At a time when acquiring farmers’ land for infrastructure projects has emerged as a major political controversy, the Supreme Court, in an important judgment, has said the landowners should not be denied the right of judicial review by the courts against acquisition notifications merely on legal technicalities as it might frustrate the cause of justice to them.
The top court gave the ruling while interpreting the provisions of “Order XLI rule-22” of Civil Procedure Code (CPC), which deals with issuing of “preliminary notification” under Section 4(1) of the Land Acquisition Act (LAA), 1894, considered an archaic law facing all-round demand for its complete overhaul.
“Unnecessary and avoidable technical impediments should not be introduced by virtue of interpretative process. At the same time any irreparable loss should not be caused to a party on whom the right might vest as a result of default of other party,” a bench of Justices A.K. Ganguly and Swatanter Kumar said while deciding a case related to the acquisition of the land of some Karnataka farmers for Upper Krishna Project in Jamkhandi for which the a notification was issued in 1997.
Aggrieved farmers had filed reference under Section 18 of the LAA to the civil court for an enhanced compensation, which was allowed by fixing it at `3.5 lakh per acre, along with all statutory benefits.
The Karnataka government had challenged it in the high court, which rejected its appeal and ruled that the landowners were entitled to interest on enhanced compensation from April 1999. At the same time the farmers had also filed “cross-appeals” in the HC challenging the strict interpretation of “Order XLI Rule 22(1)” of the CPC, which limits the period of filing of the objections to the land acquisition notification to one month. Farmers had cited several rulings of the top court, allowing relaxation in the time for filing the objections in peculiar circumstances.
But the HC had rejected the farmers’ cross-appeal on the question of applicability of the rule, saying that there could not be any relaxation in filing of the objection beyond the one month period. In the wake of the controversy, the Supreme Court had framed the issue for decision whether “Order XLI Rule 22(1)” permitted the courts to allow landowners relaxation in filing the objection beyond one-month period fixed under the law. Asian Age