the Delhi High Court wherein the High Court had allowed the
writ petition on the basis that the judgment of the Division
Bench dated 18.11.1988 had quashed the Section 6
declaration wholly. It is also true that in Sudan Singh's case
too no objections were filed by the owners under section 5A.
But, we are governed by the judgment of the three Judge
Bench in Abhey Ram's case where the said Bench not only
referred to the effect of the Division Bench judgment of the
High Court dated 18.11.1988 but also referred to the
judgment of the two Judge Bench of this Court in Sudan
Singh's case. The three Judge Bench in Abhey Ram is binding
on us in preference to the judgment of two Judges in Sudan
Singh”.
10. The land owners filed review petition against the order passed in
Gurdip Singh Uban-I inter-alia on the ground that on account of
conflict between Abhey Ram and Sudan Singh, matter should be
placed before larger Bench. Such review was dismissed on 24-11-
1999 in the judgment reported as Delhi Administration v.
Gurdip Singh Uban & Ors.
16
. This Court held as under:
“45. It will be noticed that when Abhey Ram [(1997) 5 SCC
421] was decided in the High Court, the Full Bench decision
alone was there and not the subsequent Division Bench
judgment in Balak Ram Gupta case. But by the time Abhey
Ram case [(1997) 5 SCC 421] came up before the three
learned Judges in this Court on 20-8-1999, the latter order of
the Division Bench dated 18-11-1988 in Balak Ram
Gupta [B.R. Gupta v. Union of India, (1989) 38 DLT 243 (DB)
11 For short, the ‘Gurdip Singh Uban-I’ (1999) 7 SCC 44
1616 For short, the ‘Gurdip Singh Uban-II’, (2000) 7 SCC 296
6
(order dated 18-11-1988)] was also available and naturally
the appellant raised a plea based on the latter order of the
Division Bench judgment dated 18-11-1988 which said that
the entire Section 5-A inquiry and the entire land acquisition
proceedings stood quashed. The appellant in Abhey
Ram [(1997) 5 SCC 421] , in our view, was certainly entitled
to do so. His contention was however repelled in Abhey
Ram [(1997) 5 SCC 421] holding that notwithstanding the
broad language used in the latter reasoned order dated 18-
11-1988, its area of operation was to be confined to what
was stated by the same Division Bench earlier on 14-10-
1988 when a brief operative order was passed in the 73
cases allowing the writ petitions. We have already held that
the writ absolute dated 14-10-1988 in each case was based
on non-consideration of objections and not on the basis of
there being no public purpose and that the decision in each
case must, therefore, be confined to the land covered
therein. The three-Judge Bench in Abhey Ram [(1997) 5 SCC
421] held that the reasoned order dated 18-11-1988 of the
Division Bench could not travel beyond the earlier operative
order dated 14-10-1988 and could not have covered land
other than the land involved in the said batch of writ
petitions. In our view, the question of the correctness or
interpretation of the orders dated 14-10-1988 and 18-11-
1988 in Balak Ram Gupta was put in issue directly in Abhey
Ram [(1997) 5 SCC 421] in this Court and the said decision
in Abhey Ram [(1997) 5 SCC 421] can neither be
characterised as uncalled for nor as being obiter nor as a
decision per incuriam. Sudan Singh [(1997) 5 SCC 430] had
not gone into this question at all and would not help the
applicant.”
11. In another bunch of writ petitions in Chatro Devi v. Union of
India
12
, the Hon’ble Judges of the Division Bench differed on the
question as to whether the objections filed under Section 5-A of the
Act are required to be decided only by the person who has
provided the opportunity of hearing. The matter was referred to a
3
rd Judge who held that where objections have been filed and heard
by one Collector and the report had been submitted by another
Collector, the proceedings stand vitiated for being in violation of
12 2005 SCC Online Delhi 279
7
the principles of natural justice. Some of the land owners in this
matter were owners of land in Village Chattarpur wherein there
was interim order of stay of dispossession. Though the Hon’ble
Judges differed on the ground of hearing of objections filed by the
land owners, but in respect of all other issues, the Court held as
under:
“33. The Division Bench judgment in the case of Balak Ram
Gupta (supra) no longer can be stated to be a good law in
view of the judgment of the Supreme Court in Abhey Ram's
case, Gurdip Singh's case as well as a recent Division Bench
judgment of this Court in the case of Sunil Nagpal v. Union of
India, CW 838/86 decided on 17.12.2004 wherein similar writ
petitions were dismissed. The judgment of Sudan Singh
(supra) was not approved by a Larger Bench of Supreme Court
in Abhey Ram's case (supra). Thus, none of these two
judgments can tilt either the equity or the law in favour of the
petitioners.
xxx xxx xxx
39. It is evident from the above discussion that larger number
of, writ petitions have been dismissed by the Courts and
particularly after pronouncement of the judgment of the
Supreme Court in the cases of Gurdip Singh and Abhey Ram
(supra) even recently in the Sunil Nagpal's case (supra)
number of writ petitions were dismissed by another Division
Bench of this Court. Wherever the petitioners have been
granted relief by different Division Bench of this Court, it has
been primarily by following the judgment of the Division
Bench in Balak Ram Gupta's case (supra) and prior to the
pronouncement of the judgment of the Supreme Court in the
above referred cases. Even if one was to accept the
contentions raised on behalf of the petitioners, in my opinion,
the petitioners are not entitled to any relief in the facts and
circumstances of the present case.”
12. This Court in a judgment reported as Union of India v. Shiv Raj
13
dismissed the appeals arising out of Chatro Devi inter-alia on the
13 (2014) 6 SCC 564
8
ground that the majority view of the High Court that objections are
required to be decided by the same Collector who heard the
objections is correct. The said judgment however, relating to
interpretation of Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act, was held to be not
laying down good law in the Constitution Bench judgment of this
Court reported as Indore Development Authority v.
Manoharlal and Others.
14
13. In another set of appeals, this Court in a judgment reported as Om
Prakash v. Union of India and Others
15
 dismissed the appeals
of the land owners who had not filed objections under Section 5-A
of the Act. This Court relied upon Abhey Ram and Gurdip Singh
Uban-I held as under:
“54. It is emphasised by him that in the light of judgment of
this Court in Delhi Admn. v. Gurdip Singh Uban [(2000) 7
SCC 296] known as Gurdip Singh Uban-II [(2000) 7 SCC 296],
all points having already been considered, no fresh look is
required by this Court. More so, when each and every point
argued, hammered and contended by the appellants has
already been decided against them. It was also submitted by
him that in the name of unfair treatment, matters which
stood closed either by several judgments of this Court or of
the Delhi High Court and also keeping in mind that the land
acquisition proceedings were initiated in the year 1980,
nothing more is required to be done and the appeals
deserve to be dismissed.
xxx xxx xxx
91. In the light of the foregoing discussion, more so, keeping
in mind the ratio of which stood concluded by a judgment of
Bench of three learned Judges of this Court in Abhey
Ram [(1997) 5 SCC 421], we are of the opinion that it is not
a fit case where we are called upon to come to a different
conclusion that subsequent declaration issued under Section
14 (2020) 8 SCC 129
15 (2010) 4 SCC 17
9
6 was beyond the period of limitation. Fact situation does
not warrant us to do so.”
14. In Manohar Lal Atree v. Union of India & Ors.
16
, the challenge
was to the acquisition of land situated in Village Satbari. On
27.7.1990, the Division Bench passed an interim order that any
development activity undertaken on the land in question will be at
the risk and cost of the respondents. However, the writ petition
was allowed on 6.12.1990 relying upon Balbir Singh that the
notification under Section 6 of the Act stands quashed. There was
also a direction for restoration of possession and on payment by
the land owners of the compensation disbursed.
15. The respondents-land owners in Smt. Sheila Khatri & Ors. v.
Union of India & Ors.
17
, in the writ petition filed in the year 1999,
alleged that the notification under Section 6 of the Act stands
quashed and therefore, the award in respect of land of the land
owners was illegal. The land owners challenged the Section 6
notification and that no further proceedings could be taken under
Section 11-A of the Act on the basis of the existing Section 4
notification. The land owners made reference to Writ Petition No.
2478 of 1985 (Moohul Transport Company Pvt. Ltd. v. Union of
India) wherein it was held that the entire land covered by that
notification stands de-acquired. The land owners also made
reference to Balbir Singh wherein a direction was issued to
handover the vacant possession of land to all those persons who
have received compensation and the land owners were directed to
16 Civil Writ Petition No. 2364 of 1990 decided on 6.12.1990
17 Civil Writ Petition No. 1786 of 1998
10
return/refund the compensation received by them along with
interest. The land owners have averred to the following effect:
“16. That it is submitted that all the above mentioned
judgements passed by this Court in CWP No. 1639 of 1985
dated 18.11.1989 (Balak Ram II) dated 16.5.1989 in CWP
No. 51 of 1989 (Balbir Singh) and judgement dated 6th
December, 1990 in Civil Writ Petition No. 2364 of 1990
(Manohar Lal Atree) applies squarely to the case of the
petitioners in the present writ petition. In view of the above
mentioned legal position, the land in question owned and
possessed by the petitioners are free from acquisition
proceedings and the petitioners are the lawful owners in
actual physical possession of the said land.”
(Names Mentioned for easy identification of the cases)
16. The land owners contended that the objections dated 2.12.1980
were found in the old records left by late Shri K.C. Khatri, therefore,
they have reason to believe that objections were filed by the
deceased K.C. Khatri. We may state that there is no categorical
assertion of filing of such objections, therefore, the reason to
believe that objections were filed is not conclusive. Still further,
even if such objections were filed, neither Shri K.C. Khatri nor his
legal heirs have disputed the acquisition proceedings on the
ground of non-consideration of such objections before announcing
of the award bearing No. 15/87-88 on 5.6.1987. The land owners
have also referred to an order passed by the Division Bench of the
High Court on 17.12.1996 in the case of Brig. Gurdeep Singh
Uban holding that once the acquisition proceedings were quashed
in a writ petition, the entire proceedings fall through.
17. According to the appellant, there was a stay of dispossession
operating in one or the other writ petition, even after decision of
11
Balak Ram-II on 14.10.1988/ 18.11.1988. Thereafter, the Delhi
High Court in Balbir Singh, Gurdeep Singh Uban and in various
other judgments had taken a view that the entire acquisition
proceedings shall stand quashed. However, the issue was clarified
by this Court in Abhey Ram on 22.4.1997 and Gurdip Singh
Uban-I and II on 20.8.1999 and 18.8.2000 respectively. Therefore,
there was an era of uncertainty about the status of acquisition
proceedings in view of either stay operating against the appellant
or on account of setting aside of the notification under Section 6 of
the Act. It was only the issue of the validity of notification under
Section 6 of the Act which attained finality when Gurdip Singh
Uban-II was decided. Thus, the period of five years had not
expired before the commencement of the 2013 Act with effect from
1.1.2014.
18. Mr. Bansal, learned counsel for the land owners vehemently argued
that there is specific provision for exclusion of time if stay is
operating in another writ petition in terms of Explanation 2 in
Section 6 of the Act and the Explanation in Section 11-A of the Act,
but there is no corresponding exclusion clause in Section 24(2) of
the 2013 Act. Therefore, it was contended that the period of stay
can very well be excluded for publication of a notification under
Section 6 or for announcing the award but not after the award, on
the strength of the interim orders passed in the writ petition of
other land owners. Therefore, after the expiry of five years before
the status-quo order was passed in favour of the land owners, the
12
proceedings had lapsed in terms of Section 24(2) of 2013 Act. It
was contended that stay granted in the writ petitions filed by other
land owners cannot be used by the State for excluding such period
in the case of the land owners herein.
19. Learned counsel for the land owners further argued that the award
was announced on 5.6.1987 and the interim order in favour of the
land owners was passed on 9.7.1999. Thus, for a period of 12 years
from the date of making of the award, there was no stay by the
Court or by giving effect to any statutory provision of the Act
granting such stay under Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act. It was
contended that the State has been taking possession on different
dates, therefore, it cannot be inferred that the stay in one or the
other case was deterrent for the appellant to take possession of
the land which was subject matter of acquisition. The land owners
have made elaborate reference on the undisputed principle that
the judgment is an authority for what it actually decides and not
what follows from it, i.e., what is meant by obiter dictum and ratio
decidendi. It was also argued that the Casus Omissus cannot be
supplied by including further words in the statute.
20. We have heard learned the Counsel for the parties and find that
the appeal deserves to be allowed. The aforementioned judgments
have been thoroughly examined by this Court in Om Prakash. The
judgments in Balbir Singh and Gurdeep Singh Uban were again
recently examined by this Court in Delhi Development
13
Authority v. Godfrey Phillips (I) Ltd. & Ors.
18 decided on
6.5.2022, wherein it was held as under:
“36. In Balak Ram-II, the acquisition proceedings were
quashed since the objections filed by the land owners were
not heard or decided in accordance with law. Thus, Balak
Ram-II is a judgment in personam and not in rem, as the
grievance of the writ petitioners was specific to them. The
judgment of the High Court in Balbir Singh is based upon
the fact that in Balak Ram-II, the entire notification under
Section 6 of the Act stands quashed. Such aspect has not
found favor in Abhey Ram and Gurdip Singh Uban-I and
II. Otherwise also, non-hearing of objections filed would be
limited to those land owners who have filed objections. The
predecessor-in-interest of the purchaser has not filed any
objections under Section 5A of the Act, therefore, the
judgment in Balak Ram-II cannot come to the aid of land
owners who have never preferred any objections.
37. Therefore, the judgment in Balbir Singh does not
confer any right on the other land owners who have not
disputed the acquisition proceedings on the ground of lack
of effective hearing of objections under Section 5-A of the
Act. Since the original land owner never filed any objections
under Section 5-A of the Act, the purchaser cannot seek the
relief which was not available even to the original land
owner.
38. The purchaser has purchased the property knowing fully
well that the vendor has not disputed the acquisition
proceedings. But on the basis of an order passed in Balbir
Singh, it was conveyed and accepted by the purchaser, that
the acquisition stands quashed and original land owner was
in possession of the land. Since Sudan Singh, affirming the
order in Balbir Singh has not been approved by this Court
in the three judgments referred hereinabove (Abhey Ram,
Gurdip Singh Uban-I and Gurdip Singh Uban-II), no right
would accrue to the original land owner or the purchaser.
The High Court in the impugned order has not noticed any of
the three judgments of this Court in Abhey Ram, Gurdip
Singh Uban-I and Gurdip Singh Uban-II nullifying the
effect of Balbir Singh and instead ordered the purchaser to
deposit twice of the amount paid to the original land owner.
The condition of payment of compensation in Balbir Singh
by the land owners does not survive in view of the fact that
such judgment has not been approved by this Court.”
18 Civil Appeal No. 3073 of 2022
14
21. In the writ petition filed by the land owners, there was an interim
order of stay granted on 9.7.1999, even before Gurdip Singh
Uban-I was decided on 20.8.1999. The notifications under Section
6 of the Act which were quashed became effective only after the
order of this Court in Gurdip Singh Uban-I and II. The land
owner strangely made no mention of the judgment delivered on
22.4.1997 in Abhey Ram. The order of stay of dispossession in the
writ petition filed by the land owner continued when the 2013 Act
came into force. The land which was the subject matter of
challenge in Gurdip Singh Uban
19 was also at Village Chattarpur,
even before the Award was announced. There was an interim order
of stay of dispossession on 28.4.1986 in respect of land situated in
the village Chattarpur which continued till such time the
notification under Section 6 of the Act was quashed relying upon
Balbir Singh decided on 15.05.1989 and Sudan Singh. This
order was set aside by this Court on 20.8.1999 in Gurdip Singh
Uban I. The land owner had got stay in their writ petition on
9.7.1999. Thus, there was no stay free period of 5 years before
coming into force of the 2013 Act.
22. It is to be noted that since the entire notification was quashed by
the High Court in Gurdip Singh and Balbir Singh, therefore, the
State could not take possession on the basis of quashed
notification. But before the judgments of this Court were
pronounced in the year 1999 or 2000, the land owner had obtained
19 WP (C) No. 920 of 1986 decided on 17.12.1996
15
stay of dispossession. Therefore, it is not a stay of dispossession
pending notification under Section 6 or award under Section 11-A
but the acquisition of the entire land which came to be settled by
this Court. Thus, the State could not take possession on the basis
of a notification under Section 6 leading to the award on
05.06.1987. The argument that there was no stay from the date of
the award till the stay was granted in favour of the land owner is
hence partly correct as there was no stay but the acquisition itself
stood quashed. Therefore, when the 2013 Act came into force on
01.01.2014, the five years had not lapsed which was stay free or
free from setting aside of the acquisition.
23. Learned counsel for the land owners has referred to a counter
affidavit dated 9.7.2018 filed by the State in Mrs. Verinder Kaur
v. Government of NCT of Delhi
20
 to the effect that the amount of
compensation in respect of village Chattarpur was withdrawn for
the purpose of award in village Kakrola. However, the said writ
petition was dismissed by the Division Bench of the High Court
inter alia on the ground that the petitioner did not challenge the
acquisition proceedings for more than 3 decades. It was held as
under:
“The fact of the matter is that as far as the Petitioner is
concerned she never came forward to challenge the land
acquisition proceedings at any stage. While certain others
came to the Court and got interim orders in their favour, the
Petitioner did not challenge the proceedings at any stage.
The inability of the Respondents to take possession is
explained by the fact that an interim order was passed in
one set of petitions which continued for a long time.
20 WP (C) No. 589 of 2018 decided on 13.8.2019
16
Interfering with the land acquisition proceedings at this
stage when the Petitioner has not shown any interest in
challenging them for more than three decades would
encourage an abuse of the process of law. Entertaining the
petition would be contrary to the decision by a three Judge
Bench of the Supreme Court in Indore Development
Authority v. Shailendra (2018) 3 SCC 412.”
24. In another judgment of this Court reported as Delhi
Development Authority v. Rajan Sood
21
, the land owner had
the benefit of stay in his favour when the 2013 Act came into force.
There was a direction issued in the writ petition filed by the land
owner on 9.11.2011 to consider the application under Section 48 of
the Act. It was held that Section 48 of the Act would be applicable
as the possession of land is not taken over by the acquiring
authority and thus the land owners would be deemed to be in
possession of the same. It was held as under:
“7.1 … It is the case on behalf of the original writ
petitioners that a purported letter dated 23.09.1986
allegedly taking symbolic possession was never disclosed by
appellants in the proceedings conducted before the High
Court on two separate occasions and the same has been
filed for the first time in the present proceedings. The
aforesaid is not correct. Even in the impugned order itself in
paragraph 2, the High Court has noted the submissions on
behalf of the appellants to the effect that the possession
was taken over on 23.09.1986. Therefore, it cannot be said
such a plea is taken for the first time before this Court. It is
the case on behalf of the original writ petitioners, relying
upon the earlier order passed by the High Court dated
09.11.2011 in writ petition No. 7714/2011 that, the original
writ petitioners continue to be in possession and the actual
possession has never been taken over. However, it is
required to be noted that even in the order dated
09.11.2011, there was no specific finding given by the High
Court that the original writ petitioners are in possession of
the land in question. On the contrary, it is observed that the
21 Civil Appeal No. 1927 of 2022 Decided on 29.3.2022
17
authority to consider the application under section 48 of the
Act, 1894 on merits on the assumption of the possession
being with the original writ petitioners. Therefore, while
passing the order dated 09.11.2011 also, the High Court
assumed the original writ petitioners are in possession
hence as such no specific finding was given to the effect
that the original writ petitioners are in possession.
xx xx xx
7.3 Be that as it may. Assuming for the sake of argument
that the original writ petitioners are found to be in
possession and the compensation was not tendered, in that
case also as can be seen from the order passed by the High
Court on 09.11.2011 in writ petition No. 7714/2011, the
authority was restrained from taking any coercive action in
respect of the land in question. Therefore, in view of the
subsequent decision of this Court in the case of Indore
Development Authority (supra - paragraph 366.8), the
period, during which the interim order is/was operative, has
to be excluded in the computation of five years' period. In
the present case even, it is the contention on behalf of the
original writ petitioners that the order of no coercive action
was directed to be continued till the application under
section 48 of the Act, 1894 was decided.”
25. In another judgment in Delhi Development Authority v. Bhim
Sain Goel & Ors.
22
, notifications dated 21.3.2003 and 18.3.2004
under Sections 4 and 6 of the Act respectively were the subject
matter of consideration. The award was passed by the Land
Acquisition Collector on 22.8.2005. In a writ petition filed
challenging the Section 6 notification, the High Court directed to
maintain status quo with regard to nature, title and possession of
the land in question. The writ petition was dismissed but in appeal
before this Court, there was an interim order of stay. During the
pendency of the appeal, the 2013 Act came to be enacted. The
land owners filed a writ petition to declare the proceedings as
22 Civil Appeal No. 3151 of 2022 passed by this Court on 25.4.2022
18
lapsed. Such writ petition was allowed on 2.2.2016 which was then
challenged before this Court. This Court held as under:
“12. On the application of the aforesaid principles to the
facts of this case, there cannot be any doubt that the
respondents cannot take shelter under Section 24(2) of the
2013 Act. This is for the simple reason that it is by their
conduct in approaching the Courts and obtaining interim
orders that the appellant was prevented from taking
possession of the lands. We are clear in our minds that this
is indeed one such case where the respondents have
launched litigation, obtained orders and it has clearly
prevented the appellant from taking possession and
therefore, the impugned judgment of the High Court would
have to be set aside.
xx xx xx
22. The principle which has appealed to the Constitution
Bench of this Court is squarely applicable to the facts of this
case. The public authority which had set the law in motion
under the earlier regime cannot be put to a loss when at the
end of the day or on the day of reckoning it is found that
they must succeed in law. Here we have found that the
appellant is fully justified in contending that but for the
orders passed by the High Court and this Court, the
possession would have been taken, and the land would have
vested under the law. We must proceed on the basis that but
for the interim orders passed which cannot survive the final
disposal of the cases, the land would have stood vested with
the Government under the earlier regime…
xx xx xx
24. It is clear as daylight that it would be completely
antithetical to public interest were the Government be
compelled to shell out public funds under the 2013 Act to
acquire land which already belongs to it. We cannot be
oblivious to the said sublime principle as well.”
26. Pertinent to note, though the High Court in Balak Ram-II had not
quashed the notification under Section 6 of the Act, but in some of
the subsequent judgments such as in Balbir Singh, the High Court
19
held that the notification stands quashed and the land stood
reverted back to the land owners. Therefore, an option was given
to the land owners to refund the compensation. Such judgment of
Balbir Singh was affirmed by this Court in Delhi Development
Authority v. Sudan Singh
23
. Delhi High Court in Gurdip Singh
Uban etc. relied upon Sudan Singh to hold that the notification
under Section 6 of the Act stands quashed. However, Sudan
Singh was specifically found to be laying down not good law in
Abhey Ram, Gurdip Singh Uban-I and Gurdip Singh Uban-II.
There was a stay in the writ petition filed by the land owners
themselves which continued to operate till the 2013 Act came into
force. Therefore, it was the order of the High Court itself which
prevented the appellant to take possession. However, such position
got clarified only after the judgment in Gurdip Singh Uban-I,
later clarified in Gurdip Singh Uban-II, but in the meantime,
there was an interim order granted in favour of the land owners.
27. This Court in Indore Development Authority v. Manoharlal
and Others
24
 held that the twin conditions of failure to take
possession or payment of compensation alone can lead to the
lapse of notification under Section 24(2) of the 2013 Act. This Court
has held as under:
“306. When the authorities are disabled from performing
duties due to impossibility, would be a good excuse for them
to save them from rigour of provisions of Section 24(2). A
litigant may be right or wrong. He cannot be permitted to
take advantage of a situation created by him of interim
order. The doctrine “commodum ex injuria sua nemo habere
23 (1997) 5 SCC 430
24 (2020) 8 SCC 129
20
debet” that is convenience cannot accrue to a party from his
own wrong. Provisions of Section 24 do not discriminate
litigants or non-litigants and treat them differently with
respect to the same acquisition, otherwise, anomalous
results may occur and provisions may become
discriminatory in itself.
307. In Union of India v. Shiv Raj [Union of India v. Shiv Raj,
(2014) 6 SCC 564 : (2014) 3 SCC (Civ) 607] , this Court did
not consider the question of exclusion of the time. In Karnail
Kaur v. State of Punjab [Karnail Kaur v. State of Punjab,
(2015) 3 SCC 206 : (2015) 2 SCC (Civ) 259] and in Sree
Balaji Nagar Residential Assn. [Sree Balaji Nagar Residential
Assn. v. State of T.N., (2015) 3 SCC 353 : (2015) 2 SCC (Civ)
298], various aspects including the interpretation of
provisions of Section 24 were not taken into consideration.
Thus, the said rulings cannot be said to be laying down good
law.
xxx xxx xxx
314. The maxim “lex non cogit ad impossibilia” means that
the law does not expect the performance of the impossible.
Though payment is possible but the logic of payment is
relevant. There are cases in which compensation was
tendered, but refused and then deposited in the treasury.
There was litigation in court, which was pending (or in some
cases, decided); earlier references for enhancement of
compensation were sought and compensation was
enhanced. There was no challenge to acquisition
proceedings or taking possession, etc. In pending matters in
this Court or in the High Court even in proceedings relating
to compensation, Section 24(2) was invoked to state that
proceedings have lapsed due to non-deposit of
compensation in the court or to deposit in the treasury or
otherwise due to interim order of the court needful could not
be done, as such proceedings should lapse.
xxx xxx xxx
316. Another Roman Law maxim “nemo tenetur ad
impossibilia”, means no one is bound to do an impossibility.
Though such acts of taking possession and disbursement of
compensation are not impossible, yet they are not capable
of law performance, during subsistence of a court’s order;
the order has to be complied with and cannot be violated.
Thus, on equitable principles also, such a period has to be
excluded. ….....”
21
28. Therefore, the period of 5 years had not lapsed on 1.1.2014 which
could lead to lapsing of the acquisition proceedings. The appellant
was prevented by the interim orders in a number of writ petitions
filed to take possession. Therefore, prior to the commencement of
2013 Act, there was no stay free period of 5 years which could lead
to a declaration that the proceedings stand lapsed. Still further,
the notifications under Section 6 of the Act quashed on 15.5.1989
and 17.12.1996 were set aside in Gurdip Singh Uban-I and II but
before that, there was an order of stay of dispossession granted in
favour of the land owner on 27.9.1999. Therefore, on account of
setting aside of notification under Section 6 of the Act, the State
could not take possession in view of the orders passed by the High
Court.
29. In view of the above, the appeal is allowed. The order passed by
the High Court is set aside and the writ petition filed by the land
owners is dismissed.
.............................................J.
(HEMANT GUPTA)
.............................................J.
(V. RAMASUBRAMANIAN)
NEW DELHI;
MAY 19, 2022.
22

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