DELHI: In pursuance of this, 18 appeals were filed before the SC, invoking application of the clause. In all of these, five or more years had passed since the acquisition award under section 11 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, and the applicants/petitioners had refused to accept the compensation. Given the new rights in the legislation, allowing pending litigation to be reviewed and retrospectively annulled, these parties approached the SC.
In this litigation, the acquiring authority (Pune Municipal Corporation) argued it had deposited the amount in the state government treasury, in fulfilment of its obligations on compensation. This has been the standard procedure in acquiring land when the owners refuse to part with it.
Last Friday, the SC ordered that in accordance with the new law, compensation would only be deemed to have been paid if it had been deposited with a court dealing with the matter and after having been offered to the individual concerned. In this case, the compensation had only been deposited in the treasury.
As a result, compensation could not be deemed to have been paid and the acquisition was considered to have lapsed, the order said. It made no comment on the fairness or otherwise of the amount of compensation; only, that the process to acquire land had not been followed. It merely said the compensation was inadequate because it did not include interest that had accrued while the compensation was lodged in the government treasury.
The implications are multifarious. If structures have been built on the acquired land, whose property will these be? How will these be valued? Will the land need to be returned or will arbitration have to take place? This order will mean many more cases of acquisition are likely to be reopened through the courts.
The Union ministry of rural development says the SC order not only validates the legality of the new Act and the retrospective clause but provides clarity on the way forward. “I am certain many displaced families will benefit as a result of this solid precedent,” said minister Jairam Ramesh.