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The Supreme Court has dismissed a petition filed by M/s Model Economic Township Limited (METL), a company jointly promoted by Reliance Ventures Limited (a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited) and Haryana State Industrial & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited, which sought to challenge an award declared by the Land Acquisition Collector, Urban Estate, Haryana (Collector). The said award was passed by the Collector in respect of 136 acres of land situated in Haryana and called for grant of compensation @ Rs 25,00,000 per acre to METL and some other landholders. A apex Court bench comprising Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice Indu Malhotra yesterday dismissed the petition.

The facts of the case are as follows: The 15 acres of land owned by METL (the petitioner in this case, which is formally known as M/s Reliance Haryana SEZ Limited) was acquired by the Collector vide a notification passed under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 (Act). To this effect, the Collector passed an award on December 21, 2009, granting compensation @ Rs 25,00,000 per acre to METL and other landholders from whom land holdings aggregating to 136 acres had been acquired. At that time many landholders filed an application seeking reference of the award under Section 18 of the Act, but METL did not file any objections.

However, after the objections filed by the other landowners were decided favourably by the Reference Court, METL filed an application under Section 28A(1) of the Act before the Collector on February 1, 2012, seeking redetermination of the compensation amount awarded to it. Thereafter, on March 6, 2014, the Collector granted METL the same amount of enhanced compensation, i.e. Rs 41,81,500 per acre, as was determined by the Reference Court in the case of other landholders. Being satisfied with the award, the petitioner did not avail any further remedy. Subsequently, the other landholders approached the Punjab & Haryana High Court which enhanced the compensation awarded by the Reference Court to Rs 2,80,00,000 per acre in respect of comparable lands covered under the same notification.

Following this, METL filed a civil writ petition before the High Court praying for setting aside or modification of the award passed by the Collector and for redetermination of the compensation payable to him in light of the enhanced compensation awarded by the High Court to the other landholders.  However, the petition was dismissed by the High Court on October 10, 2017, saying that: “…Section 28A(3) of the Act provides that in case either of the parties is aggrieved against the award passed by the Collector, it can file application for reference of the dispute to the Court. The aforesaid remedy was not availed of by the petitioner. The period thereof expired long back”.

Aggrieved by this order, METL filed an appeal before the Supreme Court which has now been dismissed.  The apex court said that “there is nothing in the petition as to why the petitioner took so much time to realise that the course undertaken by the Collector was not in keeping with the principles laid down by this Court”. The Court also said that the High Court was justified in rejecting the petition filed by METL and that inaction on the part of the petitioner coupled with the delaying in filing the civil writ petition before the High Court disentitles the petitioner from claiming any relief under Article 226 of the Constitution.

 –India Legal Bureau

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