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Allahabad High Court dismisses petitions challenging enhancement of compensation sought by land owners

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The Allahabad High Court while dismissing the Petitions Challenging enhancement of compensation sought by landowners whose lands were acquired for construction of a Thermal Power Plant opined that they are well within their rights to seek enhancement.

A Single Bench of Justice Manish Kumar passed this order while hearing a petition filed by UP Rajya Vidyut Utpadan Nigam Ltd.

The bunch of 48 First Appeals has been preferred, challenging the judgment passed by the competent court under Section 54 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. Out of 48 First Appeals, there was delay in filing 9 First Appeals.

The Court noted that,

Counsel for the appellant submitted that mainly question of law or legal plea is involved, it is found that it may not be necessary to hear the respondents before admission of the First Appeals.

The Bunch of the First Appeals arose out of a judgment passed by the Additional District Judge, Faizabad on different dates in different Appeals preferred by the respondents for enhancement of compensation under Section 18 of the Act, 1894.

The facts of the case as per the appellant are that the land was acquired for the purpose of construction of Thermal Power Station. The land of the respondents has been acquired by notification and the compensation was awarded on different dates between the period 1980-81. The respondents i.e the land owners preferred the applications for the purposes of reference to the court for enhancement of compensation awarded by the Land Acquisition Officer under Section 18 of the Act, 1894.

The Collector had referred the matters to the competent court for consideration for enhancement of compensation. The compensation awarded to the respondents has been enhanced by the Additional District Judge, Faizabad by passing the judgment on different dates in the year 2012, against which the First Appeals under Section 54 of the Act, 1894 have been preferred.

Counsel for the appellant has raised a plea during the course of argument that the respondents are not entitled to make any reference for enhancement of compensation under Section 18 of the Act, 1894 as they have received compensation as awarded by the Land Acquisition Officer prior to the filing of the reference.

It is submitted that an application under Section 18 of the Act, 1894 can be made if the claimants have not received the amount of compensation as awarded by the Land Acquisition Officer. This plea, however, is being taken for the first time before this Court during the course of argument which is apparently not permissible to raise at this stage. It is also to be noted that no such a plea of the claimants having received the compensation was raised before the court below therefore it is apparent that the court did not frame any issue on the question of the land owners having received compensation, although, four other issues on the basis of pleas raised were framed and decided. It also needs to be noticed in this case, no such ground has been taken in the memo of the First Appeals. This plea therefore, has been taken without any foundation or basis taken during the proceedings at any stage.

On bare reading of observation made by the court below, it is apparent that it is a general observation made without there being any issue or finding as to whether any such payment/ compensation was received or not. Such a presumption can not be equated with a finding of fact after going into an issue relating to the facts alleged. In case, any such plea was raised before the court below, like on other questions, an issue would have been framed and opportunity would have been available to the claimants about the actual position in fact on the point but the claimants did not have that opportunity.

The Supreme Court in the case of Deepak Tandon and Another vs Rajesh Kumar Gupta [(2019) 5 SCC 537] has held that the question is required to be first pleaded then proved by adducing the evidence, such plea could not have been decided simply by referring to some portions of plea in the third round of litigation.

In view of what has been discussed above, the Court further noted that it cannot be definitely held that there is a finding of fact of claimants having received the compensation prior to referring the matter for enhancement of compensation. In such circumstances, it cannot be said that the plea which is sought to be raised during the course of argument, more so, without taking any specific ground in the memo of First Appeal, cannot be said to be purely a legal plea. The legal plea raised by counsel for the appellant is not purely a legal plea as the same depended upon the fact that whether the compensation was accepted by the land owners prior to making application under Section 18 of the Act, 1894 in respect of which no issue was framed nor that question of fact was ever examined by any authority.

The position would have been different if the issue would have been framed in the appeal regarding receiving of compensation by the land owners prior to making the reference and after adducing the evidence, the finding would have been given, then the legal plea that after accepting the compensation the claimants cannot move an application for reference under Section 18 of the Act, 1894.

In so far as it relates to the objections of reference being beyond time, the Court after framing the issue has very clearly held that although the reference was made but delay occurred in sending the reference by the Collector to the court, for which the claimants would not suffer. There is no denial of the fact that delay had not occurred due to delayed transmission of reference by the Collector to the Court. Nothing has been brought to the notice of the court that the observation made by the court after framing of the issue is incorrect so as to enable the Court to upset the finding as recorded by the court below on the issue framed.

The Court said that it is not out of place to mention that the counsel for the appellants has informed this court that payment of enhanced amount of compensation, as enhanced by the court by passing similar orders has already been paid by the appellant to some of the claimants who are respondents in some of the connected First Appeals before this Court, whereas the payment of enhanced amount is being resisted in respect of other claimants.

“In view of the discussions made herein above, the First Appeals filed under Section 54 of the Act by the appellants are devoid of merit”, the Court observed while dismissing the appeal.

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