Faizabad-Ayodhya Development Authority, Faizabad vs Dr. Rajesh Kumar Pandey & Ors. Case

Faizabad-Ayodhya Development Authority, Faizabad vs Dr. Rajesh Kumar Pandey & Ors. Case

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2915 OF 2022
Faizabad-Ayodhya
Development Authority, Faizabad …Appellant
Versus
Dr. Rajesh Kumar Pandey & Ors. …Respondents
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2917 OF 2022
Moradabad Development Authority & Anr. …Appellants
Versus
Babu & Ors. …Respondents
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2918 OF 2022
Moradabad Development Authority & Anr. …Appellants
Versus
Horam Singh & Ors. …Respondents
AND
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CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2919 OF 2022
Moradabad Development Authority …Appellant
Versus
Smt. Malka Begum & Ors. …Respondents
J U D G M E N T
M.R. SHAH, J.
1. As common questions of law and facts arise in this group of
appeals, they have been heard together and are being disposed of by
this common judgment and order.
2. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the respective judgments
and orders/order(s) passed by the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad
passed in respective writ petitions preferred by the private respondents
herein – original landowners by which the High Court has disposed of the
said writ petitions by directing the respective appellant(s) – Development
Authorities to pay the compensation to the original landowners as per
“The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition,
Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as the
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“Act, 2013)” on the ground that on the date on which the Act, 2013 came
into force, no award under Section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894
(hereinafter referred to as the “Act, 1894”) was declared with respect to
the lands acquired, the respective Development Authorities have
preferred the present appeals.
Civil Appeal No. 2915 of 2022
3. Land totally measuring 17.172 hectares in village Ranopali, District
Faizabad was requisitioned by the Faizabad Development Authority
(hereinafter referred to as the “Authority”) for the purpose of residential
project. The land therein included land admeasuring 03.13 hectares in
Plot Nos. 407, 413 and 415 belonging to respondent Nos. 1 to 4 herein
(hereinafter referred to as the “original landowners”).
3.1 Notification under Section 4 and Section 6 read with Section 17
was issued. The original landowners preferred Writ Petition No. 3810 of
2005 before the High Court challenging the acquisition with respect to
the aforesaid three plots. The High Court granted interim stay restraining
the Authority from taking over the possession of the aforesaid three plots.
Except the aforesaid three plot, the possession of the entire land was
taken over by the Authority. Even the Award under Section 11 of Act,
1894 was also declared except in respect of the aforesaid three plots in
question, due to the pendency of the writ petition before the High Court
3
and due to the interim order passed by the High Court. It is this
significant fact, which has led us to consider this case in light of the real
intention of the Parliament under Section 24(1)(a) of the Act, 2013.
Thus, excluding the land involved in the aforesaid writ petition, i.e., the
aforesaid three plots, possession of the remaining property was taken
over on 07.09.2005 and Award therein was published on 10.04.2007. A
total sum of Rs. 5,11,60,606.00 was made available on different dates
with respect to the compensation to be paid.
3.2 Vide order dated 27.09.2010, the High Court has disposed of the
said Writ Petition No. 3810 of 2005 preferred by the respondents herein
by directing the State Government to consider the
application/representation submitted by the original landowners under
Section 48(1) of the Act, 1894. That the Appropriate Authority rejected
the representation/application of the original landowners under Section
48 of the Act, 1894 vide order dated 13.03.2012. The respondents
herein – original landowners again preferred the present Writ Petition No.
41 of 2012 before the High Court.
3.3 During the pendency of the aforesaid writ petition, Act, 2013 came
into force. At the time of hearing of the present writ petition before the
High Court, it was submitted on behalf of the original landowners –
original writ petitioners that as no award has been made under Section
11 of the Act, 1894, therefore, the provisions of Section 24(1) of the Act,
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2013 would be attracted and the original landowners shall be entitled to
the compensation determined under the provisions of Act, 2013.
3.4 By the impugned judgment and order, the High Court has allowed
the said writ petition and has observed and held that the respondents
herein – original writ petitioners – original landowners would be entitled
to compensation in terms of provisions of Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013.
Therefore, as pursuant to the impugned judgment and order passed by
the High court, now the original landowners / original writ petitioners will
have to be paid compensation as determined under the Act, 2013, the
Faizabad-Ayodhya Development Authority, Faizabad has preferred the
present appeal.
Civil Appeal No. 2917 of 2022
4. By the impugned judgment and order dated 20.07.2017, the High
Court has directed the appellant – Moradabad Development Authority to
declare the award and determine the compensation under Section 24(1)
of the Act, 2013 and consequently, the respondents herein – original
landowners shall be entitled to compensation determined under the Act,
2013. Hence, the Moradabad Development Authority has preferred the
present appeal.
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4.1 Before the High Court, in the writ petition, the original writ
petitioners challenged the acquisition proceedings mainly on the ground
that the award was not made within two years of the publication of the
declaration under Section 6 of the Act, 1894 and therefore, in view of the
provisions of Section 11A of the Act, 1894, the acquisition has lapsed.
4.2 However, during the course of hearing of the writ petition and
without any specific prayer sought to determine and pay the
compensation under the Act, 2013, learned counsel appearing on behalf
of the original writ petitioners placed reliance upon the provisions of
Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013 and relied upon paragraph 20 of the
counter affidavit in which it was stated that the award has not been made
under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 and therefore, the award will now be
made under Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013.
4.3 It was the case on behalf of the appellant that as such the award
under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 could not be declared in view of the
pendency of the writ petition and the interim stay order granted by the
High Court. By the impugned judgment and order, the High Court has
directed the appellant – Moradabad Development Authority to declare
the award under Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013.
4.4 Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned order passed
by the High Court directing the appellant to declare the award under
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Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013, Moradabad Development Authority has
preferred the present appeal.
Civil Appeal No. 2918 of 2022 and Civil Appeal No. 2919 of 2022
5. Civil Appeal No. 2918 of 2022 is arising out of the impugned
judgment and order passed by the High Court dated 20.07.2017 passed
in Writ Petition No. 31806 of 2013 and Civil Appeal No. 2919 of 2022 is
arising out of the impugned judgment and order passed by the High
Court dated 20.07.2017 passed in Writ Petition No. 29247 of 2011 by
which similar orders have been passed by the High Court directing the
Moradabad Development Authority to declare the award under Section
24(1) of the Act, 2013 and thereby the original landowners shall be
entitled to the compensation determined under the Act, 2013, the
Moradabad Development Authority has preferred the present appeal.
6. Shri V.K. Shukla, learned Senior Advocate has appeared on behalf
of the respective Development Authority(s) and Shri S.R. Singh, learned
Senior Advocate has appeared on behalf of the respective original
landowners – original writ petitioners.
7. Shri Shukla, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the
respective Development Authority(s) has vehemently submitted that in
the facts and circumstances of the case, the High Court has committed a
grave error in directing the Development Authority(s) to declare the
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award under Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013 and thereby now the original
landowners shall be entitled to the compensation determined under the
Act, 2013.
7.1 It is submitted that the High Court has not properly appreciated the
fact that as such the Special Land Acquisition Officer could not declare
the award due to the pendency of the writ petitions before the High Court
and/or the interim stay granted by the High Court either restraining the
Authority from taking over the possession and/or directing to maintain
the status quo.
7.2 It is submitted that in fact in Civil Appeal No. 2915 of 2022, in view
of the fact that the urgency clause was applied, even 80% of the
compensation was deposited, however, the award under Section 11 of
the Act, 1894 could not be declared because of the pendency of the writ
petition before the High Court. It is submitted that in the said case, such
a large area of the land was acquired including Plot Nos. 407, 413 and
415 belonging to the respondents herein. It is submitted that the award
excluding the aforesaid three plots was in fact declared under Section 11
of the Act and it was also stated therein that the award with respect to
the aforesaid three plots in question could not be declared in view of the
stay order granted by the High Court. It is contended that the award with
respect to the plots in question could not be declared under Section 11
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of the Act, 1894 in view of the pendency of the writ petition before the
High court and the interim stay granted by the High Court.
7.3 Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the Moradabad
Development Authority in Civil Appeal Nos. 2917, 2918 and 2919 of
2022 has submitted that as such in view of the urgency clause applied,
even 80% of the compensation was already deposited, however, the
award under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 could not be declared because
of the pendency of the writ petition before the High Court.
7.4 It is submitted that in fact the impugned order has been passed by
the High Court on oral submissions that the award has not been
declared and therefore they are entitled to the relief under Section 24(1)
of the Act, 2013. That as such, neither were the writ petitions amended
nor specific reliefs were prayed, directing the Authority(s) to declare the
award under Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013. It is contended that in any
case, once the award could not be declared because of the pendency of
the writ petition and/or the interim stay granted by the High Court,
landowners cannot be permitted to take the benefit of compensation
under the Act, 2013. It is urged that there was no inaction on the part of
the Land Acquisition Officer and/or Authority in not declaring the award
under Section 11 of the Act, 1894.
7.5 Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respective
Development Authority(s) have heavily relied upon the decision of the
9
Constitution Bench of this Court in the case of Indore Development
Authority Vs. Manoharlal and Ors., (2020) 8 SCC 129, more
particularly, paragraph 366.8. It is submitted that after detailed
discussion and after taking into consideration various decisions of this
Court on the effect of the stay granted by the Court and on the principle
of restitution, it is specifically observed and held by this Court that (i) the
act of the Court shall prejudice no one; (ii) no one is bound to do an
impossibility; (iii) law does not compel a man to do that which he cannot
possibly perform; (iv) where law creates a duty or charge and the party is
disabled to perform it, without any default and has no remedy over, there
the law will in general excuse him; (v) it is not the intendment of the Act,
2013 that those who have litigated should get benefits of higher
compensation as contemplated under Section 24 of the Act, 2013.
7.6 Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respective
Development Authorities has heavily relied upon paragraph 366.8 of the
decision in the case of Indore Development Authority (supra) and
submitted that while interpreting Section 24(2) of the Act, 2013, this
Court has specifically observed and held that the period of subsistence
of interim orders passed by the Court has to be excluded. It is submitted
that the same analogy shall be applicable in a case where the Authority
could not declare the award under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 due to
subsistence of the interim order passed by the Court.
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7.7 Making the above submissions and relying upon the observations
made by this Court in the case of Indore Development Authority
(supra) in paragraphs 284, 285, 287, 289, 293, 297, 299, 300, 301, 302,
306, 308, 309, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319, 320, 321, 323, 324, 325,
326, 329, 334 and 335, it is prayed to allow the present appeals.
8. Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the original landowners
have also relied upon the decision of this Court in the case of Indore
Development Authority (supra). It is submitted that as observed and
held by this Court in the said decision, the moment it is found that no
award has been declared under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 at the time of
commencement of Act, 2013, the landowner shall be straightaway
entitled to the compensation under Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013.
8.1 It is further submitted by learned counsel appearing on behalf of
the original landowners – original writ petitioners that as such there is no
specific provision made in Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013 to the effect that
the period of interim stay and/or pendency of the writ petition shall be
excluded. Hence, as per the settled proposition of law, a statute has to
be read as it is.
8.2 It is contended that the legislature’s intention is that once the award
is not declared under Section 11 of the Act, 1894, at the time of
commencement of the Act, 2013, to save lapsing of the acquisition,
11
under sub-section (1) of Section 24 of the Act, 2013, the original
landowners shall have to be compensated by payment of compensation
determined under the Act, 2013. Therefore, as such, the High Court has
not committed any error in directing the Development Authorities to
declare the award under Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013 and consequently
to determine the compensation under the provisions of the Act, 2013.
8.3 It is further submitted by the learned counsel appearing on behalf
of the respondents – original writ petitioners in Civil Appeal Nos. 2917,
2918 and 2919 of 2022 that as such in the counter affidavit, it was
submitted that as the award has not been declared, the award shall be
declared under Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013. It is pointed out that
considering the aforesaid stand/submission made in the counter filed on
behalf of the Authority, the High Court has directed to declare the award
and pay the compensation under Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013, which
direction may not be interfered by this Court.
8.4 Making the above submissions, it is prayed to dismiss the present
appeals and direct the appropriate Authorities to declare the award under
Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013 and to pay the compensation to the
respective landowners under the provisions of the Act, 2013.
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9. Having heard the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the
respective parties, the question which is posed for the consideration of
this Court is:-
Whether in a case where an award under Section 11 of the Land
Acquisition Act, 1894 could not be declared by the Authority due to
the pendency of the writ petition and/or the interim stay granted by
the High Court, which was filed by the landowners and
consequently as on the date on which the Right to Fair
Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition,
Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (Act, 2013) came into
force, there was no award declared under Section 11 of the Act,
1894, the original landowners shall be entitled to compensation
determined under sub-section (1) of Section 24 of the Act, 2013?
10. At this stage, it is necessary to consider the relevant provisions of
the Act, 1894 and Section 24 of Act, 2013 dealing with lapse of
acquisition in the context of the question raised in this case arising under
Section 24(1)(a) of Act, 2013 especially in the context of stay orders
granted by a court of law and as a result award not being made as on
01.01.2014 i.e., the date when Act, 2013 was enforced. Sections 11 and
11A of the Act, 1894 are extracted as under:
“11. Enquiry and award by Collector. - (1) On the day
so fixed, or on any other day to which the enquiry has been
adjourned, the Collector shall proceed to enquire into the
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objection (if any) which any person interested has stated
pursuant to a notice given under Section 9 to the
measurements made under section 8, and into the value of
the land at the date of the publication of the notification
under section 4, sub-section (1), and into the respective
interests of the persons claiming the compensation and
shall make an award under his hand of-
(i) the true area of the land;
(ii) the compensation which in his opinion should
be allowed for the land; and
(iii) the apportionment of the said compensation
among all the persons known or believed to be
interested in the land, or whom, or of whose
claims, he has information, whether or not they
have respectively appeared before him:
Provided that no award shall be made by the Collector
under this sub-section without the previous approval of the
appropriate Government or of such officer as the
appropriate Government may authorize in this behalf:
Provided further that it shall be competent for the
appropriate Government to direct that the Collector may
make such award without such approval in such class of
cases as the appropriate Government may specify in this
behalf.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), if
at any stage of the proceedings, the Collector is satisfied
that all the persons interested in the land who appeared
before him have agreed in writing on the matters to be
included in the award of the Collector in the form
prescribed by rules made by the appropriate Government,
he may, without making further enquiry, make an award
according to the terms of such agreement.
(3) The determination of compensation for any land under
sub-section (2) shall not in any way affect the determination
of compensation in respect of other lands in the same
locality or elsewhere in accordance with the other
provisions of this Act.
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(4) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Registration
Act, 1908 (16 of 1908), no agreement made under subsection (2) shall be liable to registration under that Act.
11A. Period within which an award shall be made. – (1)
The Collector shall make an award under section 11 within
a period of two years from the date of the publication of the
declaration and if no award is made within that period, the
entire proceeding for the acquisition of the land shall lapse:
Provided that in a case where the said declaration has
been published before the commencement of the Land
Acquisition (Amendment) Act, 1984 (68 of 1984), the award
shall be made within a period of two years from such
commencement.
10.1 Section 24 of the Act, 2013 is extracted as under:
24. Land acquisition process under Act No. 1 of 1894 shall
be deemed to have lapsed in certain cases.–(1)
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, in any case
of land acquisition proceedings initiated under the Land
Acquisition Act, 1894 (1 of 1894),—
(a) where no award under section 11 of the said
Land Acquisition Act has been made, then, all
provisions of this Act relating to the determination
of compensation shall apply; or
(b) where an award under said section 11 has
been made, then such proceedings shall continue
under the provisions of the said Land Acquisition
Act, as if the said Act has not been repealed.
(2) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1),
in case of land acquisition proceedings initiated under the
Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (1 of 1894), where an award
under the said section 11 has been made five years or
more prior to the commencement of this Act but the
physical possession of the land has not been taken or the
compensation has not been paid the said proceedings shall
be deemed to have lapsed and the appropriate
Government, if it so chooses, shall initiate the proceedings
15
of such land acquisition afresh in accordance with the
provisions of this Act:
Provided that where an award has been made and
compensation in respect of a majority of land holdings has
not been deposited in the account of the beneficiaries,
then, all beneficiaries specified in the notification for
acquisition under section 4 of the said Land Acquisition Act,
shall be entitled to compensation in accordance with the
provisions of this Act.”
10.2 Section 11 of the Act, 1894 deals with the enquiry to be held prior
to making of the award by the Collector/Deputy Commissioner/District
Magistrate, as the case may be, who may be designated as the land
acquisition officer. However, Section 11A of the said Act mandates that
the Collector shall make an award under Section 11 within a period of
two years from the date of the publication of the declaration (under
Section 6 of the said Act) and if no award is made within that period, the
entire proceedings for the acquisition of the land shall lapse. The proviso,
thereto, is not relevant for the purpose of this case. However, the
Explanation is of significance. It stated that in computing the period of
two years referred to in sub-section 1 of Section 11A, wherein it is
provided that the period during which any action or proceeding to be
taken in pursuance of the said declaration is stayed by an order of a
court is excluded. Therefore, the implication is that if there is inaction on
the part of the Collector in passing the award for a period of two years
from the date of publication of the declaration, then the acquisition would
16
lapse. The object of providing and prescribing a two-year period was in
order to ensure that the land loser was assured of the compensation to
be paid in pursuance of the acquisition of his land within a reasonable
period which is stated to be two years under Section 11A of the Act,
1894. However, while calculating the said period of two years, the period
during which no award could be passed owing to an order of stay in that
regard passed by a court had to be excluded.
10.3 The concept of lapse is also provided under sub-section (2) of
Section 24 of the Act, 2013. However, for the purpose of this case, it is
not necessary to dwell into the said aspect except by stating that where
an award under Section 11 of Act, 1894 has been made five years or
more prior to the commencement of the Act, 2013 (which was enforced
with effect from 01.01.2014) but the physical possession of the land has
not been taken or the compensation has not been paid, then the said
proceedings of acquisition shall be deemed to have lapsed. An
interpretation of sub-section 2 of Section 24 of the Act has been made by
this Court in Indore Development Authority (supra). It has been clearly
held in para that while calculating the period of five years the period
during which an interim order was under operation has to be excluded.
10.4 As far as this case is concerned, clause (a) of sub-section 1 of
Section 24 of the Act, 2013 has to be interpreted in the aforesaid
backdrop. The said sub-section begins with a non-obstante clause and it
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states that notwithstanding anything contained in the Act, 2013 in any
case of land acquisition proceedings initiated under the Land Acquisition
Act, 1894, -
a) Where no award under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 has
been made, all provisions of the Act, 2013 relating to the
determination of compensation shall apply; or
b) Where an award under Section 11 has been made, such
proceedings shall continue under the provisions of the
Act, 1894 as if the said Act has not been repealed.
10.5 The object and purpose of providing sub-section (1) of Section 24
of Act, 2013 is to save acquisitions which had been initiated under Act,
1894, where no award had been made or where an award had been
made under Section 11 of Act, 1894. The respective consequences for
both the aforesaid situations are indicated in the respective clauses (a)
and (b) of sub-section 1 of Section 24 of the Act, 2013.
10.6 What is of significance for the purpose of this case is clause (a) of
sub-section 1 of Section 24 of the Act. To reiterate the same, when no
award under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 has been made, all provisions of
Act, 2013 relating to determination of compensation shall apply. This
means that when the acquisition proceeding under Act, 1894 has been
initiated but the award has not been made as on the date of the
enforcement of Act, 2013 i.e., 01.01.2014, in such an event, the
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provisions of Act, 2013 would apply with regard to determination of
compensation. It is necessary to understand the implication of the words
“where no award under Section 11 of Act, 1894 has been made.” This
means that although acquisition proceedings had been initiated, for
reasons best known to the acquiring authority, the Collector or the
Deputy Commissioner or District Magistrate or the Special Land
Acquisition Officer, as the case may be, had not passed an award as on
the date of enforcement of Act, 2013 i.e., on 01.01.2014. This could be
on account of sheer inaction on the part of the Collector or Land
Acquisition Officer in not passing an award and the Act, 2013 being
enforced. In such a case, the provisions of the Act, 2013 would
straightaway apply vis-à-vis determination of compensation. This is
because Act, 2013 is a more beneficial legislation as compared to Act,
1894. The compensation payable under the Act, 2013 is higher than
under the repealed Act being Act i.e., 1894. Thus, there would be a
continuity in the acquisition proceedings under the Act, 2013.
10.7 However, it is necessary to delve deeper into the provision to
assimilate the reasons as to why no award would have been made on
the date of enforcement of the Act, 2013 in a given case when the
acquisition had commenced under the Act, 1894 which is the repealed
Act. One of the reasons would be that the acquisition proceedings are
assailed either before the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution
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of India or by filing a civil suit before the Civil Court seeking certain
reliefs, in which there would be interim orders including but not limited to
“stay of further proceedings”, “stay of dispossession” or “status quo to be
maintained by both the land owner as well as the acquiring authority”. In
such a case, where an interim order would have been operating against
the acquiring authority, the said authority would be restrained from
proceeding further in the acquisition proceedings vis-à-vis making of an
award under Section 11 of the Act, 1894.
10.8 As already noted, if an award is not made within a period of two
years from the date of the publication of the declaration, then under
Section 11A of Act, 1894, the acquisition of the land would lapse. But in
computing the said period of two years, the period during which a
declaration under Section 6 of the Act, 1894 is stayed and during which
period the no action or further proceeding could have been taken
pursuant thereto by an order of court, is excluded. But, under clause (a)
of sub-section 1 of Section 24 of Act, 2013, if no award has been made
on the enforcement of the said Act i.e., on 01.01.2014 then the provisions
of Act, 2013 would apply relating to the determination of compensation.
10.9 When these two Sections though in the repealed Act and the new
Act i.e., Act, 2013 are read together in an analogous way, the question
that emerges is, if, by reason of an interim order of a Court granted in
favour of a land owner, no award under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 has
20
been made on the date of enforcement of Act, 2013 i.e., 01.01.2014,
would it imply that the award has not been made owing to inaction on the
part of Collector/Land Acquisition Officer. Thus, straightaway whether the
benefit under Act, 2013 must be made applicable to such a land owner
who has also the benefit of an interim order granted by a court in his
favour on the date of enforcement of Act, 2013 i.e., on 01.01.2014.
10.10 We find that the expression “where no award under Section 11 of
the said Land Acquisition Act has been made” has to be read contextually
and not by way of a plain reading. This is because a land owner who has
an interim order of stay of further proceedings pursuant to the declaration
made under Section 6 of the Act, 1894 issued by a Court of law and has
thereby restrained the Collector/Land Acquisition Officer from making an
award cannot thereafter by contending that as on 01.01.2014, no award
has been made by the acquiring authority seek benefit under the
provisions of the Act, 2013 by receiving a higher compensation.
10.11 As already noted, Section 24 is in the nature of a saving clause
to save all acquisitions initiated under the provisions of Act, 1894 and at
the same time, to grant certain reliefs under the provisions of Act, 2013
such as lapse of acquisition under sub-section 2 of Section 24 of the Act
or clause (a) of sub-section 1 of Section 24 thereof. Therefore, while
applying the said provisions to the facts of each case, it is necessary to
bear in mind the contextual interpretation having regard to provisions
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under both the Acts. This also becomes clear on a reading of clause (b)
of sub-section 1 of Section 24 which states that if an award has been
made under Section 11 of Act, 1894 as on 01.01.2014 i.e., the date of
enforcement of Act, 2013, then the proceedings shall continue under the
provisions of Act, 1894 as if the same has not been repealed. But if no
award has been made as on 01.01.2014 then clause (a) of sub-section 1
of Section 24 would apply.
10.12 Thus, it is necessary to dwell into the reasons as to why no
award has been made. As discussed aforesaid, if there is an order of
restraint on the Collector or on the acquiring authority and as a result of
which, the Collector or the Land Acquisition Officer is not in a position to
make an award for reasons beyond his control and in compliance of the
interim order granted by a court of law at the instance of the land owner
or any other person who may have questioned the acquisition, the period
during which the interim order has operated has to be reckoned and if on
the date of enforcement of Act, 2013 i.e., 01.01.2014, no award has been
made owing to the operation of such an interim order granted by a Court
in favour of the land owner, then the provisions of the 2013, Act cannot
straightaway be made applicable in the determination of the
compensation. This is because, but for the operation of the interim order,
the award could have been made under the provisions of the Act, 1894
until 31.12.2013 and then provisions of Act, 1894 would have applied as
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per clause (b) of sub-section 1 of Section 24. But on the other hand,
owing to the operation of the interim order granted by a Court in favour of
land owner, the award would not have been made as on 01.01.2014
when the Act, 2013 was enforced.
10.13 In our view in such a situation the acquiring authority cannot be
burdened with the determination of compensation under the provisions of
the Act, 2013. In other words, the land owner cannot, on the one hand,
assail the acquisition and seek interim orders restraining the authorities
from proceeding further in the acquisition, and on the other hand,
contend that since no award has been made under Section 11 of Act,
1894 on 01.01.2014, the provisions of the Act, 2013 should be made
applicable in determining the compensation.
11. On interpreting sub-section (2) of Section 24 of Act, 2013, the
Constitution Bench of this Court in Indore Development Authority
(supra) has ultimately concluded in paragraph 366.8 as under:-
“366.8. The provisions of Section 24(2) providing for a
deemed lapse of proceedings are applicable in case
authorities have failed due to their inaction to take
possession and pay compensation for five years or more
before the 2013 Act came into force, in a proceeding for
land acquisition pending with the authority concerned as on
1-1-2014. The period of subsistence of interim orders
passed by court has to be excluded in the computation of
five years.”
23
11.1 While holding so and dealing with somewhat similar submissions,
this Court has observed and held in paragraphs 284, 285, 287, 289, 293,
297, 299, 300, 301, 302, 306, 308, 309, 314, 315, 316, 317, 318, 319,
321, 323, 324, 325, 326, 329, 334 as under:-
“284. Before we go to various rival submissions, the pivotal
question for consideration is the interpretation of Section
24 and aims and objectives of the 2013 Act. Section 24
contemplates that in case the proceedings initiated under
the 1894 Act, are pending as on the date on which the
2013 Act has been enacted and if no award has been
passed in the proceedings, then there is no lapse and only
determination of compensation has to be made under
the 2013 Act. Where an award has been passed, it is
provided under Section 24(1)(b), the pending proceedings
shall continue under the provisions of the 1894 Act as if the
old Act has not been repealed. The provisions totally
exclude the applicability of any provision of the 2013 Act.
There are two requirements under Section 24(2), which are
to be met by the authorities, where award has been made
5 years or more prior to the commencement of the 2013
Act, if the physical possession of the land has not been
taken nor compensation has been paid. If possession has
been taken, compensation has to be paid by the acquiring
authorities. The time of five years is provided for authorities
to take action, not to sleep over the matter. In case of
lethargy or machinery and default on the part of the
authorities and for no other reason the lapse is provided.
Lapse is provided only in case of default by the authorities
acquiring the land, not caused by any other reason or order
of the court. When the interpretation of the provision is
clear, there was no necessity for Parliament to make such
a provision under Section 24(2) for exclusion of the period
of the interim order. Though it has excluded the period of
interim order for making declaration under the proviso to
Section 19(7) and exclusion has also been made for
24
computation of the period under Section 69 of the 2013
Act. It is due to the necessity to provide so in view of the
language of the provision. Under Section 69 of the 2013
Act, additional compensation @ 12% has to be given on
market value for the period commencing from the date of
the publication of the preliminary notification under Section
11. The additional compensation @ 12% has been
excluded for the period acquisition proceedings have been
held up on account of the interim injunction order of any
court. The provisions of Section 24 cast an obligation upon
the authorities to take steps meaning thereby that it is open
to them to take such steps, and inaction or lethargy on their
part has not been countenanced by Parliament.
Resultantly, lapse of proceedings takes place. It is by the
very nature of the provisions if it was not possible for
authorities for any reason not attributable to them or the
Government to take requisite steps, the period has to be
excluded. The Minister concerned Shri Jairam Ramesh in
answer to the debate quoted above has made it clear that
time-limit of five years has been fixed for the authorities to
take action. If we do not exclude the period of interim order,
the very spirit of the provision will be violated.
285. With respect to fixation of period is five years for the
executive authorities to take the requisite
steps, DDA v. Sukhbir Singh [(2016) 16 SCC 258]
observed that what the legislature is in effect telling the
executive is that they ought to have put their house in order
and completed the acquisition proceedings within a
reasonable time after the pronouncement of award. Not
having done so even after a leeway of five years, would
cross the limits of legislative tolerance, after which the
whole proceeding would be deemed to have lapsed. Thus,
it is apparent from the decision of DDA v. Sukhbir
Singh [(2016) 16 SCC 258], which is relied upon by the
landowners, that time-limit is fixed for the executive
authorities to take steps. In case they are prevented by the
court's order, obviously, as per the interpretation of the
25
provisions is that such period has to be excluded. In case
such a provision would have been made, it would have
been “ex abundanti cautela”. There was no necessity of
making such a provision even if this proposition has been
discussed during the formulation of legislation. However,
the provision providing exclusion has been enacted. It
casts an obligation upon the authorities to take requisite
steps within five years, that by itself excludes such period
of interim order.
X X X X
287. The intent of the 2013 Act, is not to benefit litigants
only. It has introduced a new regime which is beneficial to
the landowners. The provisions of Section 24 by itself do
not intend to confer the benefits on litigating parties, while
as per Section 114 of the 2013 Act and Section 6 of the
General Clauses Act, has to be litigated as per the
provisions of the 1894 Act.
X X X X
289. In the opinion of this Court it is not the intendment of
the 2013 Act that those who have litigated should get
benefits of higher compensation as contemplated under
Section 24 benefit is conferred on all beneficiaries. It is not
intended by the provisions that in piecemeal the persons
who have litigated and have obtained the interim order
should get the benefits of the provisions of the 2013 Act.
Those who have accepted the compensation within 5 years
and handed over the possession too, are to be benefited,
in case amount has not been deposited with respect to
majority of holdings. There are cases in which projects
have come up in part and as per plan rest of the area is
required for planned development with respect to which
interim stays have been obtained. It is not the intendment
of the law to deliver advantage to relentless litigants. It
cannot be said hence, that it was due to the inaction of the
26
authorities that possession could not be taken within 5
years. Public policy is not to foment or foster litigation but
put an end to it. In several instances, in various High
Courts writ petitions were dismissed by the Single Judge
Benches and the writ appeals were pending for a long time
and in which, with respect to part of land of the projects,
efforts were made to obtain the benefit of Section 24(2).
Parliament in our view did not intend to confer benefits to
such litigants for the aforementioned reasons. Litigation
may be frivolous or may be worthy. Such litigants have to
stand on the strength of their own case and in such a case
provisions of Section 114 of the 2013 Act and Section 6 of
the General Clauses Act, 1897, are clearly attracted and
such proceedings have to be continued under the
provisions of the old Act that would be in the spirit of
Section 24(1)(b) itself of the 2013 Act. Section 6(b) of the
General Clauses Act, 1897, provides that repeal will not
affect the previous operation of any enactment so repealed
or anything duly done or suffered thereunder. Section 6(c)
states that repeal would not affect any right, privilege,
obligation or liability acquired, accrued or incurred under
any enactment so repealed. When there is a provision itself
in Section 24(1)(b) of continuance of the proceedings
where award has been passed under the 1894 Act, for the
purposes of Section 24 as provided in Section 24(b), the
provisions of Section 114 is clearly attracted so as the
provisions of Section 6 of the General Clauses Act, 1897,
to the extent of non obstante clause of Section 24, where
possession has not been taken nor payment has been
made, there is a lapse, that too by the inaction of the
authorities. Any court's interim order cannot be said to be
inaction of the authorities or agencies; thus, time period is
not to be included for counting the 5 years period as
envisaged in Section 24(2). As per the proviso to Section
24(2), where possession has been taken, but
compensation has not been paid or deposited with respect
to majority of landholdings, all the beneficiaries would be
entitled for higher compensation only to that extent, the
27
provisions of Section 114 of the 2013 Act, would be
superseded but it would not obliterate the general
application of Section 6 of the General Clauses Act, 1897,
which deals with effect of repeal except as provided in
Section 24(2) and its proviso.
X X X X
293. There cannot be any dispute with the above
propositions. However, in the present case, when we
construe the provisions of Section 24, it clearly ousts the
period spent during the interim stay of the court. Five years'
period is fixed for the purpose to take action, if they have
not taken the action for 5 years or more, then there is
lapse, not otherwise. Even if there had been a provision
made with respect to the exclusion of time spent in the
court proceedings with respect to interim stay due to court's
order, it could have been ex abundanti cautela, which has
been considered by this Court in Union of India v. Modi
Rubber Ltd. [(1986) 4 SCC 66] It would have been
superfluous to make such a provision. Following
observations were made in Modi Rubber Ltd. [(1986) 4
SCC 66]: (SCC pp. 72-74, para 7)
“7. Both these notifications, as the opening part
shows, are issued under Rule 8(1) of the Central
Excise Rules, 1944 and since the definition of
“duty” in Rule 2, clause (v) must necessarily be
projected in Rule 8(1) and the expression “duty of
excise” in Rule 8(1) must be read in the light of
that definition, the same expression used in these
two notifications issued under Rule 8(1) must also
be interpreted in the same sense, namely, duty of
excise payable under the Central Excises and
Salt Act, 1944 and the exemption granted under
both these notifications must be regarded as
limited only to such duty of excise. But the
respondents contended that the expression “duty
28
of excise” was one of large amplitude and in the
absence of any restrictive or limitative words
indicating that it was intended to refer only to duty
of excise leviable under the Central Excises and
Salt Act, 1944, it must be held to cover all duties
of excise whether leviable under the Central
Excises and Salt Act, 1944 or under any other
enactment. The respondents sought to support
this contention by pointing out that whenever the
Central Government wanted to confine the
exemption granted under a notification to the duty
of excise leviable under the Central Excises and
Salt Act, 1944, the Central Government made its
intention abundantly clear by using appropriate
words of limitation such as “duty of excise leviable
… under Section 3 of the Central Excises and Salt
Act, 1944” or “duty of excise leviable … under the
Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944” or “duty of
excise leviable … under the said Act” as in
Notification No. CER-8(3)/55-C.E. dated 17-9-
1955, Notification No. 255/77-C.E. dated 20-7-
1977, Notification No. CER-8(1)/55-C.E. dated 2-
9-1955, Notification No. CER-8(9)/55-C.E. dated
31-12-1955, Notification No. 95/61-C.E. dated 1-
4-1961, Notification No. 23/55-C.E. dated 29-4-
1955 and similar other notifications. But, here said
the respondents, no such words of limitation are
used in the two notifications in question and the
expression “duty of excise” must, therefore, be
read according to its plain natural meaning as
including all duties of excise, including special
duty of excise and auxiliary duty of excise. Now, it
is no doubt true that in these various notifications
referred to above, the Central Government has,
while granting exemption under Rule 8(1), used
specified language indicating that the exemption,
total or partial, granted under each such
notification is in respect of excise duty leviable
29
under the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944. But,
merely because, as a matter of drafting, the
Central Government has in some notifications
specifically referred to the excise duty in respect
of which exemption is granted as “duty of excise”
leviable under the Central Excises and Salt Act,
1944, it does not follow that in the absence of
such words of specificity, the expression “duty of
excise” standing by itself must be read as
referring to all duties of excise. It is not
uncommon to find that the legislature sometimes,
with a view to making its intention clear beyond
doubt, uses language ex abundanti cautela
though it may not be strictly necessary and even
without it the same intention can be spelt out as a
matter of judicial construction and this would be
more so in case of subordinate legislation by the
executive. The officer drafting a particular piece of
subordinate legislation in the Executive
Department may employ words with a view to
leaving no scope for possible doubt as to its
intention or sometimes even for greater
completeness, though these words may not add
anything to the meaning and scope of the
subordinate legislation. Here, in the present
notifications, the words, ‘duty of excise leviable
under the Central Excises and Salt Act, 1944’ do
not find a place as in the other notifications relied
upon by the respondents. But, that does not
necessarily lead to the inference that the
expression “duty of excise” in these notifications
was intended to refer to all duties of excise
including special and auxiliary duties of excise.
The absence of these words does not absolve us
from the obligation to interpret the expression
“duty of excise” in these notifications. We have
still to construe this expression — what is its
meaning and import — and that has to be done
30
bearing in mind the context in which it occurs. We
have already pointed out that these notifications
having been issued under Rule 8(1), the
expression “duty of excise” in these notifications
must bear the same meaning which it has in Rule
8(1) and that meaning clearly is — excise duty
payable under the Central Excises and Salt Act,
1944 as envisaged in Rule 2 clause (v). It cannot
in the circumstances bear an extended meaning
so as to include special excise duty and auxiliary
excise duty.”
(emphasis supplied)
X X X X
297. The correctness of the decision of Sree Balaji Nagar
Residential Assn. [Sree Balaji Nagar Residential
Assn. v. State of T.N., (2015) 3 SCC 353] was doubted
in Yogesh Neema [Yogesh Neema v. State of M.P., (2016)
6 SCC 387], and the matter was referred to a larger Bench.
In Sree Balaji Nagar Residential Assn. [Sree Balaji Nagar
Residential Assn. v. State of T.N., (2015) 3 SCC 353]
following observations were made: (SCC p. 361, paras 11-
12)
“11. From a plain reading of Section 24 of the
2013 Act, it is clear that Section 24(2) of the
2013 Act does not exclude any period during
which the land acquisition proceeding might
have remained stayed on account of stay or
injunction granted by any court. In the same Act,
the proviso to Section 19(7) in the context of
limitation for publication of declaration under
Section 19(1) and the Explanation to Section
69(2) for working out the market value of the
land in the context of delay between preliminary
notification under Section 11 and the date of the
award, specifically provide that the period or
31
periods during which the acquisition proceedings
were held up on account of any stay or injunction
by the order of any court be excluded in
computing the relevant period. In that view of the
matter, it can be safely concluded that the
legislature has consciously omitted to extend the
period of five years indicated in Section 24(2)
even if the proceedings had been delayed on
account of an order of stay or injunction granted
by a court of law or for any reason. Such casus
omissus cannot be supplied by the court in view
of law on the subject elaborately discussed by
this Court in Padma Sundara Rao v. State of
T.N. [(2002) 3 SCC 533]
12. Even in the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, the
legislature had brought about amendment in
Section 6 through an Amendment Act of 1984 to
add Explanation 1 for the purpose of excluding
the period when the proceeding suffered stay by
an order of the court, in the context of limitation
provided for publishing the declaration under
Section 6(1) of the Act. To a similar effect was
the Explanation to Section 11-A, which was
added by Amendment Act 68 of 1984. Clearly,
the legislature has, in its wisdom, made the
period of five years under Section 24(2) of the
2013 Act absolute and unaffected by any delay
in the proceedings on account of any order of
stay by a court. The plain wordings used by the
legislature are clear and do not create any
ambiguity or conflict. In such a situation, the
court is not required to depart from the literal rule
of interpretation.”
X X X X
32
299. In cases where some landowners have chosen to take
recourse to litigation (which they have a right to) and have
obtained interim orders on taking possession or orders of
status quo, as a matter of practical reality it is not possible
for the authorities or State officials to take the possession
or to make payment of the compensation. In several
instances, such interim orders also impeded the making of
an award. Now, so far as awards (and compensation
payments, pursuant to such proceedings were concerned)
the period provided for making of awards under the 2013
Act (sic 1894 Act) could be excluded by virtue of
Explanation to Section 11-A. [“11-A. Period within which
an award shall be made.—The Collector shall make an
award under Section 11 within a period of two years from
the date of the publication of the declaration and if no
award is made within that period. the entire proceedings for
the acquisition of the land shall lapse: Provided that in a
case where the said declaration has been published before
the commencement of the Land Acquisition (Amendment)
Act, 1984 the award shall be made within a period of two
years from such commencements. Explanation.—In
computing the period of two years referred to in this
section, the period during which any action or proceeding
to be taken in pursuance of the said declaration is stayed
by an order of a court shall be excluded.”] Thus, no fault of
inaction can be attributed to the authorities and those who
had obtained such interim orders, cannot benefit by their
own action in filing litigation, which may or may not be
meritorious. Apart from the question of merits, when there
is an interim order with respect to the possession or order
of status quo or stay of further proceedings, the authorities
cannot proceed; nor can they pay compensation. Their
obligations are intertwined with the scheme of land
acquisition. It is observed that authorities may wait in the
proceedings till the interim order is vacated.
300. In our considered opinion, litigation which initiated by
the landowners has to be decided on its own merits and
33
the benefits of Section 24(2) should not be available to the
litigants. In case there is no interim order, they can get the
benefits they are entitled to, not otherwise as a result of
fruit of litigation, delays and dilatory tactics and sometime it
may be wholly frivolous pleas and forged documents as
observed in V.Chandrasekaran [V. Chandrasekaran v.
Administrative Officer, (2012) 12 SCC 133] mentioned
above.
301. In Abhey Ram v. Union of India [(1997) 5 SCC 421],
this Court considered the extended meaning of words “stay
of the action or proceedings”. It was observed that any type
of orders passed by this Court would be an inhibitive action
on the part of the authorities to proceed further. This Court
observed thus: (SCC pp. 428-29, para 9)
“9. Therefore, the reasons given in B.R.
Gupta v. Union of India [1988 SCC OnLine Del
367], are obvious with reference to the quashing
of the publication of the declaration under Section
6 vis-à-vis the writ petitioners therein. The
question that arises for consideration is whether
the stay obtained by some of the persons who
prohibited the respondents from publication of the
declaration under Section 6 would equally be
extendible to the cases relating to the appellants.
We proceed on the premise that the appellants
had not obtained any stay of the publication of the
declaration but since the High Court in some of
the cases has, in fact, prohibited them as
extracted hereinbefore, from publication of the
declaration, necessarily, when the Court has not
restricted the declaration in the impugned orders
in support of the petitioners therein, the officers
had to hold back their hands till the matters were
disposed of. In fact, this Court has given extended
meaning to the orders of stay or proceeding in
various cases, namely, Yusufbhai Noormohmed
34
Nendoliya v. State of Gujarat [(1991) 4 SCC
531], Hansraj H. Jain v. State of
Maharashtra [(1993) 3 SCC 634], Sangappa
Gurulingappa Sajjan v. State of Karnataka [(1994)
4 SCC 145], Gandhi Grah Nirman Sahkari Samiti
Ltd. v. State of Rajasthan [(1993) 2 SCC 662], G.
Narayanaswamy Reddy v. State of
Karnataka [(1991) 3 SCC 261] and Roshnara
Begum v. Union of India [Civil Appeal No. 13976
of 1996 sub nom Murari v. Union of India, (1997) 1
SCC 15] . The words “stay of the action or
proceeding” have been widely interpreted by this
Court and mean that any type of the orders
passed by this Court would be an inhibitive action
on the part of the authorities to proceed further.
When the action of conducting an enquiry under
Section 5-A was put in issue and the declaration
under Section 6 was questioned, necessarily
unless the Court holds that enquiry under Section
5-A was properly conducted and the declaration
published under Section 6 was valid, it would not
be open to the officers to proceed further into the
matter. As a consequence, the stay granted in
respect of some would be applicable to others
also who had not obtained stay in that behalf. We
are not concerned with the correctness of the
earlier direction with regard to Section 5-A enquiry
and consideration of objections as it was not
challenged by the respondent Union. We express
no opinion on its correctness, though it is open to
doubt.”
302. In Om Parkash v. Union of India [(2010) 4 SCC 17], it
was observed that interim order of stay granted in one of
the matters of the landowners would put complete restraint
on the respondents to proceed further to issue declaration
under Section 6 of the Act. It was observed as under: (SCC
p. 44, para 72)
35
“72. Thus, in other words, the interim order of stay
granted in one of the matters of the landowners
would put complete restraint on the respondents
to have proceeded further to issue notification
under Section 6 of the Act. Had they issued the
said notification during the period when the stay
was operative, then obviously they may have
been hauled up for committing contempt of court.
The language employed in the interim orders of
stay is also such that it had completely restrained
the respondents from proceeding further in the
matter by issuing declaration/notification under
Section 6 of the Act.”
X X X X
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 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.
X X X X
308. In Union of India v. North Telumer Colliery [(1989) 3
SCC 411], this Court observed that delaying tactics should
not be permitted to fructify. By causing delay, the owner
would get huge amount of interest, but he may not get a
penny out of the principal amount. It would amount to
conferring unjust benefit on the owners which can never be
36
the intention of Parliament. This Court observed: (SCC pp.
416-17, para 8)
“8. The High Court's conclusions are primarily
based on the interpretation of Section 18(5) of the
Coal Act. The High Court has quoted the meaning
of words “enure” and “benefit” from various
dictionaries. No dictionary or any outside
assistance is needed to understand the meaning
of these simple words in the context and scheme
of the Coal Act. The interest has to enure to the
benefit of the owners of the coal mines. The
claims before the Commissioner under the Coal
Act are from the creditors of the owners, and the
liabilities sought to be discharged are also of the
owners of the coal mines. When the debts are
paid and the liabilities discharged, it is only the
owners of coal mines who are benefited. Taking
away the interest amount by the owners without
discharging their debts and liabilities would be
unreasonable. They have only to adopt delaying
tactics to postpone the disbursement of claims
and consequently earn more interest. Due to such
delay, the owner would get huge amount of
interest though ultimately, he may not get a penny
out of principal amount on the final settlement of
claims. It would amount to conferring unjust
benefit on the owners which can never be the
intention of Parliament. We do not agree with the
interpretation given by the High Court and hold
that the interest accruing under the Coal Act is the
money paid to the Commissioner in relation to the
coal mine and the same has to be utilised by the
Commissioner in meeting the claims of the
creditors and discharging other liabilities in
accordance with the provisions of the Coal Act.”
37
309. It may not be doubtful conduct to file frivolous litigation
and obtain stay; but benefit of Section 24(2) should not be
conferred on those who prevented the taking of possession
or payment of compensation, for the period spent during
the stay.
X X X X
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.
315. In Chandra Kishore Jha v. Mahavir Prasad [(1999) 8
SCC 266], an election petition was to be presented in the
manner prescribed in Rule 6 of Chapter XXI-E of the Patna
High Court Rules. The Rules stipulated that the election
petition, could under no circumstances, be presented to the
Registrar to save the period of limitation. The election
petition could be presented in the open court up to 4.15
p.m. i.e. working hours of the court. The Chief Justice had
passed the order that court shall not sit for the rest after
3.15 p.m. Thus, the petition filed the next day was held to
be within time. In Mohd. Gazi v. State of M.P. [(2000) 4
SCC 342], the maxim “actus curiae neminem gravabit”
came up for consideration along with maxim “lex non cogit
ad impossibilia” — the law does not compel a man to
38
perform act which is not possible. Following observations
had been made: (SCC p. 347, para 7)
“7. In the facts and circumstances of the case, the
maxim of equity, namely, actus curiae neminem
gravabit — an act of the court shall prejudice no
man, shall be applicable. This maxim is founded
upon justice and good sense, which serves a safe
and certain guide for the administration of law.
The other maxim is, lex non cogit ad
impossibilia — the law does not compel a man to
do what he cannot possibly perform. The law itself
and its administration are understood to disclaim
as it does in its general aphorisms, all intention of
compelling impossibilities, and the administration
of law must adopt that general exception in
consideration of particular cases. The applicability
of the aforesaid maxims has been approved by
this Court in Raj Kumar Dey v. Tarapada
Dey [(1987) 4 SCC 398] and Gursharan
Singh v. NDMC [(1996) 2 SCC 459].”
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. In Industrial Finance Corpn. of India
Ltd. v. Cannanore Spg. & Wvg. Mills Ltd. [(2002) 5 SCC
54], this Court observed that where law creates a duty or
charge and the party is disabled to perform it, without any
default and has no remedy over, there the law will in
general excuse him. This Court relying upon the aforesaid
maxim observed as under: (SCC p. 71, para 30)
39
“30. The Latin maxim referred to in the English
judgment lex non cogit ad impossibilia also
expressed as impotentia excusat legem in
common English acceptation means, the law does
not compel a man to do that which he cannot
possibly perform. There ought always thus to be
an invincible disability to perform the obligation,
and the same is akin to the Roman maxim nemo
tenetur ad impossible. In Broom's Legal Maxims,
the state of the situation has been described as
below:
‘It is, then, a general rule which admits of
ample practical illustration,
that impotentia excusat legem; where
the law creates a duty or charge, and the
party is disabled to perform it, without
any default in him, and has no remedy
over, there the law will in general excuse
him (t) : and though impossibility of
performance is, in general, no excuse for
not performing an obligation which a
party has expressly undertaken by
contract, yet when the obligation is one
implied by law, impossibility of
performance is a good excuse. Thus in a
case in which consignees of a cargo
were prevented from unloading a ship
promptly by reason of a dock strike, the
Court, after holding that in the absence
of an express agreement to unload in a
specified time there was implied
obligation to unload within a reasonable
time, held that the maxim lex non cogit
ad impossibilia applied, and Lindley, L.J.,
said: “We have to do
with implied obligations, and I am not
aware of any case in which an obligation
40
to pay damages is ever cast by
implication upon a person for not doing
that which is rendered impossible by
causes beyond his control.” ’ ”
(emphasis in original)
317. In HUDA v. Babeswar Kanhar [(2005) 1 SCC 191],
this Court considered the general principle that a party
prevented from doing an act by some circumstances
beyond his control, can do so at the first subsequent
opportunity as held in Sambasiva Chari v. Ramasami
Reddi [ILR (1899) 22 Mad 179]. In Babeswar
Kanhar [HUDA v. Babeswar Kanhar, (2005) 1 SCC 191], it
was observed thus: (SCC pp. 192-93, para 5)
“5. What is stipulated in Clause 4 of the letter
dated 30-10-2001 is a communication regarding
refusal to accept the allotment. This was done on
28-11-2001. Respondent 1 cannot be put to a loss
for the closure of the office of HUDA on 1-12-2001
and 2-12-2001 and the postal holiday on 30-11-
2001. In fact, he had no control over these
matters. Even the logic of Section 10 of the
General Clauses Act, 1897 can be pressed into
service. Apart from the said section and various
provisions in various other Acts, there is the
general principle that a party prevented from
doing an act by some circumstances beyond his
control, can do so at the first subsequent
opportunity (see Sambasiva Chari v. Ramasami
Reddi [ILR (1899) 22 Mad 179]). The underlying
object of the principle is to enable a person to do
what he could have done on holiday, on the next
working day. Where, therefore, a period is
prescribed for the performance of an act in a court
or office, and that period expires on a holiday,
then the act should be considered to have been
done within that period if it is done on the next day
41
on which the court or office is open. The reason is
that the law does not compel the performance of
an impossibility. (See Hossein
Ally v. Donzelle [ILR (1880) 5 Cal 906].) Every
consideration of justice and expediency would
require that the accepted principle, which
underlies Section 10 of the General Clauses Act,
should be applied in cases where it does not
otherwise in terms apply. The principles
underlying are lex non cogit ad impossibilia (the
law does not compel a man to do the impossible)
and actus curiae neminem gravabit (the act of
court shall prejudice no man). Above being the
position, there is nothing infirm in the orders
passed by the forums below. However, the rate of
interest fixed appears to be slightly on the higher
side and is reduced to 9% to be paid with effect
from 3-12-2001 i.e. the date on which the letter
was received by HUDA.”
318. In Presidential Poll, In re [(1974) 2 SCC 33], this Court
made similar observations. When there is a disability to
perform a part of the law, such a charge has to be excused.
When performance of the formalities prescribed by a
statute is rendered impossible by circumstances over
which the persons concerned have no control, it has to be
taken as a valid excuse. The Court observed: (SCC pp. 49-
50, para 15)
“15. The impossibility of the completion of the
election to fill the vacancy in the office of the
President before the expiration of the term of
office in the case of death of a candidate as may
appear from Section 7 of the 1952 Act does not
rob Article 62(1) of its mandatory character. The
maxim of law impotentia excusat legem is
intimately connected with another maxim of
law lex non cogit ad impossibilia. Impotentia
42
excusat legem is that when there is a necessary
or invincible disability to perform the mandatory
part of the law that impotentia excuses. The law
does not compel one to do that which one cannot
possibly perform. ‘Where the law creates a duty or
charge, and the party is disabled to perform it,
without any default in him, and has no remedy
over it, there the law will in general excuse him.’
Therefore, when it appears that the performance
of the formalities prescribed by a statute has been
rendered impossible by circumstances over which
the persons interested had no control, like the act
of God, the circumstances will be taken as a valid
excuse. Where the act of God prevents the
compliance of the words of a statute, the statutory
provision is not denuded of its mandatory
character because of supervening impossibility
caused by the act of God. (See Broom's Legal
Maxims, 10th Edn. at pp. 162-63 and Craies on
Statute Law, 6th Edn. at p. 268).”
319. In Standard Chartered Bank v. Directorate of
Enforcement [(2005) 4 SCC 530], the legal maxim
“impotentia excusat legem” has been applied to hold that
law does not compel a man to do that which cannot
possibly be performed. Though the maxim with respect to
the impossibility of performance may not be strictly
applicable, however, the effect of the court's order, for the
time being, made the authorities disable to fulfil the
obligation. Thus, when they were incapable of performing,
they have to be permitted to perform at the first available
opportunity, which is the time prescribed by the statute for
them i.e. the total period of 5 years excluding the period of
the interim order.
320. The maxim actus curiae neminem gravabit is founded
upon the principle due to court proceedings or acts of
court, no party should suffer. If any interim orders are made
43
during the pendency of the litigation, they are subject to the
final decision in the matter. In case the matter is dismissed
as without merit, the interim order is automatically
dissolved. In case the matter has been filed without any
merit, the maxim is attracted commodum ex injuria sua
nemo habere debet, that is, convenience cannot accrue to
a party from his own wrong. No person ought to have the
advantage of his own wrong. In case litigation has been
filed frivolously or without any basis, iniquitously in order to
delay and by that it is delayed, there is no equity in favour
of such a person. Such cases are required to be decided
on merits. In Mrutunjay Pani v. Narmada Bala Sasmal [AIR
1961 SC 1353], this Court observed that: (AIR p. 1355,
para 5)
“5. … The same principle is comprised in the Latin
maxim commodum ex injuria sua nemo habere
debet, that is, convenience cannot accrue to a
party from his own wrong. To put it in other words,
no one can be allowed to benefit from his own
wrongful act.”
321. It is not the policy of law that untenable claims should
get fructified due to delay. Similarly, sufferance of a person
who abides by law is not permissible. The 2013 Act does
not confer the benefit on unscrupulous litigants, but it aims
at and frowns upon the lethargy of the officials to complete
the requisites within five years.
X X X X
323. In GTC Industries Ltd. v. Union of India [(1998) 3 SCC
376], it was observed that while vacating stay, it is the
court's duty to account for the period of delay and to settle
equities. It is not the gain which can be conferred. In Jaipur
Municipal Corpn. v. C.L. Mishra [(2005) 8 SCC 423], it has
been observed that interim order merges in the final order,
and it cannot have an independent existence, cannot
44
survive beyond final decision. In Ram Krishna
Verma v. State of U.P. [(1992) 2 SCC 620], reliance was
placed on Grindlays Bank Ltd. v. CIT [(1980) 2 SCC 191]. It
was held that no one could be permitted to suffer from the
act of the court and in case an interim order has been
passed and ultimately petition is found to be without merit
and is dismissed, the interest of justice requires that any
undeserved or unfair advantage gained by a party invoking
the jurisdiction of the court must be neutralised.
324. In Mahadeo Savlaram Shelke v. Pune Municipal
Corpn. [(1995) 3 SCC 33], it has been observed that the
Court can under its inherent jurisdiction ex debito
justitiae has a duty to mitigate the damage suffered by the
defendants by the act of the court. Such action is
necessary to put a check on abuse of process of the court.
In Amarjeet Singh v. Devi Ratan [(2010) 1 SCC 417],
and Ram Krishna Verma [Ram Krishna Verma v. State of
U.P., (1992) 2 SCC 620], it was observed that no person
can suffer from the act of court and unfair advantage of the
interim order must be neutralised. In Amarjeet
Singh [Amarjeet Singh v. Devi Ratan, (2010) 1 SCC 417],
this Court observed: (SCC pp. 422-23, paras 17-18)
“17. No litigant can derive any benefit from mere
pendency of the case in a court of law, as the
interim order always merges in the final order to
be passed in the case, and if the writ petition is
ultimately dismissed, the interim order stands
nullified automatically. A party cannot be allowed
to take any benefit of its own wrongs by getting an
interim order and thereafter blame the court. The
fact that the writ is found, ultimately, devoid of any
merit, shows that a frivolous writ petition had been
filed. The maxim actus curiae neminem gravabit,
which means that the act of the court shall
prejudice no one, becomes applicable in such a
case. In such a fact situation, the court is under
45
an obligation to undo the wrong done to a party by
the act of the court. Thus, any undeserved or
unfair advantage gained by a party invoking the
jurisdiction of the court must be neutralised, as
the institution of litigation cannot be permitted to
confer any advantage on a suitor from delayed
action by the act of the court. (Vide Shiv
Shankar v. U.P. SRTC [1995 Supp (2) SCC
726], GTC Industries Ltd. v. Union of India [(1998)
3 SCC 376] and Jaipur Municipal Corpn. v. C.L.
Mishra [(2005) 8 SCC 423].)
18. In Ram Krishna Verma v. State of U.P. [(1992)
2 SCC 620], this Court examined a similar issue
while placing reliance upon its earlier judgment
in Grindlays Bank Ltd. v. CIT [(1980) 2 SCC 191]
and held that no person can suffer from the act of
the court and in case an interim order has been
passed, and the petitioner takes advantage
thereof, and ultimately the petition is found to be
without any merit and is dismissed, the interest of
justice requires that any undeserved or unfair
advantage gained by a party invoking the
jurisdiction of the court must be neutralised.”
325. In Karnataka Rare Earth v. Deptt. of Mines &
Geology [(2004) 2 SCC 783], this Court observed that
maxim actus curiae neminem gravabit requires that the
party should be placed in the same position but for the
court's order which is ultimately found to be not sustainable
which has resulted in one party gaining advantage which
otherwise would not have earned and the other party has
suffered but for the orders of the court. The successful
party can demand the delivery of benefit earned by the
other party, or make restitution for what it has lost. This
Court observed: (SCC pp. 790-91, paras 10-11)
46
“10. In … the doctrine of actus curiae neminem
gravabit and held that the doctrine was not
confined in its application only to such acts of the
court which were erroneous; the doctrine is
applicable to all such acts as to which it can be
held that the court would not have so acted had it
been correctly apprised of the facts and the law. It
is the principle of restitution that is
attracted. When on account of an act of the party,
persuading the court to pass an order, which at
the end is held as not sustainable, has resulted in
one party gaining advantage which it would not
have otherwise earned, or the other party has
suffered an impoverishment which it would not
have suffered, but for the order of the court and
the act of such party, then the successful party
finally held entitled to a relief, assessable in terms
of money at the end of the litigation, is entitled to
be compensated in the same manner in which the
parties would have been if the interim order of the
court would not have been passed. The
successful party can demand : (a) the delivery of
benefit earned by the opposite party under the
interim order of the court, or (b) to make
restitution for what it has lost.
11. In the facts of this case, in spite of the
judgment [Karnataka Rare Earth v. Department of
Mines & Geology, WPs No. 4030-4031 of 1997,
order dated 1-12-1998 (KAR)] of the High Court, if
the appellants would not have persuaded this
Court to pass the interim orders, they would not
have been entitled to operate the mining leases
and to raise and remove and dispose of the
minerals extracted. But for the interim orders
passed by this Court, there is no difference
between the appellants and any person raising,
without any lawful authority, any mineral from any
47
land, attracting applicability of sub-section (5) of
Section 21. As the appellants have lost from the
Court, they cannot be allowed to retain the benefit
earned by them under the interim orders of the
Court. The High Court has rightly held the
appellants liable to be placed in the same position
in which they would have been if this Court would
not have protected them by issuing interim orders.
All that the State Government is demanding from
the appellants is the price of the minor minerals.
Rent, royalty or tax has already been recovered
by the State Government and, therefore, there is
no demand under that head. No penal
proceedings, much less any criminal proceedings,
have been initiated against the appellants. It is
absolutely incorrect to contend that the appellants
are being asked to pay any penalty or are being
subjected to any penal action. It is not the case of
the appellants that they are being asked to pay
the price more than what they have realised from
the exports or that the price appointed by the
respondent State is in any manner arbitrary or
unreasonable.”
(emphasis supplied)
326. In A.R. Antulay [A.R. Antulay v. R.S. Nayak, (1988) 2
SCC 602], this Court observed that it is a settled principle
that an act of the court shall prejudice no man. This
maxim actus curiae neminem gravabit is founded upon
justice and good sense and affords a safe and certain
guide for the administration of the law. No man can be
denied his rights. In India, a delay occurs due to procedural
wrangles. In A.R. Antulay [A.R. Antulay v. R.S. Nayak,
(1988) 2 SCC 602], this Court observed: (SCC p. 687, para
102)
“102. This being the apex court, no litigant has
any opportunity of approaching any higher forum
48
to question its decisions. Lord Buckmaster
in Montreal Street Railway
Co. v. Normandin [1917 AC 170 (PC)] (sic) stated:
‘All rules of court are nothing but
provisions intended to secure the proper
administration of justice. It is, therefore,
essential that they should be made to
serve and be subordinate to that
purpose.’
This Court in State of Gujarat v. Ramprakash P.
Puri [(1969) 3 SCC 156], reiterated the position by saying:
(SCC p. 159, para 5)
‘5. … Procedure has been described to be a
handmaid and not a mistress of law, intended to
subserve and facilitate the cause of justice and
not to govern or obstruct it. Like all rules of
procedure, this rule demands a construction
which would promote this cause.’
Once judicial satisfaction is reached that the direction was
not open to be made and it is accepted as a mistake of the
court, it is not only appropriate but also the duty of the court
to rectify the mistake by exercising inherent powers.
Judicial opinion heavily leans in favour of this view that a
mistake of the court can be corrected by the court itself
without any fetters. This is on principle, as indicated
in Alexander Rodger case [Alexander Rodger v. Comptoir
D'Escompte De Paris, (1969-71) LR 3 PC 465 : 17 ER
120]. I am of the view that in the present situation, the
court's inherent powers can be exercised to remedy the
mistake. Mahajan, J. speaking for a four-Judge Bench
in Keshardeo Chamria v. Radha Kissen Chamria [1953
SCR 136 : AIR 1953 SC 23], SCR p. 153 stated: (AIR p.
28, para 21)
49
‘21. … The Judge had jurisdiction to correct his
own error without entering into a discussion of the
grounds taken by the decree-holder or the
objections raised by the judgment-debtors.’ ”
X X X X
329. There can be no doubt that when parties are before
court, the final decision has to prevail, and they succeed or
fail based on the merits of their relative cases. Neither can
be permitted to take shelter under the cover of court's order
to put the other party in a disadvantageous position. If one
has enjoyed under the court's cover, that period cannot be
included towards inaction of the authorities to take requisite
steps under Section 24. The State authorities would have
acted but for the court's order. In fact, the occasion for the
petitioners to approach the court in those cases, was that
the State or acquiring bodies were taking their properties.
Ultimately case had to stand on its merit in the challenge to
the acquisition or compensation, and no right or advantage
could therefore be conferred (or accrue) under Section
24(2) in such situations.
X X X X
334. For all these reasons, it is held that the omission to
expressly enact a provision, that excludes the period during
which any interim order was operative, preventing the State
from taking possession of acquired land, or from giving
effect to the award, in a particular case or cases, cannot
result in the inclusion of such period or periods for the
purpose of reckoning the period of 5 years. Also, merely
because timelines are indicated, with the consequence of
lapsing, under Sections 19 and 69 of the 2013 Act, per se
does not mean that omission to factor such time (of
subsistence of interim orders) has any special legislative
intent. This Court notices, in this context, that even under
the new Act (nor was it so under the 1894 Act) no provision
50
has been enacted, for lapse of the entire acquisition, for
non-payment of compensation within a specified time; nor
has any such provision been made regarding possession.
Furthermore, non-compliance with payment and deposit
provisions (under Section 77) only results in higher interest
pay-outs under Section 80. The omission to provide for
exclusion of time during which interim orders subsisted,
while determining whether or not acquisitions lapsed, in the
present case, is a clear result of inadvertence or accident,
having regard to the subject-matter, refusal to apply the
principle underlying the maxim actus curiae neminem
gravabit would result in injustice.”
11.2 While applying the principle of restitution, it is observed in
paragraphs 335 to 339 as under:-
“In re : Principle of restitution
335. The principle of restitution is founded on the ideal of
doing complete justice at the end of litigation, and parties
have to be placed in the same position but for the litigation
and interim order, if any, passed in the matter. In South
Eastern Coalfields Ltd. v. State of M.P. [(2003) 8 SCC 648],
it was held that no party could take advantage of litigation.
It has to disgorge the advantage gained due to delay in
case lis is lost. The interim order passed by the court
merges into a final decision. The validity of an interim order,
passed in favour of a party, stands reversed in the event of
a final order going against the party successful at the
interim stage. Section 144 of the Code of Civil Procedure is
not the fountain source of restitution. It is rather a statutory
recognition of the rule of justice, equity and fair play. The
court has inherent jurisdiction to order restitution so as to
do complete justice. This is also on the principle that a
wrong order should not be perpetuated by keeping it alive
and respecting it. In exercise of such power, the courts
have applied the principle of restitution to myriad situations
51
not falling within the terms of Section 144 CPC. What
attracts applicability of restitution is not the act of the court
being wrongful or mistake or an error committed by the
court; the test is whether, on account of an act of the party
persuading the court to pass an order held at the end as
not sustainable, resulting in one party gaining an
advantage which it would not have otherwise earned, or
the other party having suffered an impoverishment,
restitution has to be made. Litigation cannot be permitted to
be a productive industry. Litigation cannot be reduced to
gaming where there is an element of chance in every case.
If the concept of restitution is excluded from application to
interim orders, then the litigant would stand to gain by
swallowing the benefits yielding out of the interim order.
This Court observed in South Eastern Coalfields [South
Eastern Coalfields Ltd. v. State of M.P., (2003) 8 SCC 648]
thus: (SCC pp. 662-64, paras 26-28)
“26. In our opinion, the principle of restitution
takes care of this submission. The word
“restitution” in its etymological sense means
restoring to a party on the modification, variation
or reversal of a decree or order, what has been
lost to him in execution of decree or order of the
court or in direct consequence of a decree or
order (see Zafar Khan v. Board of Revenue,
U.P. [1984 Supp SCC 505]). In law, the term
“restitution” is used in three senses : (i) return or
restoration of some specific thing to its rightful
owner or status; (ii) compensation for benefits
derived from a wrong done to another; and (iii)
compensation or reparation for the loss caused to
another. (See Black's Law Dictionary, 7th Edn., p.
1315). The Law of Contracts by John D. Calamari
& Joseph M. Perillo has been quoted by Black to
say that “restitution” is an ambiguous term,
sometimes referring to the disgorging of
52
something which has been taken and at times
referring to compensation for the injury done:
‘Often, the result under either meaning of
the term would be the same. … Unjust
impoverishment, as well as unjust
enrichment, is a ground for restitution. If
the defendant is guilty of a non-tortious
misrepresentation, the measure of
recovery is not rigid but, as in other
cases of restitution, such factors as
relative fault, the agreed-upon risks, and
the fairness of alternative risk allocations
not agreed upon and not attributable to
the fault of either party need to be
weighed.’
The principle of restitution has been statutorily
recognised in Section 144 of the Code of Civil
Procedure, 1908. Section 144 CPC speaks not
only of a decree being varied, reversed, set aside
or modified but also includes an order on a par
with a decree. The scope of the provision is wide
enough so as to include therein almost all the
kinds of variation, reversal, setting aside or
modification of a decree or order. The interim
order passed by the court merges into a final
decision. The validity of an interim order, passed
in favour of a party, stands reversed in the event
of a final decision going against the party
successful at the interim stage. …
27. … This is also on the principle that a wrong
order should not be perpetuated by keeping it
alive and respecting it (A. Arunagiri Nadar v. S.P.
Rathinasami [1970 SCC OnLine Mad 63]). In the
exercise of such inherent power, the courts have
applied the principles of restitution to myriad
53
situations not strictly falling within the terms of
Section 144.
28. That no one shall suffer by an act of the court
is not a rule confined to an erroneous act of the
court; the “act of the court” embraces within its
sweep all such acts as to which the court may
form an opinion in any legal proceedings that the
court would not have so acted had it been
correctly apprised of the facts and the law. … the
concept of restitution is excluded from application
to interim orders, then the litigant would stand to
gain by swallowing the benefits yielding out of the
interim order even though the battle has been lost
at the end. This cannot be countenanced. We are,
therefore, of the opinion that the successful party
finally held entitled to a relief assessable in terms
of money at the end of the litigation, is entitled to
be compensated by award of interest at a suitable
reasonable rate for the period for which the
interim order of the court withholding the release
of money had remained in operation.”
(emphasis supplied)
336. In State of Gujarat v. Essar Oil Ltd. [(2012) 3 SCC
522], it was observed that the principle of restitution is a
remedy against unjust enrichment or unjust benefit. The
Court observed: (SCC p. 542, paras 61-62)
“61. The concept of restitution is virtually a
common law principle, and it is a remedy against
unjust enrichment or unjust benefit. The core of
the concept lies in the conscience of the court,
which prevents a party from retaining money or
some benefit derived from another, which it has
received by way of an erroneous decree of the
court. Such remedy in English Law is generally
different from a remedy in contract or in tort and
54
falls within the third category of common law
remedy, which is called quasi-contract or
restitution.
62. If we analyse the concept of restitution, one
thing emerges clearly that the obligation to
restitute lies on the person or the authority that
has received unjust enrichment or unjust benefit
(see Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th Edn., Vol. 9,
p. 434).”
337. In A. Shanmugam v. Ariya Kshatriya Rajakula
Vamsathu Madalaya Nandhavana Paripalanai
Sangam [(2012) 6 SCC 430], it was stated that
restitutionary jurisdiction is inherent in every court, to
neutralise the advantage of litigation. A person on the right
side of the law should not be deprived, on account of the
effects of litigation; the wrongful gain of frivolous litigation
has to be eliminated if the faith of people in the judiciary
has to be sustained. The Court observed: (SCC pp. 451-
55, para 37)
“37. This Court, in another important case
in Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action v. Union
of India [Indian Council for Enviro-Legal
Action v. Union of India, (2011) 8 SCC 161] (of
which one of us, Dr Bhandari, J. was the author of
the judgment) had an occasion to deal with the
concept of restitution. The relevant paragraphs of
that judgment dealing with relevant judgments are
reproduced hereunder : (SCC pp. 238-41 & 243,
paras 171-76 & 183-84)
‘170.***
171. In Ram Krishna Verma v. State of
U.P. [(1992) 2 SCC 620] this Court observed as
under: (SCC p. 630, para 16)
55
“16. The 50 operators, including the
appellants/private operators, have been
running their stage carriages by blatant
abuse of the process of the court by
delaying the hearing as directed
in Jeewan Nath Wahal case [Jeewan
Nath Wahal v. State of U.P., (2011) 12
SCC 769] and the High Court earlier
thereto. As a fact, on the expiry of the
initial period of the grant after 29-9-1959,
they lost the right to obtain renewal or to
ply their vehicles, as this Court declared
the scheme to be operative. However, by
sheer abuse of the process of law, they
are continuing to ply their vehicles
pending the hearing of the objections.
This Court in Grindlays Bank
Ltd. v. CIT [(1980) 2 SCC 191] held that
the High Court, while exercising its
power under Article 226, the interest of
justice requires that any undeserved or
unfair advantage gained by a party
invoking the jurisdiction of the court must
be neutralised. It was further held that
the institution of the litigation by it should
not be permitted to confer an unfair
advantage on the party responsible for it.
In the light of that law and in view of the
power under Article 142(1) of the
Constitution this Court, while exercising
its jurisdiction would do complete justice
and neutralise the unfair advantage
gained by the 50 operators including the
appellants in dragging the litigation to
run the stage carriages on the approved
route or area or portion thereof and
forfeited their right to hearing of the
56
objections filed by them to the draft
scheme dated 26-2-1959.”
172. This Court in Kavita Trehan v. Balsara Hygiene
Products Ltd. [(1994) 5 SCC 380] observed as under:
(SCC p. 391, para 22)
“22. The jurisdiction to make restitution is inherent
in every court and will be exercised whenever the
justice of the case demands. It will be exercised
under inherent powers, where the case did not
strictly fall within the ambit of Section 144. Section
144 opens with the words:
‘144. Application for restitution.—(1) Where
and insofar as a decree or an order is varied or
reversed in any appeal, revision or other
proceeding or is set aside or modified in any suit
instituted for the purpose,….’
The instant case may not strictly fall within the terms of
Section 144, but the aggrieved party in such a case can
appeal to the larger and general powers of restitution
inherent in every court.”
173. This Court in Marshall Sons & Co. (India) Ltd. v. Sahi
Oretrans (P) Ltd. [(1999) 2 SCC 325] observed as under:
(SCC pp. 326-27, para 4)
“4. From the narration of the facts, though it
appears to us, prima facie, that a decree in favour
of the appellant is not being executed for some
reason or the other, we do not think it proper at
this stage to direct the respondent to deliver the
possession to the appellant since the suit filed by
the respondent is still pending. It is true that
proceedings are dragged on for a long time on
one count or the other and, on occasion, become
57
highly technical accompanied by unending
prolixity at every stage, providing a legal trap to
the unwary. Because of the delay, unscrupulous
parties to the proceedings take undue advantage,
and the person who is in wrongful possession
draws delight in delay in disposal of the cases by
taking undue advantage of procedural
complications. It is also a known fact that after
obtaining a decree for possession of the
immovable property, its execution takes a long
time. In such a situation, for protecting the interest
of the judgment-creditor, it is necessary to pass
appropriate orders so that reasonable mesne
profit which may be equivalent to the market rent
is paid by a person who is holding over the
property. In appropriate cases, the court may
appoint a Receiver and direct the person who is
holding over the property to act as an agent of the
[Receiver with a direction to deposit the royalty
amount fixed by the] Receiver or pass such other
order which may meet the interest of justice. This
may prevent further injury to the plaintiff in whose
favour the decree is passed and to protect the
property, including further alienation.”
174. In Padmawati v. Harijan Sewak Sangh [2008 SCC
OnLine Del 1202] decided by the Delhi High Court on 6-11-
2008, the Court held as under: (SCC Online Del para 6)
“6. The case at hand shows that frivolous
defences and frivolous litigation is a calculated
venture involving no risks situation. You have only
to engage professionals to prolong the litigation
so as to deprive the rights of a person and enjoy
the fruits of illegalities. I consider that in such
cases where the court finds that using the courts
as a tool, a litigant has perpetuated illegalities or
has perpetuated an illegal possession, the court
58
must impose costs on such litigants which should
be equal to the benefits derived by the litigant and
harm and deprivation suffered by the rightful
person so as to check the frivolous litigation and
prevent the people from reaping a rich harvest of
illegal acts through the courts. One of the aims of
every judicial system has to be to discourage
unjust enrichment using courts as a tool. The
costs imposed by the courts must in all cases
should be the real costs equal to deprivation
suffered by the rightful person.”
We approve the findings of the High Court of Delhi in the
case mentioned above.
175. The High Court also stated: (Padmawati
case [Padmawati v. Harijan Sewak Sangh, 2008 SCC
OnLine Del 1202], SCC OnLine Del para 9)
“9. Before parting with this case, we consider it
necessary to observe that one of the [main]
reasons for overflowing of court dockets is the
frivolous litigation in which the courts are engaged
by the litigants and which is dragged on for as
long as possible. Even if these litigants ultimately
lose the lis, they become the real victors and have
the last laugh. This class of people who
perpetuate illegal acts by obtaining stays and
injunctions from the courts must be made to pay
the sufferer not only the entire illegal gains made
by them as costs to the person deprived of his
right but also must be burdened with exemplary
costs. The faith of people in judiciary can only be
sustained if the persons on the right side of the
law do not feel that even if they keep fighting for
justice in the court and ultimately win, they would
turn out to be a fool since winning a case after 20
or 30 years would make the wrongdoer as real
59
gainer, who had reaped the benefits for all those
years. Thus, it becomes the duty of the courts to
see that such wrongdoers are discouraged at
every step, and even if they succeed in prolonging
the litigation due to their money power, ultimately,
they must suffer the costs of all these years' long
litigation. Despite the settled legal positions, the
obvious wrongdoers, use one after another tier of
judicial review mechanism as a gamble, knowing
fully well that dice is always loaded in their favour
since even if they lose, the time gained is the real
gain. This situation must be redeemed by the
courts.”
176. Against this judgment of the Delhi High Court, Special
Leave to Appeal (Civil) No. 29197 of 2008 was preferred to
this Court. The Court passed the following order
[Padmawati v. Harijan Sewak Sangh, (2012) 6 SCC 460]:
(SCC p. 460, para 1)
“1. We have heard the learned counsel appearing
for the parties. We find no ground to interfere with
the well-considered judgment passed by the High
Court. The special leave petition is, accordingly,
dismissed.”
***
183. In Marshall Sons & Co. (India) Ltd. v. Sahi Oretrans
(P) Ltd. [(1999) 2 SCC 325] this Court in para 4 of the
judgment observed as under: (SCC pp. 326-27)
“4. … It is true that proceedings are dragged on
for a long time on one count or the other and, on
occasion, become highly technical accompanied
by unending prolixity at every stage, providing a
legal trap to the unwary. Because of the delay,
unscrupulous parties to the proceedings take
undue advantage, and a person who is in
wrongful possession draws delight in delay in
60
disposal of the cases by taking undue advantage
of procedural complications. It is also a known
fact that after obtaining a decree for possession of
immovable property, its execution takes a long
time. In such a situation, for protecting the interest
of the judgment-creditor, it is necessary to pass
appropriate orders so that reasonable mesne
profit which may be equivalent to the market rent
is paid by a person who is holding over the
property. In appropriate cases, the court may
appoint a Receiver and direct the person who is
holding over the property to act as an agent of the
Receiver with a direction to deposit the royalty
amount fixed by the Receiver or pass such other
order which may meet the interest of justice. This
may prevent further injury to the plaintiff in whose
favour the decree is passed and to protect the
property, including further alienation.”
184. In Ouseph Mathai v. M. Abdul Khadir [(2002) 1 SCC
319] this Court reiterated the legal position that: (SCC p.
328, para 13)
“13. … [the] stay granted by the court does not
confer a right upon a party and it is granted
always subject to the final result of the matter in
the court and at the risks and costs of the party
obtaining the stay. After the dismissal, of the lis,
the party concerned is relegated to the position
which existed prior to the filing of the petition in
the court which had granted the stay. Grant of
stay does not automatically amount to extension
of a statutory protection.” ’ ”
There are other decisions as well, which iterate and apply
the same principle. [Indian Council for Enviro-Legal
Action v. Union of India, (2011) 8 SCC 161; Grindlays Bank
Ltd. v. CIT, (1980) 2 SCC 191; Ram Krishna
61
Verma v. State of U.P., (1992) 2 SCC 620. Also Marshall
Sons & Co. (India) Ltd. v. Sahi Oretrans (P) Ltd., (1999) 2
SCC 325.]
338. A wrongdoer or in the present context, a litigant who
takes his chances, cannot be permitted to gain by delaying
tactics. It is the duty of the judicial system to discourage
undue enrichment or drawing of undue advantage, by
using the court as a tool. In Kalabharati
Advertising v. Hemant Vimalnath Narichania [(2010) 9 SCC
437], it was observed that courts should be careful in
neutralizing the effect of consequential orders passed
pursuant to interim orders. Such directions are necessary
to check the rising trend among the litigants to secure
reliefs as an interim measure and avoid adjudication of the
case on merits. Thus, the restitutionary principle recognizes
and gives shape to the idea that advantages secured by a
litigant, on account of orders of court, at his behest, should
not be perpetuated; this would encourage the prolific or
serial litigant, to approach courts time and again and defeat
rights of others — including undermining of public purposes
underlying acquisition proceedings. A different approach
would mean that, for instance, where two landowners
(sought to be displaced from their lands by the same
notification) are awarded compensation, of whom one
allows the issue to attain finality — and moves on, the
other obdurately seeks to stall the public purpose
underlying the acquisition, by filing one or series of
litigation, during the pendency of which interim orders
might inure and bind the parties, the latter would profit and
be rewarded, with the deemed lapse condition under
Section 24(2). Such a consequence, in the opinion of this
Court, was never intended by Parliament; furthermore, the
restitutionary principle requires that the advantage gained
by the litigant should be suitably offset, in favour of the
other party.
339. In Krishnaswamy S. Pd. v. Union of India [(2006) 3
SCC 286], it was observed that an unintentional mistake of
62
the Court, which may prejudice the cause of any party,
must and alone could be rectified. Thus, in our opinion, the
period for which the interim order has operated under
Section 24 has to be excluded for counting the period of 5
years under Section 24(2) for the various reasons
mentioned above.”
12. The sum and substance of the aforesaid observations could be
summarized as under:-
(i) The time of five years is provided to the authorities to take
action, not to sleep over the matter;
(ii) Only in cases of lethargy or inaction and default on the part of
the authorities and for no other reason lapse of acquisition
can occur;
(iii) Lapse of acquisition takes place only in case of default by the
authorities acquiring the land, not caused by any other
reason or order of the court;
(iv) The additional compensation @ 12% provided under Section
69 of the Act, 2013 has been excluded from the period
acquisition proceedings have been held up on account of the
interim injunction order of any court;
(v) If it was not possible for the acquiring authorities, for any
reason not attributable to them or the Government, to take
requisite steps, the period has to be excluded;
63
(vi) In case the authorities are prevented by the court's order,
obviously, as per the interpretation of the provisions such
period has to be excluded;
(vii) The intent of the Act, 2013 is not to benefit landowners only.
The provisions of Section 24 by itself do not intend to confer
benefits on litigating parties as such, while as per Section
114 of the Act, 2013 and Section 6 of the General Clauses
Act the case has to be litigated as per the provisions of the
Act, 1894.
(viii) It is not the intendment of the Act, 2013 that those who have
assailed the acquisition process should get benefits of higher
compensation as contemplated under Section 24;
(ix) It is not intended by the provisions that in case, the persons,
who have litigated and have obtained interim orders from the
Civil Courts by filing suits or from the High Court under
Article 226 of the Constitution should have the benefits of the
provisions of the Act, 2013 except to the extent specifically
provided under the Act, 2013;
(x) In cases where some landowners have chosen to take
recourse to litigation and have obtained interim orders
restraining taking of possession or orders of status quo, as a
matter of practical reality it is not possible for the authorities
64
or the Government to take possession or to make payment
of compensation to the landowners. In several instances,
such interim orders also have impeded the making of an
award;
(xi) However, so far as awards are concerned, the period
provided for making of awards under the Act, 2013 (sic 1894
Act) could be excluded by virtue of Explanation to Section
11-A, which provided that in computing the period of two
years, the period during which any action or proceeding to be
taken in pursuance of the declaration is stayed by an order of
a court shall be excluded;
(xii) The litigation initiated by the landowners has to be decided
on its own merits and the benefits of Section 24(2) should
not be available to the litigants in a straightjacket manner. In
case there is no interim order, they can get the benefits they
are entitled to, not otherwise. Delays and dilatory tactics and
sometimes wholly frivolous pleas cannot result in benefitting
the landowners under sub-section (1) of Section 24 of the
Act, 2013;
(xiii) Any type of order passed by this Court would inhibit action
on the part of the authorities to proceed further, when a
challenge to acquisition is pending;
65
(xiv) Interim order of stay granted in one of the matters of the
landowners would cause a complete restraint on the
authorities to proceed further to issue declaration;
(xv) When the authorities are disabled from performing duties
due to impossibility, it would be a sufficient excuse for them
to save them from rigour of provisions of Section 24. A
litigant may have a good or a bad cause, be right or wrong.
But he cannot be permitted to take advantage of a situation
created by him by way of an interim order passed in his
favour by the Court at his instance. Although provision of
Section 24 does not discriminate between landowners, who
are litigants or non-litigants and treat them differently with
respect to the same acquisition, it is necessary to view all of
them from the stand point of the intention of the Parliament.
Otherwise, anomalous results may occur and provisions may
become discriminatory in itself;
(xvi) The law does not expect the performance of the impossible;
(xvii) An act of the court shall prejudice no man;
(xviii) A party prevented from doing an act by certain
circumstances beyond his control can do so at the first
subsequent opportunity;
66
(xix) When there is a disability to perform a part of the law, such a
charge has to be excused. When performance of the
formalities prescribed by a statute is rendered impossible by
circumstances over which the persons concerned have no
control, it has to be taken as a valid excuse;
(xx) The Court can under its inherent jurisdiction ex debito
justitiae has a duty to mitigate the damage suffered by the
defendants by the act of the Court;
(xxi) No person can suffer from the act of Court and an unfair
advantage of the interim order must be neutralised;
(xxii) No party can be permitted to take shelter under the cover of
Court’s order to put the other party in a disadvantageous
position;
(xxiii) If one has enjoyed under the Court's cover, that period
cannot be included towards inaction of the authorities to take
requisite steps under Section 24 as the State authorities
would have acted and passed an award determining
compensation but for the Court's order.
13. Repelling the submission that there is no express provision in
Section 24, that excludes the period during which any interim order was
operative, preventing the State from making an award, it is observed and
67
held that preventing the State from taking the possession of acquired
land or from giving effect to the award, in a particular case or cases,
cannot result in the inclusion of such period or periods for the purpose of
reckoning the period of five years.
14. The aforesaid observations would be aptly applicable while
interpreting and considering Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013. In other
words, whether due to the interim stay granted by the Court and the
authority not declaring the award under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 and
the interim stay being continued at the time when the Act, 2013 came to
be enforced, such litigants, who have benefitted from the interim order
can be permitted to take the advantage of the same and thereafter pray
that in such a situation, they shall be paid compensation as per the new
Act, 2013? It cannot be disputed that there shall be a very huge
difference between the quantum of compensation payable under the Act,
1894 and the compensation payable under the Act, 2013. It cannot be
said that there was any inaction on the part of the Authority in not
declaring the award because of the interim order passed by the Court.
Therefore, should the State and the Public Exchequer be made to suffer
when there is no inaction on the part of the Authority in declaring the
Award? The intention of the Parliament while enacting Section 24(1) of
the Act, 2013 cannot be to give benefit to a litigant, who has obtained a
stay order and because of that the award could not be declared and
68
thereafter the litigant may be awarded the compensation as per Act,
2013. It may even result in discrimination between the landowners,
whose lands have been acquired under the same notification. Take an
example, as in the present case, in Civil Appeal No. 2915 of 2022, the
total land measuring 17.172 hectares was acquired from different
landowners including the three plots owned by the respondents herein.
The respondents herein alone were granted the interim order and
because of that, the award could not be declared with respect to three
plots only and with respect to the remaining lands under the same
notification, the awards were declared and the payment of compensation
was made under the Act, 1894. Therefore, if respondents herein, who
litigated and obtained the stay order are now to be paid the
compensation under the Act, 2013 on the ground that so far as they are
concerned, the award has not been declared as on the date on which the
Act, 2013 has been enforced, in that case, there would be two different
amounts of compensation with respect to the landowners under the
same notification and that would lead to discrimination amongst the
landowners whose lands have been acquired under the same
notification, which would never have been the intention of the Parliament.
15. In the case of Indore Development Authority (supra), even this
Court applied the principle of restitution. It is observed that the principle
of restitution is founded on the ideal of doing complete justice at the end
69
of litigation, and parties have to be placed in the same position but for
the litigation and interim order, if any, passed in the matter. Applying the
principle of restitution, it is further observed that no party could take
advantage of a litigation. It is further observed and held that the principle
of restitution is a statutory recognition of the rule of justice, equity and fair
play. The court has inherent jurisdiction to order restitution so as to do
complete justice. This is also on the principle that an unsuccessful
litigant who had the benefit of an interim order in his favour cannot
encash or take advantage of the same on the enforcement of the Act,
2013 by initially stalling the acquisition process and later seeking a
higher compensation under the provisions of Act, 2013. We say so for
the reason that if at the instance of a landowner, who has challenged the
acquisition, an interim order has been passed by a Court is successful
then the proceeding of acquisition or the acquisition notification would be
quashed. Then there would be no occasion to determine any
compensation. But on the other hand, if a landowner, who has the
benefit of an interim order in his favour whilst a challenge is made to the
acquisition, is unsuccessful, he cannot then contend that he must be
paid compensation under the provision of the Act, 2013 on its
enforcement, whereas a landowner, who did not have the benefit of any
interim order is paid compensation determined under the provisions of
70
the Act, 1894, which is lesser than what would be computed under the
Act, 2013.
15.1 Following the decision of this Court in the case of State of
Gujarat Vs. Essar Oil Ltd., (2012) 3 SCC 522, it is observed that the
principle of restitution is a remedy against unjust enrichment or unjust
benefit. Following the decision of this Court in the case of A.
Shanmugam Vs. Ariya Kshatriya Rajakula Vamsathu Madalaya
Nandhavana Paripalanai Sangam, (2012) 6 SCC 430, it is observed
that the restitutionary jurisdiction is inherent in every court, to neutralise
the advantage of litigation. A person on the right side of the law should
not be deprived, on account of the effects of litigation; the wrongful gain
of frivolous litigation has to be eliminated if the faith of people in the
judiciary has to be sustained.
16. Therefore, even applying the principle of restitution, as applied by
this Court in the case of Indore Development Authority (supra), the
landowners cannot be permitted to take advantage of the interim order
obtained by them due to which the Authority could not declare the award
under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 and thereafter contend that in that view
of the matter, he/they shall be paid the compensation under Section
24(1) of the Act, 2013, under which a higher compensation will be
available to them on determination of the compensation under the Act,
2013.
71
Conclusion:-
17. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, it is
observed as under:-
(i) It is concluded and held that in a case where on the date of
commencement of Right to Fair Compensation and
Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and
Resettlement Act, 2013, no award has been declared under
Section 11 of the Act, 1894, due to the pendency of any
proceedings and/or the interim stay granted by the Court,
such landowners shall not be entitled to the compensation
under Section 24(1) of the Act, 2013 and they shall be
entitled to the compensation only under the Act, 1894.
18. In view of the above discussion and for the reasons stated above
and in view of our conclusion above, all these appeals are allowed. The
impugned judgment(s) and order(s) passed by the High Court are
quashed and set aside. The concerned appropriate Authority(s) to
declare the award under Section 11 of the Act, 1894 with respect to the
lands in question and determine the compensation under the provisions
of the Act, 1894 by taking into consideration Section 114 of the Act, 2013
read with Section 6 of the General Clauses Act, 1897, wherever
applicable and the original landowners shall be paid the compensation
accordingly, under the provisions of the Act, 1894.
72
It goes without saying that if the landowners are aggrieved by the
determination of compensation declared under the award under the Act,
1894, it will be open for them to take recourse to law for enhancement of
compensation under the provisions of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894
only.
With this, the present appeals are allowed. However, in the facts
and circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs.
…………………………………..J.
[M.R. SHAH]
NEW DELHI; …………………………………..J.
MAY 20, 2022. [B.V. NAGARATHNA]
73

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