M. Mohan Versus The State Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors

M. Mohan Versus The State Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
EXTRA­ORDINARY APPELLATE JURISDICTION 
Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (C) Nos.  12616­17/2022
M. Mohan                …Appellant(s)
Versus
The State Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors.    …Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
M.R. SHAH, J.
1. Feeling   aggrieved   and   dissatisfied   with   the   impugned
common judgment and order dated 22.03.2022 passed by
the High Court of Judicature at Madras in Writ Appeal Nos.
2169 and 2170 of 2021, by which, the Division Bench of
the High Court has dismissed the said appeals and has
confirmed the judgment and order passed by the learned
Single Judge in respective writ petitions, the original writ
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petitioner – original land owner has preferred the present
Special Leave Petitions.
2. That the lands in question owned by the petitioner herein –
original   land   owner   were   required   to   construct   Grade
Separators on Periyar EVR Salai near Aminjakari, Nelson
Manickam   Road   Junction   and   Anna   Nagar   3rd  Avenue
junction,   for   the   purpose   of   constructing   a   Flyover   and
Subway in the said location. The said lands were acquired
under the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Highways Act, 2001
(hereinafter   referred   to   as   the   Act,   2001).   That   a   notice
under Section 15(2) of the Act, 2001 was issued inviting
objections of owners and any other person having interest in
the lands to be acquired to show cause as to why the lands
may not be acquired. The petitioner herein – original land
owner   submitted   his   detailed   objections   and   the   notices
were also sent to the highways authorities/department of
the   division   concerned.   According   to   the   State,   after
considering the objections raised by the original land owner
on   the   report   submitted   by   the   highways   authorities,   a
notification under Section 15(1) of the Act, 2001 was issued.
The   original   land   owners   being   aggrieved   with   the
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notification issued under Section 15(1) of the Act, 2001 filed
writ petitions before the High Court contending, inter­alia,
that the notification under Section 15(1) of the Act, 2001 is
in violation of the procedure to be followed under Rule 5 of
the Tamil Nadu Highways Rules, 2003 (hereinafter referred
to as the Rules, 2003). It was the case on behalf of the
original writ petitioner that Rule 5 lays down the manner for
publication   of   the   public   notice   and   the   manner   of
conducting   the   enquiry.   According   to   the   original   writ
petitioner, before publishing a notice under Section 15(1),
the Government or Collector or Special Deputy Collector
shall   call upon  the  owner  and  any  other  person   having
interest in the land to show cause as to why the land may
not be acquired. If objections are received from a person
interested   in   the   land,   the   Government   or   Collector   or
Special Deputy Collector shall fix a date for hearing the
objections and give notice thereof to the objector as well as
to the Highways Department. According to the original land
owner, thereafter the Highways Department shall file, on or
before the date fixed by the Government or Collector or
Special Deputy Collector a statement by way of an answer
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or   response   to   the   objections   and   may   also   depute   a
representative   to   attend   the   enquiry   and   thereafter   the
Government or Collector or Special Deputy Collector shall
hear the objector and the Highways Department and record
any evidence that may be produced by either party and on
completion of the enquiry, the Collector shall submit all
details of the enquiry to the Government to pass an order
under   sub­section   (3)   of   Section   15.   According   to   the
original writ petitioner without waiting for the response from
the   Highways   Department   and   without   giving   any
opportunity of being heard to the objectors, the notification
under Section 15(1) of the Act, 2001 has been issued, which
is in clear violation of Rule 5 of Rules, 2003. 
2.1 On the other hand, it was the case on behalf of the State
that the notifications under Section 15(1) of the Act, 2001
was issued after considering the report of the Collector on
the objections submitted by the original land owners and
even   the   response   from   the   Highways   Department   was
received.   That   the   learned   Single   Judge   by   a   detailed
judgment   and   order   dismissed   the   writ   petitions   by
observing that the notification under Section 15(1) of the
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Act,   2001   was   followed   by   a   detailed   enquiry   and   after
considering   the   objections   raised   by   the   original   land
owners. The learned Single Judge opined that there was
substantial compliance and there is no illegality committed
in issuing the notification under Section 15(1) of the Act,
2001. 
2.2 Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the judgment and
order passed by the learned Single Judge dismissing the
writ petitions, the original writ petitioner filed writ appeal(s)
before the High Court. By the common impugned judgment
and   order,   the   Division   Bench   of   the   High   Court   has
dismissed the said appeal(s) which has given rise to the
present Special Leave Petitions.      
3. Shri   Huzefa   A.   Ahmadi,   learned   Senior   Advocate   has
appeared on behalf of the petitioner – original land owner. It
is vehemently submitted by Shri Ahmadi that in the present
case before issuing notification under Section 15(1) of the
Act, 2001, the procedure required to be followed under Rule
5 of  the  Rules,  2003, which  was  required to  be strictly
followed, have not been followed.
5
3.1 Shri Ahmadi, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf
of   the   petitioner   has   submitted   that   before   issuing   a
notification under Section 15(1), the following procedure as
per Rules 5(2) and 5(3) shall have to be strictly followed: ­ 
(i) State’s delegated authority receives objections of
the land owner ­ Rule 5(2);
(ii) State’s   delegated   authority   fixes   a   date   for
hearing the objections and gives notice thereof to
the objector and the requisitioning authority ­
Rule 5(2);
(iii) Copy   of   the   land   owner’s   objections   shall   be
forwarded to the requisitioning authority ­ Rule
5(2);
(iv) On the date fixed for enquiry, the State shall
hear the objector and the representative of the
requisitioning   authority,   if   any   and   record
evidence ­ Rule 5(3);
(v) On   or   before   the   date   fixed   for   hearing,   the
requisitioning authority may submit an answer
statement to the objections ­ Rule 5(2)
It   is   submitted   that   in   the   present   case,   without
waiting   for   any   response   from   the   Highways
Department/authorities   to   the   objections   raised   by   the
6
original land owner, notification under Section 15(1) of the
Act, 2001 has been issued. 
3.2 It   is   further   submitted   that   in   the   present   case   the
acquisition of the petitioner’s land was sought to be done in
two parts. While in the first part, the petitioner’s objections
were submitted on 15.12.2010. However, the requisitioning
authority’s   (Highways   Department)   response   thereto   was
sent only on 25.01.2011 – a month after the enquiry was
superficially held on 24.12.2010. It is contended that the
aforesaid is in clear violation of the procedure envisaged
under the Rules. It is submitted that having forwarded the
objections   to   the   requisitioning   authority   seeking   for   its
comments, the enquiry ought not to have been held prior to
receipt of the comments. That even after receiving of the
comments   of   the   requisitioning   authority,   post   the
superficial   enquiry,   the   same   were   not   provided   to   the
petitioner   and/or   no   fresh   enquiry   was   conducted
thereafter,   prior   to   the   issuance   of   notification   under
Section 15(1) of the Act, 2001. That if such comments were
provided to the petitioner, he would have been in a better
position   to   place   before   the   State,   inter­alia,   that   his
7
objections  were  not  properly  considered  and/or  that   the
response of the requisitioning authority did not respond to
his specific objections; the response was faulty, incorrect,
etc.   It   is   submitted   that   therefore,   the   petitioner   was
deprived of a meaningful enquiry under the Act and Rules,
thereby causing grave prejudice to him.
3.3 It is submitted that meanwhile, in case of the acquisition
under   the   second   part,   the   petitioner   submitted   his
objections on 15.12.2011, and the enquiry was superficially
held   on   15.12.2011   itself.   It   was   an   empty   formality.
Therefore,   for   the   second   part   of   the   acquisition,   the
petitioner’s   objections   were   never   forwarded   to   the
requisitioning authority, which is a mandatory requirement
as per Rule 5(2). Further, there was no notice fixing a date
for hearing of objections under Rule 5(2) and the hearing
was held on the same day the objections were required to be
submitted, which is also contrary to Rules.
3.4 It   is   submitted   that   even   otherwise   a   perusal   of   the
responses   given   by   the   requisitioning   authority   shows
identical and mechanical responses it gave in response to
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all   objectors,   thereby   clearly   showing   non­application   of
mind. 
3.5 It   is   further   contended   by   Shri   Ahmadi,   learned   Senior
Advocate appearing on behalf of the petitioner that as such
the Division Bench of the High Court has materially erred in
not considering and/or in holding that Rules 5(2) and 5(3)
are to be ignored as they are not in conformity with Section
15(2) of the Act and therefore not enforceable. It is urged
that there was no occasion for the Division Bench of the
High Court to hold so, more particularly, when these Rules
were   duly   framed   and   placed   before   the   Legislative
Assembly and issued, and have stood the test of time. It is
submitted that their vires have never been questioned and
the State has been following the Rules without demur. That
the   High   Court   ought   to   have   appreciated   that   the
procedure set down by these Rules are a safeguard against
arbitrariness,   and   protect   the   expectation   of   fair
adjudication.   Reliance   is   placed   on   the   decision   of   this
Court  in the  case of  State   of   Mysore   &   Ors.   Vs.   V.K.
Kangan  &  Ors.;   (1976)  2  SCC  895  wherein it is held by
this Court that there is no conflict between Rule 3(b) of the
9
Tamil Nadu Land Acquisition Rules and Section 5A(2) of the
Land Acquisition Act, 1894. It is submitted that the said
Rule 3(b) is similar to the present Rule 5(2). 
3.6 Making the above submissions it is prayed to set aside the
impugned   judgment(s)   and   order(s)   passed   by   the   High
Court and consequently to set aside the acquisition.  
4. Heard   Shri   Huzefa   A.   Ahmadi,   learned   Senior   Advocate,
appearing on behalf of the petitioner. 
4.1 That the petitioner herein – original writ petitioner before
the   High   Court   challenged   the   acquisition   of   lands   in
question which were acquired under the provisions of the
Tamil   Nadu   Highways   Act,   2001.   The   acquisition   was
challenged,   inter­alia,   on   the   ground   that   the   procedure
required under Rule 5 of Rules, 2003 has not been followed
and while considering the objections raised by the petitioner
– land owner the opinion of the highways authorities of the
division   concerned   was   not   considered   and   also   on   the
ground that before issuing notification under Section 15(1)
of the Act, 2001, the objections of the land owner were not
properly   considered.   That   the   learned   Single   Judge
dismissed   the   writ   petitions   observing   that   there   was   a
10
substantial compliance of the procedure as required to be
followed   under   Rule   5   of   Rules,   2003   inasmuch   as   the
objections raised by the petitioner – original land owner,
were specifically dealt with and considered before issuing
the   notification   under   Section   15(1)   of   the   Act,   2001.
However, while affirming the judgment and order passed by
the learned Single Judge, the Division Bench of the High
Court has further observed that Rule 5(2) to Rule 5(3) is not
in consonance with Section 15(2) and therefore, it is to be
ignored. 
5. While appreciating the submissions made by Shri Ahmadi,
learned   Senior   Advocate,   appearing   on   behalf   of   the
petitioner, Section 15 of the Act, 2001 and Rule 5 of Rules,
2003 are required to be referred to and considered, which
are as under: ­ 
“TAMILNADU HIGHWAYS ACT, 2001 
Section 15. Power to acquire land: 
(1) If the Government are satisfied that any land is
required   for   the   purpose   of   any   highway   or   for
construction of bridges, culverts, causeways or other
structures thereon or for any purpose incidental or
ancillary thereto, in furtherance of the objects of this
Act, they may acquire such land by publishing in the
Tamil Nadu Government Gazette a notice specifying
the   description   of   such   land   and   the   particular
purpose for which such land is required. 
11
(2) Before publishing a notice under Sub­section (l),
the Government shall call upon the owner and any
other   person   having  interest   in   such   land   to  show
cause within such time as may be specified in the
notice,   why   the   land   should   not   be   acquired.   The
Government   shall   also   cause   a   public   notice   to   be
given in such manner as may be prescribed. 
(3) The Government may, after considering the cause,
if any, shown by the owner or other person having
interest on such land, pass such an order under subsection (1), as they may deem fit.”
“TAMIL NADU HIGHWAYS RULES, 2003 
5.   Manner   of   publication   of   the   public   notice.  ­
Before  publishing  a  notice  under  sub­section  (1)  of
section 15, the Government or the Collector or the
Special   Deputy   Collector   (Land   Acquisition),   Tamil
Nadu Urban Development Project III, as the case may
be shall in addition to calling upon the owner and any
other person having interest in the land to show cause
as to why the land should not be acquired, shall also
cause a public notice to that effect to be published in
one   English   and   in   one   Tamil   newspapers   having
circulation in the locality. The said notice shall also be
displayed in the offices of the,­
(i) Highways Authority of the division concerned; 
(ii) Village   Administrative   Officer   of   the   village
concerned; and 
(iii) Tahsildar of the taluk concerned. 
(2) If any objection is received from a person interested
in the land within the time prescribed in the public
notice issued under sub­section 2 of section 15, the
Government   or  the   Collector   or  the   Special   Deputy
Collector   (Land   Acquisition),   Tamil   Nadu   Urban
Development Project III, as the case may be, shall fix a
date for hearing the objections and give notice thereof
to the objector as well as to the Highways Department.
Copies of the objection shall also be forwarded to the
Highways Department. The Highways Department may
file on or before the date fixed by the Government or
the Collector as the case may be, a statement by way
of answer to the objections and may also depute a
representative to attend the enquiry; 
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(3) On the date fixed for enquiry or any other date to
which the enquiry may be adjourned, the Government
or the Collector or the Special Deputy Collector (Land
Acquisition), Tamil Nadu Urban Development Project
III, as the case may be, shall hear the objector or a
person   authorised   by   him   in   this   behalf   and   the
representatives, if any, of the Highways Department
and   record   any   evidence   that   may   be   produced   in
support of the objection and in support of the need for
acquiring the land; 
(4) Where the enquiry is conducted by the Collector, on
completion of the enquiry, the Collector shall submit
all the details of the enquiry to the Government to pass
order under sub­section (3) of section 15; 
(5)   Where   the   enquiry   is   conducted   by   the
Government, the Government will pass order under
sub­section (3) of section 15;”
5.1 In the present case public notice under Section 15(2) of the
Act, 2001 was issued on 30.11.2010 and paper publication
under Section 15(2) notice was issued on 03.12.2010. That
the   petitioner   submitted   his   objections   on   15.12.2010;
enquiry was conducted on 24.12.2010; objections were sent
to the Highways Department and the remarks were called
for on 20.12.2010. The Highways Department forwarded its
reply/statement may be after conduct of the enquiry on
24.12.2010 but before the notification under Section 15(1)
of the Act, 2001 was issued. It is the case on behalf of the
petitioner that at the time when the enquiry was conducted
response from the Highways Department was not before the
13
authority and no opportunity was given to the petitioner to
put   forward   his   case   on   the   answers   to   the   objections
tendered by the Highways Department. However, it is to be
noted   that   Section   15   is   a   substantive   provision   which
confers powers upon the authority to acquire the land. Subsection   (1)   of   Section   15   provides   for   issuance   of   the
notification to acquire land required for the purpose of any
highway or for construction of bridges, culverts, causeways,
or other structures thereon or for any purpose incidental or
ancillary thereto. Sub­section (2) of Section 15 provides that
before   publishing   a   notice   under   sub­section   (l),   the
Government shall call upon the owner and any other person
having interest in such land to show cause within such time
as may be specified in the notice, why the land should not
be acquired. Sub­section (3) of Section 15 provides that the
Government may, after considering the cause [objections
raised   pursuant   to   the   notice   under   sub­section   (2)   of
Section 15], pass such order under sub­section (1). Rule 5
of the Rules, 2003 can be said to be a procedural provision
and   it   provides   for   the   manner   of   publication   of   public
notice. Sub­rule (2) of Rule 5 provides that if any objection
14
is received from a person interested in the land within the
time   prescribed   in   the   public   notice   issued   under   subsection 2 of Section 15, the Government or the Collector or
the Special Deputy Collector (Land Acquisition), shall fix a
date for hearing the objections and give notice thereof to the
objector as well as to the Highways Department. It further
provides that copies of the objection shall also be forwarded
to the Highways Department and the Highways Department
MAY file on or before the date fixed by the Government or
the Collector, as the case may be, a statement by way of
answer or response to the objections and may also depute a
representative   to   attend   the   enquiry.   The   object   and
purpose of sub­rule (2) of Rule 5 seems to be to give an
opportunity to the Highways Department also to meet with
the objections raised by the land owners and so as to give
an opportunity to the Highways Department to put forward
their   case.   It   further   provides   that   the   Highways
Department may file a statement by way of answer to the
objections. It is not a mandatory requirement. Therefore, the
Highways Department may or may not file a statement by
way   of   answer   to   the   objections.   There   is   no   further
15
provision to furnish a statement by way of answer to the
objections filed by the Highways Department to the original
land owners. The object and purpose of said sub­rule (2) of
Rule 5 as observed hereinabove is to hear the Highways
Department on the objections raised by the original land
owners.   Therefore,   non­filing   of   a   statement   by   way   of
answer   to   the   objections   by   the   Highways   Department
and/or non­furnishing the copy of the same to the original
land   owners   shall   not   vitiate   the   entire   process   of
acquisition   process   and/or   the   notification   issued   under
sub­section (1) of Section 15 of the Act, 2001. It can be said
that the said provision is for the benefit of the Highways
Department so that no adverse decision is taken by the
State   Government   without   giving   an   opportunity   to   the
Highways Department.  
6. In the present case, before issuance of notification under
Section 15(1) of the Act, 2001, fullest opportunity has been
given to the original land owner to submit his objections.
Thereafter,   the   enquiry   has   been   conducted   as   required
under sub­section (2) of Section 15 and after considering
the objections and having been satisfied that the land is
16
required   for   the   purpose   of   Highways   Department,   the
notification under Section 15(1) of the Act, 2001 has been
issued. It is to be noted that before issuing the notification
under Section 15(1) of the Act, 2001, a statement by way of
answer to the objections by the Highways Department was
before the authority and thereafter the notification under
Section 15(1) of the Act, 2001 has been issued. Therefore,
the learned Single Judge and the Division Bench of the High
Court was right in observing that there is a substantial
compliance of Section 15 of the Act, 2001 read with Rule 5
of the Rules, 2003 and no interference of the Court is called
for.  
7. However, at the same time Shri Ahmadi, learned Senior
Advocate, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, is right in
making submission that as the validity of Rule 5 was not
before the High Court therefore, the High Court ought not to
have   held   Rule   5   to   be  ultra   vires.   However,   from   the
impugned judgment and order of the Division Bench of the
High Court, it appears that the Division Bench of the High
Court was of the opinion that Rule 5 being a subordinate
legislation is inconsistent with the provision of Section 15(2)
17
of the Act, and therefore, the same is to be ignored. It is true
that the same was not warranted and we are of the opinion
that Rule 5 cannot be said to be inconsistent with Section
15(2) of the Act. However, on merits and for the reasons
stated   above,   we   are   in   complete   agreement   with   the
ultimate view taken by the learned Single Judge confirmed
by   the   Division   Bench   of   the  High   Court   upholding  the
acquisition in question. Hence, we do not propose to further
enter into the observations made by the Division Bench that
the provision of Rule 5 of the Rules, 2003 is inconsistent
with Section 15(2) of the Act, 2001. 
8. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, there
is no substance in the present Special Leave Petitions and
therefore,   the   same   deserve   to   be   dismissed   and   are
accordingly dismissed.      
………………………………….J.
[M.R. SHAH]
NEW DELHI; ………………………………….J.
SEPTEMBER 02, 2022 [B.V. NAGARATHNA]
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